Loud and clear: hearing the voice of the customer  

 Loud and clear: hearing the voice of the customer  

Here at VIRTUATel, we believe in the Voice of the Customer, which is no great surprise, given that it’s a VIRTUATel trademark! But just what is it? And how can it help you?

What is the Voice of the Customer?

The Voice of the Customer might seem like a simple concept, but the act of listening can be a surprisingly technical process.

At VIRTUATel, we mainly work with companies with a large national or international footprint, but for this article, let’s take it back to the street. Take a local record shop for example: the voice of their customer is likely to highlight that they like music – no surprises there. But further to that, that they will expect you to have lots of obscure records in stock, and might even go as far as to say they dislike popular music. Once a business hears that voice of the customer, they can plan their business accordingly.

The analyst or business owner must try to identify as many things about the target audience as possible, and then order them in levels of importance. Whilst record shop customers might prefer low lighting, that’s not to be prioritised over getting hold of the latest releases! The hope is, of course, that with such useful data a business can create better tailored products and services, as well as perhaps expanding their target audience.

This information can come from all different sources – and as we’ve discussed before, not all surveys are created equal! For quantity of data, a simple survey could be used – as part of an email newsletter, or even a text message. But for more in-depth answers, longer interviews can be done.  There’s also the use of large scale demographic information, not collected on your own but perhaps via census information, which can give you info about the potential market in your area.

What can the voice of the customer say?

There are three main kinds of information gained through listening to the voice of the customer.

These are

1) the expectations of the customer

2) what they do like, generally, and in relation to your product

3) what they don’t like, generally, and in relation to your product

Whilst it’s tempting to think you possess mindreading skills (and most businesses begin with this assumption), your clairvoyance is no match for cold, hard data. Surveying your customers has some real, tangible benefits.

Better sales for your business

If you take the time to look into your target market and listen to the Voice of the Customer, you can better sell to them. Take the record store as an example. If this record store is based in the trendiest parts of a city, following current trends would mean that you should be selling new and old obscure music. If the record store is based in a small town in the countryside, it might be worth having more classic music that would appeal to an older audience. It’s a hard sell to market Bobby Darin to a younger audience, or Alt-J to an older audience. So take care to read your customer and find out what they like and don’t like, so that you can give them what they want, and not necessarily what you think you would like to sell.

Better branding for your business

You can tailor how you sell yourself through listening to the Voice of the Customer. If the store finds that their audience is mostly young people, they would have great success having a colourful, big and loud brand, as well as advertising on social media. If they find that their audience is mostly older people, they might benefit from having a more reserved but memorable brand and advertising in Sunday paper magazines. That way they would be reaching through to the right audience in a way that would relate to them.

Finding the right staff for your business

So – you can change your brand, and you can change your products: but what about your staff? It’s an often overlooked fact that listening to the voice of the customer can help you make the right appointments to fit your brand.  Apple is well known for having ‘Genius’ staff members, because its customers demand a certain level of technical knowledge, and Apple prides itself on having products that are easy to set-up. But perhaps the record shop needs to make sure that their next hire has their finger on the pulse of the local music scene, or be an expert in classical music. And as an additional use of the customer insight, customer surveys are proven to help train and motivate staff. This is especially the case if you share the results and verbatim comments with them in real-time, so they can change their behaviour accordingly.

Choosing an informed vision

The Voice of the Customer can also be invaluable in choosing the vision you have for your business, right now and moving forward. Listening to the customer can give you new ideas for products to sell, new targets to market to and even suggest new locations to expand into. All of these potential areas of growth are far better prepared with reference to the customer’s likes and dislikes – that’s why there are focus groups for products and test screenings for movies.

So what does it mean?

As you can see, whilst the rules apply to a small highstreet operation, it’s easy to see how the voice of the customer can be applied to larger companies – and in fact, it’s arguably even more important to keep listening to the customer in these companies, as they tend to be in high competition industries. Having said that, even smaller businesses can take advantage of the Voice of the Customer by installing something simple like a kiosk where customers can press a smiley face to communicate their experience.

We’re marketing leaders in the Voice of the Customer, book an appointment to talk through the voice of your customer today.

Why using the right customer service software can make all the difference 

Why using the right customer service software can make all the difference 

There are dozens and dozens of different kinds of customer service software – or CSS – out there, just at the end of a quick Google search. From well-known brands like Microsoft to those that might not be known outside of the field like Freshdesk and Samanage, anybody looking for software for managing customer service is spoilt for choice.  You might also have seen it referred to as Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM software. But what exactly can you do with it? What’s the use in customer service software? And most importantly, how can it make a positive difference to your business?

First then: what exactly is customer service software, anyway?  Put simply, customer service software is any kind of program that can help an agent work on or track enquiries or complaints from customers. This can involve talking over the phone while simultaneously using the software, using a script or guide to deal with an enquiry, and recording notes to help with longer-term problems that a customer might be facing, which can be accessed by other agents should they talk to the customer.  The point is to try to automate the process to the point where it’s as quick as possible – this involves using scripts, having set ways of dealing with enquiries, or routing the customer through to the most appropriate department.

But just like businesses, this software can come in all sorts of shapes or sizes: some could be suitable for you, some might not be. It depends on what exactly you need. One feature of many kinds of CSS is live online chat, where a customer can directly interact with an agent through a web application. This feature is very common with bigger businesses, such as high street banks or ISPs, who can afford to outsource this large-scale customer service feature. But this isn’t so great for a smaller local business which simply can’t handle the amount of enquiries they would receive if they allowed such a simple way to contact them online.

Similar are CSSs which integrate multiple channels of communication into one: bringing together contact from Twitter, Facebook, email, and so on. All interactions are logged and recorded through the software, and routed through to the most appropriate agent for the request or complaint.  This is useful for any business that wants to keep up with the modern world,  but particularly for companies that rely on social integration. It’s commonly used in startups who, for instance, might be using Kickstarter and rely on word of mouth to grow.

But no matter what you’re using it for, there are so many ways in which using customer service software can improve your business. Having well-made customer service software makes complaints and enquiries quicker and easier to deal with, makes life easier for staff and management and keeps customers happy. Here’s how.

First and foremost, the most important benefit is that software gets the customer’s issue solved quicker! If the customer has an account of any kind, all of that information pops right up when they call or email; and implementing a variety of flexible ‘scripts’ means that the customer service agent always knows what they’re doing in relation to the contact being made.  Automated omnichannel surveys such as those from VIRTUATel will also give you feedback and real-time alerts about how successful your customer service agent has been.

Not only does speedy customer service mean your customers will be happier and less likely to abandon your service or product, but it also means that the same number of staff can get much more done in a day – or if you’re worried about the bottom line, fewer members of staff can do a regular amount of work, saving you money.

Structured customer service software complaints handling also increases accountability among your staff! With electronically stored records, management can know exactly who spoke to which customer and when, meaning that you can tailor feedback for your staff better than before. Keeping those same customer records also means that should another customer service agent talk to the same customer, their entire written record is right in front of them (including any record from the previous conversation), so they can get right to the point.

As mentioned earlier, automated post-action surveys can not only give you feedback about performance but also be used as a customer retention tool, triggering alerts for immediate action if scores are low.  Survey scripts can relate to wherever they are in the customer journey and by adding external data to the survey results, powerful cross-reference intelligence can be collected as well.

It’s also possible to incorporate other kinds of data into the software which can help customer service agents be more accurate. For instance, if a customer calls up asking whether something is in stock, it’s possible to easily incorporate that data in the same software package so that the agent can quickly check and get an accurate answer. Customers are impressed by that kind of speedy and useful service.

But don’t just use the software for the sake of it, put some thought into it. Can you integrate data from elsewhere in your business into it? Is there a ‘self-service’ option for customers that your business could find useful? Or is the software even useful for your business at all? Take just a little time to pick and choose your customer service software and it could really pay you dividends.

If you’re interested in how to maximise your customer happiness levels, we can advise on strategy.  Contact us today.

The importance of customer feedback in the sales cycle 

The importance of customer feedback can not be overstated in any business. Without it, how can you grow in the right direction, or maximise the productivity in what you do? For businesses that need to sell, customer feedback is absolutely vital as a part of the sales cycle. Without it your agents will be facing plenty of swiftly terminated calls and doors shut in their faces.

What, then, is the sales cycle? Well – every single sales operation has one. Quite simply, it’s the method through which a salesperson sells!  Of course, this can vary from enterprise to enterprise – a company that makes its living through cold calling people about PPI would need a different sort of salesperson to a company that sells top of the line BMWs. But regardless of the product, sales cycles have the same constituent parts.

The first is prospecting for leads – or in other words, finding people to sell to. This involves identifying who is the most likely customer to buy from you. For a business that manufactures and sells, for instance, women’s clothes, your leads will be women.  A business that sells walking canes will likely concentrate their market on the elderly. This quantifying of leads allows you to stop your agents from wasting time on leads that never really stood a chance of buying in the first place.

Once a lead is found, they are then added to the sales funnel. At the top of this funnel, the number is large, and as each stage is progressed through some customers drop out, and those that remain at the end are the ones that actually buy your product.  The form the stages take depends on the business, but you’ll reach out to the customer, find out if they are able and willing to buy your product, and then present your product or solution.  Perhaps the most important step is to next handle with any objections the customer may have, then close the sale, and last but not least try to get a referral or even a repeat sale from your lead.

Collecting feedback via SMS or email surveys about this stage, will ensure your prospecting and targeting methods and aimed correctly.

Naturally this process has a lot of factors which influence its success. A salesperson who doesn’t take no for an answer will do better than one who does. Selling face to face is more likely to lead to a successful sale than cold calling. But the most important factor which determines sales success is whether the salesperson is listening to the needs of the customer through their feedback. This feedback can come in two ways: either directly as the sales process is being run through, or afterwards in the form of feedback through surveys, complaints or enquiries. But however it comes to the salesperson, importance of customer feedback potentially gives them the opportunity to sell where they wouldn’t otherwise.

Post-sale and non-sale surveys are proven to drive conversion success rates higher in a ver short period of time.

It’s an interesting use of customer surveys – whilst many companies use them to improve customer support, at VIRTUATel we work with several market-leading companies who use our surveys to inform their sales process.

The most obvious example of the importance of customer feedback in the sales cycle is when managing objections. Managing objections is, in fact, impossible if it’s not tailored to the specific lead being sold to! One lead might think the product – let’s say for example a nice pair of blue jeans – is too expensive, since they have extra bills to pay this month. Another customer might only ever wear the finest Armani jeans, and think that the pair you’re trying to sell can’t be anywhere near as high quality, since they’re cheaper.

Both of these objections are legitimate concerns but can only be managed through listening to the customer and judging what they might think based on their personalities and potential responses. The easiest way to get this feedback is, believe it or not, the most obvious: press your lead for info on what’s making them hold out on buying ‘right here, right now’, and tailor an answer just for them. Customers appreciate when they feel listened to and are much more willing to listen to you if they believe they’re in a two way conversation, not listening to a sales pitch.

The next most important way in which a customer can influence the sales process is after the customer has been through the cycle, through giving written feedback like a review, or indeed, a complaint. Unfortunately in many companies using modern sales tactics like a formalised sales cycle, listening to customer feedback seems to stop once the sale is finalised and money has changed hands. That’s why you see a lot of businesses out there that have great sales figures and a healthy profit margin, but dozens of bad reviews – it doesn’t matter to them so long as they close that sale.

Using survey techniques such as Net Promoter or VIRTUATel’s Advocacy Index will give you a valuable “recommendation” benchmark that you can measure progress against.

But in businesses which actually respect and listen to feedback given after the fact of the sale, these reviews can have a great influence on the sales cycle, particularly in this online age. If a lot of reviews come in about how the product is completely irrelevant to them and their needs, the business can listen and adjust how they find their leads. If reviews point out how their salespeople are too pushy, management could discuss with their staff how a sales pitch can also be a two way conversation. If reviews say that the offer seemed great at first but they lost interest because the salesperson kept waffling on, then perhaps remind staff to Always Be Closing!

The take-away message from this post, then, is that feedback effects the sales cycle by improving, enhancing, and specifying the techniques a salesperson uses to sell – using customer feedback is absolutely vital to honing this process and maximising the potential of a sales team. A sales cycle can’t be implemented straight from a book, but has to be put in place, imperfect at first, and constantly improved upon. Customer feedback is how you can make those improvements.

10 great customer satisfaction surveys that tick all the boxes 

Photo credit: wonderferret via VisualHunt / CC BY

If you’re looking for a DIY approach to survey building, we know that sometimes it’s difficult to come up with a great customer satisfaction survey without resorting to boring templates you can find online. These are useful, but to really create something that will make a difference for your business, we think you have to scout around and find out what the best businesses and retailers out there are doing.

Of course, we’d recommend working with *ahem* an expert, but we know that not everyone wants to make that initial investment…

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best survey examples: take a quick look at ten customer satisfaction surveys that will make you think twice, and maybe incorporate some of their ideas into the survey you’re working on. Each one has something going for it which can really make your survey better.

In no particular order:

Walmart

First we’ve picked this survey from the U.S. retailer Walmart. While the website visuals leave a little bit to be desired, it highlights something really important: right at the beginning of the survey there is the option to pick which language you want to complete the survey in. With our surveys, you can tailor even further. We integrate your customer data into our platform, so the survey will appear in the correct language from the start – essential if you’re working in a country like the US which has such a high proportion of Spanish speakers.

Sainsbury’s

Second, we’ve picked U.K. grocer Sainsbury’s survey. Their specific website, tellsainsburyssurvey.com, sports an impressive 1.2 million recommendations on Facebook – so presumably they have a lot of responses to sift through. The best thing about this survey though is the way they give you open ended questions, not just ‘out-of-10’ ratings. ‘What was good about your visit today?’ leaves the door open for a response you could never see coming with prescribed questions.

UKECC 

Next we’ve picked a survey from the UKECC, the UK European Consumer Centre. While they won’t get as many responses as an Walmart or a WHSmith, the UKECC have done something clever with their survey. Towards the beginning, they’ve put a section where the respondent outlines ‘reasons for contacting’. This allows the UKECC to sort their responses by this metric, giving them more specific data should they need it.

Asda 

Back to supermarkets, we have Asda. This survey highlights a very simple tool to make more people respond to your survey: offer a reward! This Asda survey offers a £1000 prize just for entering, and like always the survey only takes a few minutes. Offering a prize really takes advantage of that ‘why not’ attitude, which is all-important – because if you don’t, it will be likely that the only people responding are people who want to complain.

HMV

This survey, set up through Surveymonkey for HMV, is not as well-tailored as some of the others on this list, but there are still positives in it. It really highlights the importance of asking specific questions to get the data you need. HMV has been struggling recently and has poor ratings for customer satisfaction, and this survey is trying to find out why. It asks whether their goods are too expensive, and in another question asks about the importance of illegal downloading to respondents. With the answers to these questions, they could try to implement new policies and revive their old famous brand.

Argos

Again, Argos have an offsite survey, i.e. not on their regular website, something which is quite common among UK businesses. Unlike others though, the Argos survey has something pretty unique, although depending on your business you may not be able to implement it. Like other surveys the respondent is required to input a receipt number to prove that the survey is genuine; but unlike others, the Argos receipt also has a till number, meaning that in the event if a major complaint (or positive point!), the shop can easily identify the employee in question.

Apple

Apple (as you would expect) have a snazzy section on their website for their customer satisfaction survey, done in their own particular style.  Apart from the usual questions, Apple have also included a few questions which actually help them with their sales, for instance: ‘Are you aware that you can upgrade your contract or activate an iPhone on a rate plan with a mobile carrier directly at the Apple Store?’. With these questions Apple surreptitiously sells their own products in the middle of a survey!

Tesco

The Tesco survey is very much what you expect to find, but don’t let that fool you – it is well put together. Tesco have lots of questions – ranging from stock availability to whether the staff were dressed presentably – but phrasing these questions correctly is of the utmost importance. Take care when you craft your questions!

Hilton

Hilton are perhaps one of the most recognisable brands in the world. They rely on top-notch service to keep their brand stellar. So it’s no surprise that their survey feedback form is excellent. Where other sites have page after page of questions, Hilton have kept it simple, keeping it to one page and only asking a few detailed questions. Of course being detailed can be a good thing – but for a customer filling out a survey, nothing is more of a turn-off than 20 long-winded open-ended questions – they won’t even bother finishing!

Oddbins

Last but not least is this survey from Oddbins, U.K. alcohol retailer. The survey itself is rather normal – but the prize isn’t! Unlike 90% of other surveys whose prize is some voucher or other, Oddbins give away a premium bottle of champagne to their customers! This is a contested point in the world of surveys – we would argue that if you work with an expert to make your survey relevant, targetted and concise, there should be no need for costly prizes. However, it’s a tip worth bearing in mind if you’re going DIY!

Read all that and think you’d like to explore the expert option? We’re here to help! Email us for a cost effective and high quality solution.

4 infographics that will change the way you think about customer service


 

Data is the lifeblood of what we do at VIRTUATel, so whilst we often write about ways in which to maximise your customer satisfaction levels, we love nothing more than a visual representation involving numbers. Enter customer service infographics! We’ve trawled the internet to bring you what we believe to be the top four infographics, each of which have some interesting insight into where we are and where we’re heading in the CX industry.

The 2015 Snapshot Infographic

What it shows us

  • customers’ perception of customer service in 2016
  • the importance of fast problem solving
  • tips on how to meet the needs of the customer

2015 cx infographic

 

The Worst Case Scenario Infographic

What it shows us:

  • what you lose when you lose a customer due to poor customer service
  • the key frustrations for customers
  • the worst offenders!

importance of customer service

The Omnichannel Infographic

What it shows us

ecommerce customer service

 

The Futurology Infographic

What it shows us

  • What customer service will look like in 2020
  • What customers will expect in the future
  • What has to change before then and steps you can take

2020 customer service

 

Want to discuss your own #CX needs? Email us to find out how we can help.

Just what is omnichannel customer service?

The big questions of 2016: who’s going to win the US presidential election? Will the new Top Gear deliver? And the most important of all: what is omnichannel customer service?

Omnichannel refers to the fact that a customer now has a variety of ways of interacting with a brand. Someone buying a pair of shoes might browse in the local department store, look up the best deal online, ask a question about the material over Twitter, and then buy the shoes on a mobile app whilst commuting.

An omnichannel literate company will ensure there’s consistency between all these channels, and also take into consideration the device that the customer is using. They will also make sure they are measuring at each stage of the customer journey, ensuring their performance is consistently high, regardless of channel.

In terms of customer service, the channels are the variety of ways a customer now has to get help – one person might prefer a phone call, whilst someone else will search online or write a question on the brand’s Facebook wall. The company that has truly conquered omnichannel customer service will be able to seamlessly transfer the customer across these channels, without requiring them to explain their situation from scratch each time. A challenge, for sure, and one that is actually easier to manage within a small company than a multinational behemoth.

In the Omnichannel Customer Care Report it was found:

“Companies with well-defined omni-channel customer experience management (CEM) programs achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rate on average, compared to organizations without. These organizations also average a 3.4% increase in customer lifetime value, while those without omni-channel programs actually diminish customer lifetime value by 0.7% year-on-year.”

At VIRTUATel, we have always recognised the value of an omnichannel customer service approach and have offered real-time feedback capture across many channels, for many years. After all, we want to help businesses perform to the highest standard possible, and the numbers in that report speak for themselves.

When it comes to surveys, we use multichannel surveys to support an omnichannel approach.

Our multichannel surveys allow for the fact that different customers will prefer to engage with surveys in different ways. In order to get a true reflection of a varied customer base, it’s essential to consider collecting survey results across every customer preferred contact channel – phone, email, chat, web and smartphone, for instance. A customer is unlikely to begin a survey on SMS and then switch to a phone call halfway through, so it’s not about continuing one person’s journey across channels. Instead, it’s about recognising the bias individuals have for platforms on which they’ll engage.

VIRTUATel are also experts at combining the omnichannel experience. For example, a telephone survey may be offered when a customer calls from their mobile phone but if they don’t answer, feedback can be offered via an SMS message, to get that valuable feedback. If they accept, we can even offer them a phone, sms or smartphone survey, depending upon their preferences.

VIRTUATel specialises in multichannel surveys, supporting your omnichannel customer service experience. Talk to us about how we can help you build your omnichannel customer service strategy – email us for a consultation here.