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By Mark Kersteen - October 23rd, 2015
Insights from American Express, Southwest, and Symantec from #CSMCS
Despite coming from three very different industries, the speakers at the Customer Service Summit’s panel “Securing Brand affinity through bespoke, and unforgettable, customer service” all had similar stories and suggestions for engaging and delighting customers.
Valerie McNamara, Vice-President of the World Service Relationship Care program for American Express, succinctly expressed the standard all brands should strive for:
“Top service brands acknowledge failure, and recover with grace."
Valerie pushes to meet that standard internally.
“Relationship Care at Amex is viewed as an investment, not a cost to be managed.”
Nor should it be. The benefits of good service far outweigh the costs, and have an appreciable effect on the bottom line. As Valerie notes, “Promoters spend more than detractors.”
This insight feeds into the entire approach and culture of Amex’s care department. When agents sit down with their managers, they’re able to see how they’ve actually changed individual sentiment scores themselves. Agents really know that they’re making a difference, not only in how much customers spend, but in their entire appreciation of the brand.
Overall, Valerie attributes her team’s success to one thing:
“The voice of the customer, we listen to our customers and do what they expect us to do. We learn from our customers, and then we adjust.”
Listening to customers, even just thinking about them, is a critical first step towards delighting them. Michelle Benham, Director of Customer Relations for Southwest Airlines, shared a great, simple story of how a pilot, by just waving to a boy on the tarmac, set off an avalanche of goodwill.
Throughout their organization, Southwest looks to hire fun-loving and energetic employees, and this is especially critical in their care department. “"We hire for attitude and train for aptitude," says Michelle, which says volumes for why Southwest’s is such a natural and human-driven experience. Even in a hectic, unpredictable, and stressful vertical like air travel, you can still make the effort to make someone’s day:
“In the airline industry, customers just want to get from point a to point b. But you’re not just traveling, you’re going to wedding, or a funeral, or on business. We want to be a part of that travel, and engage with you more than just getting you there.”
Taking a sharp turn into a very different vertical, Richard Gianvecchio, Vice-President of Customer Support and Services for Symantec, looks down to the emotional motivators behind customers reaching out for support:
“What drove someone to feel that they need security, and what do they need when they come to you if something isn’t right?”
“Customers are negative on service channels because they’re afraid. There’s an emotional attachment driving the conversation. How can our customer service agents alleviate that fear?
The customers haven’t thought about how to get in front of what they’re afraid of. Something like ransomware, which hijacks your computer and encrypts your files, asking you to pay to regain access. If an agent can tell them more about a potential issue and educate them, not only does that fear fade away, but they’re grateful and willing to learn about solutions.”
However, this approach requires real education, not a binder of questions and answers.
“Having a script means you have a system that works for everyone and no one. You need guidelines, not rules. Even if an agent faces the same issue three times in a row, each case is a little different. Whether we’re at fault or not, we have to be the customer savior.”
Customer service success comes more from outlook and culture than any canned processes or rules. It’s a change in mindset within your organization that will lead to the changes you need to make to start getting customer attention:
“A lot of businesses think of a call center as a cost center."
"The thought is, ‘no one wakes up and says, “I’m going to call customer service today.’” We take every opportunity to connect with a customer as a check-in. Even if you offer them something and they don’t take it, they’re thrilled.”
It’s welcoming customer contact instead of fearing it that sets Southwest, American Express, and Symantec’s service above their competitors’.
October 2015, New York
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