“I was once told that if something your baby does annoys you, don’t worry because in two weeks they’ll change. Just like this, your customers’ needs will change too.”
I have always enjoyed customer-facing roles. For more than 20 years I have had roles involving customers ranging from support and services to training and tech sales. These roles have given me exposure to an immense variety of personalities and backgrounds.
I’ve met the surly IT-person who just wants the application up and running, the non-technical VP who can’t understand why what you’re selling has value, the consumer who doesn’t understand the term ‘browser‘ and the tech-guru who could hack the Pentagon.
Then last year, I was introduced to an entirely different customer; my first child, Connor.
The hardest customer experience challenge I’ll ever have to deliver just arrived. Connor Steven Stoss was born Oct 30th at 8:13pm. He and mom are healthy and happy. We all could not be more excited! pic.twitter.com/QlwPPkpDwd
— Craig Stoss (@StossInSupport) November 2, 2018
While not a customer in the traditional sense, he needs a service, and my wife and I are the only vendors to whom he has access. It has only been a few months, but already I have re-learned how to think about customer experience. The way he sees the world is not entirely different than the customers I mentioned above:
- The surly IT-person has a need and just wants it gets solved now, just as Connor knows he needs something urgently and doesn’t care who gives it to him.
- The non-technical VP and consumer need to be spoken to in their language, and Connor certainly has his own communication technique.
- The tech-guru is great at doing something, but awful at explaining it, just like Connor who knows how to eat and play, but it’s all just instinct at this point.
Let’s explore what having a child taught me about driving customer success and positive customer experiences.
Communicate in the Customer’s Language
Our little guy communicates with us all the time.
Unfortunately, it’s in a language that we can’t decipher. This dilemma is common with customers as well. Inside an organization, we create a language and set of acronyms that become essential to our understanding of the business, but then make the mistake of expecting that to be the same language our customers speak.
When Connor cries or makes a strange sound, I ask him what he needs from me, but he only repeats the same noises. But my lack of understanding doesn’t let me off the hook with him, any more than it would with a customer.
It is our responsibility as customer-facing company representatives to speak to the customer in their language.
For example, making sure synonyms of keywords are searchable in your knowledge base is an excellent way to ensure your customers can find help in their own words. Or when responding to emails, use the terms the customer used in their message – even if it’s not exactly the technical terms your business uses.
These considerations extend beyond just product-specific terms. If you are starting to sell to foreign markets, do you need to expand your support, sales or account team offerings to different languages or to suit a different culture? Does your product or your knowledge base need to internationalize? Providing a positive customer experience often means ensuring the language is comfortable for you and them. That may mean deciphering some cries or odd sounding noises, but in the end, you’ll better serve your customer.
Connor has a habit of making the same faces, sounds or gestures before he needs something. They are often small, but if we pick up on it quickly enough, noticing a little noise here or a tiny frown there can save us from hours of crying. We should be doing the same with customers.
Recognizing patterns can help you provide proactive assistance inside your product. If you know a particular area of your product is difficult and can tell a person is visiting that area for the first time, pop up a knowledge base article. Product analytics and customer engagement tools such as Pendo can significantly reduce support effort and save your customer a lot of hassle.
These patterns are also found with escalated support tickets. Analyze metadata found in your case management tool to prevent escalations by flagging tickets that have a high risk of being escalated.
Close correlations might include the customer size, length of time the ticket was open, priority of the ticket, incoming channel, day of the week, etc. Noticing these patterns and taking preventative actions significantly reduces the need to involve managers in tickets, and the number of tickets that escalate overall, which results in happier customers, and cost savings to your support team.
There are patterns everywhere within an organization. Start recognizing where common customer unhappiness happens and put appropriate measures in place to prevent them. Pattern recognition will help your customers use your services more effortlessly and will help you avoid hours of screaming.
Meet the Customer Where They Are
Who hasn’t yelled up the stairs to their spouse or housemate, or called to someone over a cubicle wall? That doesn’t work very well with a baby. I cannot scream up the stairs to calm him or give him his bottle in his crib from my comfy seat on the couch. I need to go to where he is. As with my son, customers need to be supported where they are. That could mean many things:
- Embedding your knowledge base search or articles directly in your product
- Access to forums or communities
- In-app chat
- In-product warning messages, notices or guides
- Phone numbers that are clear and accessible
- Good SEO from major search engines
If your customers need access to information, think about where are they when they need it. If your app is mobile, sending them to a web forum is probably not appropriate. If they call your company, telling them to hang up and call a different number or send an email instead increases frustration. If your customers are social media savvy, make sure your team is responsive and equipped to answer questions and respond to feedback. Deliver the solution directly to your customer.
Don’t force them to crawl over to your comfy seat because, no matter how easy that journey seems, they will be angrier when they arrive.
Set your Customers up for Success
I’ve watched Connor punch himself in the face more times than I can count and he always gets his leg stuck at weird angles every time I’ve changed his outfit. He still doesn’t seem to recognize he controls his own limbs! He has the tools, just as everyone else does, but he has not had the training to use them.
We do this to our customers all the time. Smartphone boxes used to have a thick manual full of every function it had right at the top of the box. Today, you are lucky to get a 2-page pamphlet that tells you where the headphone jack is. We have moved from a ‘user guide’ model of providing training to an ‘it’s intuitive‘ model of, virtually, no training. But not all products are intuitive.
Because all children are different, every book on parenting is essentially a user manual for the wrong ‘model’ or ‘version’ of a baby. Customers have the same problem. You will need different playbooks for different customer segments, but the focus should always be on their requirements.
Creating an experience your customers love and can be successful with is all about assessing what they want. Doing this assessment and giving your employees the flexibility to solve problems based on the customer need, and not on a rigid process, will have a positive impact on your current status quo.
A study by Rentently showed that 23% of churn is caused by a bad onboarding experience. Teaching your customers how to use your product can reduce your overall churn and lead to higher revenue and investment from your existing customer base. Whether your service is white-glove or through automated guides, set your customers up for success by teaching them to use the tools you provide.
Otherwise, they may just keep just smacking their faces and getting their legs stuck in their sleepers.
Responding to Anger
Any article about a baby wouldn’t be complete without mentioning poo. Connor gives us his ‘diaper gifts‘ several times a day, and every time we have to action it. Similarly, customers can often fling poo our direction, and we have to deal with it professionally every time. Because when you don’t, or you wait too long, the next time you open up that diaper, it will be even more of a disaster.
Taking in voice of customer feedback, even angry feedback, is one the best ways to improve your offerings. Engage with frustrated customers quickly to understand why they feel the way they do. A few tips for responding:
- Always thank the customer for their feedback
- Respond in a timely manner
- Be factual and polite
- Do not dismiss, pass-off ownership, or insult the criticism
Companies make mistakes, customers get frustrated, and babies poo. It happens, and we shouldn’t shy away from it. Respond to it head-on, take quick action, solve the problem, and show that you care. The customer will see the value in your response and evolving service.
Providing the Best Customer Experience
I love my son, and I’d be lying if I said he hasn’t drastically changed my life. My routine has changed, I spend my money differently, and I assess invites to social events with different considerations.
All of this is true for your customers.
If you really want to provide the best customer experience, you need to alter how you provide your service, where you focus your budget spend, and how you consider other opportunities.
For example, do you have all the right channels, staffed in all the right locations? Are you spending the right amount on automation, tooling or people? And what other opportunities exist to enhance the experience?
The answers to these questions are not one-offs. I was once told that if something your baby does annoys you, don’t worry because in two weeks they’ll change. Just like this, your customers’ needs will change too. It will happen based on your customer size, target market, company growth, etc. For this reason, taking in and actioning feedback needs to happen constantly.
Always strive to be better than you were yesterday.
Being a father is an incredible experience. I strive every day to teach him new things, help him explore, learn about and be engaged by all the tools he has been given. Connor has been a great reminder that serving someone can be both enjoyable, and advantageous to all parties. With Connor, I get to watch him grow and learn, but professionally you can watch your customers succeed, and your business grow.