Tag: customer service

The true cost of customers’ online experiences

By Charlie Stewart for Roger Wilco

By 2021, over 20-million South Africans will shop online. This is a third of the country’s population. But, while the commercial opportunity is obvious – currently eCommerce accounts for R14-billion of the total retail pie, or 1,4% – local brands aren’t taking full advantage. So reveals The Cost of Online CX: A R34-billion Opportunity, 2019 South African Digital Customer Experience Report. Commissioned by performance marketing agency, Rogerwilco, it was released today.

Among key findings the study found that 71% of South African online shoppers abandon a purchase at the digital tillpoint. The commercial cost of this for local e-marketers is staggering accounting for a loss of around R34-billion* worth of goods per annum.

So what’s going wrong? According to online South Africans, payment failure is a big issue (57%), while site speed (38%), being unable to find what they are looking for (37%) and difficulty in navigating the site (27%) all impact the likelihood of an end sale.

“Brands are hell bent on brand building and client acquisition – at the detriment of conversion. I see brands throwing heaps of money to get people to their sites and then they spend less on creating an ideal environment when they get there. If they curb their acquisition budget and put it into the very fundamental elements to give it a better experience, they will convert more customers,” says Charlie Stewart, CEO of Rogerwilco.


Provide a helping hand – or bot

Customer service and support is also a big pain point, with over half of those surveyed saying that there is no-one to help them when they get stuck. “There needs to be an improved on-demand support for customers and also brands need to look at why customers need help to make online purchases in the first place – you shouldn’t need a support service if the experience works. What is failing in the customer journey that is causing customers to feel that they need support? This is a big red flag. Digital shouldn’t be a channel where you need customer service, it should be seamless self-service,” comments Julia Ahlfeldt, a Certified Customer Experience Professional.

Chatbots might well be the answer, although there are some misperceptions about what a chatbot is. “Businesses can address this by creating a persona that has some human traits which make it more relatable. Anything that can ease the journey is a good thing,” says Stewart. “Doing so can lead to a 30% saving in customer service costs. Furthermore, chatbots are bringing in the bacon; it is estimated that by 2023 retail sales via chatbots will account for $112-billion.”

Despite the commercial opportunity, bots aren’t every brand’s best friend, yet. “A percentage of our Customer Service queries can be solved using AI, but the majority can’t – highly personalised recommendations are an important part of our offering. Over time we intend to build a repository of information that will enable AI chatbots to deliver at a similar standard, but this is years away. Will a chatbot be able to talk a customer through the essentials for a summit of Kilimanjaro; it will take time before it can really understand customer needs,” comments Cape Union Mart’s Kia Abbott.

Better experiences = better returns

When brands do get it right, 44,5% of consumers report that they’ll spend more online. This also increases in relation to higher incomes; almost 60% of those who earn over R30 000 a month said they will buy more from a brand if the online experience is a good one.

“We consistently see that customers who have a seamless experience on our platform spend more money with us, so it makes clear commercial sense to continue to identify and remove points of friction. This can be as simple as enabling buyers to set up alerts so they are notified as soon as a product they’re looking for becomes available and having automated prompts that guide advertisers on how to categorise their products with tools that rate the quality of the images that accompany their ads,” comments Gumtree’s digital marketing manager Michael Walker.

Up against the best in the world

Notwithstanding site speed, good navigation and customer support, local brands are also being compared to international giants like Uber and Amazon, whose apps often sit side-by-side local brands. “Look at anyone’s mobile phone screen and it’s likely you’ll see local and international brands’ apps sitting side by side,” says ovatoyou’s Amanda Reekie. “Consumers dip in and out of these brands all day long, switching from Uber to News24 or Netflix to Takealot in milliseconds. And they expect a seamless experience across all of their apps; there is no differentiation in their minds between South African and global brands – they all need to work as well as each other.”

To overcome this brands must invest more in their apps’ usability to make sure that the experience is intuitive and not only be as good as their nearest competitor but as good as Uber.

Face to face

While banking online or via an app is the most common reason why consumers are online in the first place, with 85% of the sample reporting they use the platform for this reason, not everything can be fulfilled online; consumers still want a degree of physical contact, especially with financial services.

“When considering our customer journey, across income groups, consumers prefer to engage with us through human-manned channels. They’re comfortable with searching for information in the first part of their journey, when looking for options to meet their needs, however when they get to the buying phase they seem to be hesitant to make that in a digital environment and they want to fulfil the buying decision in a human environment, such as a call centre or face to face. This is a nuance of financial services as people tend to like human touch points,” comments a CX expert from a leading insurance provider.

Reinforcing this preference for a human over machine, 37% of those surveyed said it’s easier to go into a store or a bank branch.

Vicious venting

If customers don’t get what they want online, they are very quick to bad mouth a brand: a whopping 99% of consumers said they would tell friends and family about their ordeals. “In a world where people rely more and more on advice and recommendations from friends and family – and that then influences them as to where they spend their money – these experiences are more powerful than above the line marketing; you believe your friend over an ad. For existing brands, if there are negative experiences out there it just piles onto the brand. People still talk about experiences that happened years ago; it’s hurting you today and will hurt you tomorrow. On the other hand, those that had a good experience leads to a repurchase (44,5%). I think that if brands can look at this and understand this, that if I deliver a good experience, then 44% will spend more and recommend to friends and family, what is the knock-on effect of this? Bad experiences are the silent killer; you don’t feel the pain until it’s too late,” says Ahlfeldt.

Getting it right

While there are no quick fixes, brands that have online platforms, can and should address common consumer challenges. “Given the rate at which South Africans are coming online and using the digital platform to engage with and buy from brands, businesses should be investing far more than the average 10 – 24% of their marketing budget on their sites, to prevent them throwing billions of Rands down the drain thanks to high incidences of shopping cart abandonment!
“Site speed, good UX, offering customer support and making sure products are available online are all relatively easy things that brands can do to improve their customers’ experience and which when implemented will significantly increase consumer loyalty, return visits and ultimately sales.”

By Odwa Mjo for Times Live

Bad customer service is a frustrating experience for everyone, but who would think of crashing their car into a building?

A woman in Boksburg drove her vehicle into a Standard Bank branch after apparently waiting for several hours to be served.

The woman crashed the Mercedes Benz into the glass walls of the branch after she had an argument with a bank teller regarding money withdrawal, News24 reported.

In a statement from Standard Bank obtained by TimesLIVE, the bank would not give details about the incident but only said that “the client was served in a professional manner and in line with client-service procedures. The query was of a complex nature.”

The bank said that while nobody was hurt, counselling had been offered to those affected by the incident.

Telkom is killing itself

Source: MyBroadband

Telkom is facing a challenging future, with a growing number of South Africans vowing to never deal with the company again due to its poor customer service.

MyBroadband receives daily complaints from Telkom subscribers who are unable to cancel their services due to the company’s poor systems.

Many former Telkom subscribers also complain about being billed despite having cancelled their services months ago, and if they stop paying they run the risk of being blacklisted.

“We tried for 3 months to cancel our ADSL service with Telkom without success. We have never had such a poor experience with any service provider,” MyBroadband was told by a Telkom DSL subscriber.

“Telkom is forcing people selfishly to remain indebted to them just because you once had a service with them. They have zero care for customers,” another client said on HelloPeter.

New system launched, but without success
In January, Telkom said it was working to improve the accessibility of its support mechanisms to customers.

This included a feature which allows customers previously unable to cancel their accounts to process the matter online.

Telkom also acknowledged that errors in the migration of its cancellation system resulted in users being incorrectly blacklisted, and promised to improve in this area.

Despite these interventions, customers still struggle with this problem and in some areas the company’s support became worse.

MyBroadband continues to receive complaints about cancellation problems, with many people reporting that Telkom’s helpdesk and support platform is often down.

This means that customers can not cancel their services and are left frustrated by the company’s poor support.

The effect on Telkom’s numbers
While making it difficult for customers to cancel their service may result in short-term financial gains, the long-term damage to Telkom is devastating.

The company is already losing fixed-line subscribers at a record rate and its poor reputation means it is unlikely to turn the tide.

Telkom now has 2,566,000 fixed-line subscribers, down from 2,840,000 a year ago. This is a year-on-year decline of 274,000 lines.

Telkom is also losing fixed-broadband subscribers despite its continued investment in a fibre rollout.

Telkom is blaming competition from mobile services, copper theft, and tough economic conditions for this decline – but there is more to it.

Even if people can get access to Telkom’s fixed-broadband services, they prefer to use other companies because of Telkom’s poor reputation.

To gain South Africans’ trust again will be very difficult for the company, which does not bode well for its future prospects.

The graph below shows Telkom’s fixed-line subscriber decline over the last two decades, illustrating the effect of its poor reputation.

Customers from hell – part 3

Nobody likes dealing with miserable people, and in parts 1 and 2 of this series we looked at how important issues of self-image and self-esteem created unhappiness and obnoxious behaviour. I also discussed that there are serious consequences that both you and the unfortunate other party have to deal with when we are unable to resolve problems and complaints effectively. In this final article I want to share some more practical ideas for dealing with these.

In any “customer from hell” situation, we need to assume that you have made all efforts to deal reasonably with the unhappiness. An easy way to remember what to do is summarised in the acronym LESTER.

• Listen carefully to what the unhappy customer is complaining about
• Empathise with them
• Say sorry and apologise
• Thank them for bringing it to your attention, and for having the courage to complain rather than just bad-mouthing your business, defecting to a rival, or worse. And then, when they are calm
• Explore options and explain what you can do, and finally
• Rectify the problem with a win:win solution, (following up to make sure it was truly resolved.)

But we are not dealing with normal, unhappy customers and their complaints and problems in this article. We are discussing the emotional, irrational, illogical and unreasonable customers from hell that don’t respond to all of your efforts to help them. You must be able to protect yourself from such individuals, because of the awful effect that they have on you. That one person that you have to deal with makes you forget the other 99% of nice people that you deal with on a day-to-day basis. The terrible memories of this encounter will stay vividly in your mind for a very long time. It makes work very unpleasant, and is demoralising and demotivating for everyone involved. Most importantly, it starts eating away at your own confidence, esteem and self-worth.

There are a few choices that you have in dealing with these customers…

• Laugh it off: Not always easy, but remember it’s mostly their problem, not yours. Of course, they will do their best to get you caught up in their problem – and their dramas.

• Just accept their behaviour, and allow the abuse to continue. It may be that this customer from hell is too important to your business, or has too much power for you to deal with. I don’t like this option, however, because if you allow the abuse to continue, it will continue, and maybe get even worse. More importantly what about the effect that this has on you? If you have no choice, protect yourself from these individuals by talking to somebody, or by taking out your frustrations somehow. Remember that ships don’t sink because of the water around them… They sink because of the water that gets in them. Are you going to allow this to happen in your life, and allow things to weigh you down? Do anything to let it go. Alternatively, just laugh it off.

• Confront with equal aggression: also not a good choice most of the time, because they will not like it, and the resulting consequences may be even worse. Also, don’t forget that passive aggression where you come up with creative ways of taking revenge on them or putting them down, is just as bad as real aggression.

• Confront assertively, by interrupting them in a firm voice to say something like this: “Mr. Smith, I want to help you, but I can’t do that while you are aggressive/abusive/shouting at me. Will you allow me to do so?” This is particularly important when customers become abusive and threaten you, bully you, insult you or even get physically violent. You need to be able to “draw a line in the sand” so to speak, and to let them know that their behaviour is not acceptable.

• Put the ball in their court. You may want to try this out: tell them that you have now come to the point where you have exhausted all of your options. You have tried everything in your power to help them, and they have not responded. “What do you want me to do?” There are three possible answers to this question. First, they may tell you what they want, and it’s impossible for you to do that, so you are going to have to say “No.” Second, they may tell you what they want, and you are able to respond to that, in which case do it and move on. But there is also a third possibility: they don’t respond, because they can’t think of anything else that you can do. At this stage, they may come to the realization that you have done your best, but don’t expect them to readily admit that. But at least they may become more reasonable.

• Cut the anchor: let them go. This is a tricky one, and we suggest that you check it out with your manager first. But if the abuse is becoming too much for you to deal with, you could say something like: “Mr. Jones, I am uncomfortable with all of the swearing and insults that you are shouting at me. With the greatest respect to you, I am now going to walk away, (or put the telephone down. Goodbye” And then walk away or put the telephone down softly. (In fact, pass them onto your competitors!) Don’t wrestle with pigs. It will get you all muddy and the pigs will love it.
• Just keep trying to sort it out, whatever it takes. If you do manage to turn them around, and you keep trying everything you can to turn them around, you may find a customer for life. What often helps is if you in fact tell them that you will not give up on them, ever.

Some final thoughts

• It’s obvious that you need a really great sense of humour to be able to deal with these abusive customers, and, as one author put it, “A thick skin is a gift from God.”

• David may have fought Goliath – but he didn’t choose to wrestle him. Choose your battles carefully

• Don’t take things personally. Remember that what people say is more a reflection of them, their reality, not a reflection of you.

• Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most

I’d like to end off with a line from one of my favourite lines from the poem “If,” written by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’, and blaming it on you…
Then yours is the earth and everything that’s on it.

By Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of Leadership Launchpad

Dealing with customers from hell

No less a respected journal than The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published an article entitled, Stay Calm When Someone Is Getting on Your Nerves. “Come on, HBR,” I thought to myself, “Is this the best you can do? Nothing like stating something that is so blindingly obvious!”

The basic theme of the article was that we all have people – and customers – who irritate us. People who interrupt, people who are filled with arrogance or sheer stupidity, people who are unreasonable, irrational, and emotional and who blame us personally for everything that is wrong in the world. And that excludes the anonymous people who post nasty things in the social media, and the self-important bullies who can only feel good about themselves if they put you down.

Then the authors write: “To help yourself, remain calm in these situations, acknowledge your emotions and think through why you’re reacting the way you are. For example, you might get angry about being interrupted because it was a major problem at your last job or in a prior personal relationship. Don’t let those associations control you…”

And yet… if an esteemed publication like the HBR feels a need to publish such an article, maybe it’s because most people don’t get it. You are definitely going to occasionally get the “customer from hell.” You may have tried all of the best strategies in the world, maybe even used some of the hints for dealing with complaints, problems and anger covered in one of my previous columns.

There are probably only a handful of responses to people like this, but I have to completely agree that it all starts with you. Whenever I see bad behaviour, whenever I see people troubled in their lives, or whenever there is some conflict or event that challenges all of the things that glue society together, then the first place I look is at the self-esteem.

Why is it true that some people let the smallest thing spark off rage, while others seem to be able to remain calm, no matter what happens? When someone needs to behave in this obnoxious, aggressive and hurtful way, what are they saying about themselves? It’s because they feel weak and vulnerable and insecure. I know the times when I flash a fist at a taxi driver, or snap at someone, or slam a door, those are not the times when I feel good about myself, happy with who I am, and when I just know that the world is just a great, forgiving, generous abundant place. They are the times when I feel fearful, hurt, and out of control. (Under different circumstances when they aren’t attacking you, you may even feel sorry for the customers from hell.)

If we paint the opposite picture, it becomes even more obvious: people who feel optimistic, positive, and who like themselves don’t need to behave like this. They are generous, kind, sensitive, empathetic and helpful towards others.

So how should you deal with your own negative feelings? Many people believe – incorrectly – that bad emotions are always dangerous and powerful. If we express these feelings openly, then we’ll be less popular, lose someone’s love and admiration, or provoke someone’s anger, boredom or dislike. This – being liked by everybody all of the time – is unrealistic. People also believe – and also incorrectly – that it’s unhealthy or dishonest to try to control how they express their feelings. They believe that they have a right, indeed a responsibility, to let people aggressively know how they feel in any manner they choose, no matter what the circumstances or the consequences.

Therefore, there are only two ways we can deal with bad emotions: repress them or express them in the form in which we experience them, that is, negatively. Both of these can be pretty destructive. Repressing your negative feelings happens in one of two ways: denial, (“I can’t admit having these negative emotions,”) or suppression, (“I know how I feel, but I can’t think of a constructive way to express these feelings, so I won’t display them.”) If you do this, you know that you may be sparing others, but hurting yourself. But if you don’t deal with these feelings, they won’t go away. Instead, they show themselves in some of the following symptoms: depression, physical illness, (including headaches, stiff muscles, insomnia, eating disorders, ulcers and even heart attacks,) low self-esteem, emotional withdrawal, (we become apathetic, unenthusiastic, indifferent and uninvolved, just going through the motions,) and even recourse to drugs and alcohol, (we seek escape through substance abuse.)

Destructive expression, on the other hand, can also hurt the recipients and alienate people from you. Moody people thus become isolated from others, often lashing out at the nearest target, and feeling terrible afterwards. They show some of the following behaviours: temper tantrums, (childish, inappropriate, and uncontrolled anger that can be triggered by even trivial things – some of them going back years and years,) sulking and “the silent treatment,” (in which they refuse to explain why they are upset,) and sarcasm, (because they are reluctant to confront the cause of their bad mood directly.) In groups we sometimes call these “passive aggressive” behaviours.

Remember that we have already established the fact that defensive behaviour does not help. Yes, criticism is hard to accept especially when you work hard, when you are trying to please people, and when you feel it is unjustified. It is hurtful. But trying to justify your behaviour, or even trying to shift the blame or prove that the other person is wrong, is futile. They will all be rejected by the other person unless you have worked through all of the conflict and anger.

Of course you have a right to feel anger and express it sometimes. Anger doesn’t have to lead to violence or more anger. Your goal is to learn to deal with anger more constructively, not to ignore it or to repress it. Also, don’t rationalise your reluctance to express anger. Excuses like, “I won’t say anything because I’ll hurt the other person’s feelings,” are ways of explaining to yourself why you don’t do what you have never learned to do. Instead of dwelling on the reasons why you don’t express anger, concentrate on learning how to do it.

There’s a lovely legend I’d like to end off with: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Goodness – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

If you feel strong, confident, secure, and have good self-esteem, you will be able to deal with unhappy and abusive people, no matter what they throw at you. This is the big secret of keeping yourself calm.

In part 2 of this series we will look at some of the practical things you can do to calm down upset customers.

By Aki Kalliatakis, managing partner of Leadership Launchpad

My Office magazine’s simple guide to giving – and getting – great customer service.

Giving great customer service

If you’re in the business of selling products and services, a content and loyal customer is worth their weight in gold.
However, as technologically-enhanced, real-time communication grows, a dissatisfied customer can be a ticking time-bomb that can do significant damage to your brand’s reputation.


Choose the right medium

It’s vital to know when to use technology-based services and when to rely on human interaction. An online form or automated response might work for a customer who’s looking for efficiency and a quick fix, but someone who’s desperately seeking consolation, advice or assistance won’t react well to a machine. Train service agents to know when which form of service is most appropriate.

Streamline consultancy

Working with one consultant is invaluable for customers. One point of contact simplifies exchange, makes problem solving efficient and decreases frustration levels. This system also allows consultants to build strong and lasting relationships with clients.

Reward valuable customers

Tailored services for long-standing clients, as well as new and existing “big spenders”, are a useful value-add – whether it’s additional or personalised services, or exclusive benefits. This can result in significant growth and investment from the customer’s side.

Listen

“Customer service” often drums up images of sub-par call centres, but valuable support can be offered in so many ways. Social media, if used properly, can be a powerful tool to gain insights from customers to improve service. Feedback is never diluted and happens in realtime, which is a huge asset if managed properly.

Offer specialised support

Effective communication is the first tenant of great customer service. This means if your customer service support team isn’t speaking the same language as your customers – literally and figuratively – you’ll never be offering the best service possible. Make sure your support team is tailored according to region, accents and even vernacular, to ensure a fruitful exchange.

Fix issues quickly

As far as possible, make sure customers’ issues are resolved the very first time they complain, so clients experience the least downtime and maximise efficiency. First time fix (FTF) is a sure-fire way to get repeat business.

Follow up

A customer scorned once is dangerous; a customer scorned twice is fatal – and they will not hesitate to make their plight known. Even after the resolution of an issue, there should always be some kind of follow-up communication to check the problem hasn’t returned, and the client is happy. It never goes amiss.

Getting great customer service

Have you ever wondered how some people always seem to get the best table, the upgraded room or the best piece of meat at the market? Conversely, others seem to continually get the surly waiter, the lazy clerk or the indifferent bellhop.
Great customer service is no accident; there are things you can do to get it. Indeed, those who receive the most professional, courteous and friendly service follow a deliberate recipe that turns even a cold and raw initial encounter into a warm and delicious experience.

Here are six tips for almost always getting great customer service:

Be positive

Enter the scene with the expectation that greatness is about to happen and that it should happen to you. Visualise being served well. Then let your obvious positive attitude and confident expectation come from your terrific mental picture. Avoid making demands. Instead, put your energy into creating early, light-hearted vibes.

Make a good first impression

The first 10 seconds are vital to shaping the reception you are likely to get. Aim your eyes and best smile at the service provider. Deliver a friendly greeting. Be confident, but not aggressive or pushy. Optimism and joy are generally infectious. Remember, servers favour customers who are a pleasure to serve.

Lend a hand

Most service people really are eager to give great service. But sometimes barriers can make it difficult. So, be a willing helper in clearing those barriers away. If the barrier is the server’s foul mood, try a quick tease or sincere compliment to turn sour into sunny. If the barrier is an absurd policy, offer a novel suggestion that helps you get what you want without putting your service person at risk of managerial disdain.

Be respectful

No matter how determined a service provider seems to be to provide the absolute bare minimum, always treat them with respect. Sometimes a “no!” is an unshakable “no”.
Always use your very best manners: “please”, “sir” and “thank you”. Remember that a chilly initial reception will generally thaw if you are persistent in your cheerfulness. Your server just might surprise you with a turnaround attitude late in the encounter.

Be playful

Use a playful style that lets the service person be a bit mischievous. Instead of announcing: “I’d like a no-smoking table with a view”, try: “We’d love to get the table that you would want if this was your special night. I know you can get us just the right spot.”
If you help make service delivery feel fun, you’ll have servers wanting to join you on the playground.

Be generous and thoughtful

Never view a service encounter as a single transaction, but rather the start of an important relationship. Assume you’ll be back, and be generous in expressing your gratitude for great service.
Praise service people to their superiors. Express your compliments to great service providers with a follow-up note or call. The next time you return, you’ll get their red carpet best.

Don’t wait for great service to come to you. Take charge of elevating the encounter from a “pretty good” transaction to an “I wouldn’t go anywhere else” relationship.

Service people enjoy great customers just as much as customers enjoy great servers. So, “serve” from your heart and you’ll be served in the same fashion.

Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, which is currently undergoing a major R2-billion redevelopment, has introduced a unique concierge ambassadors programme to minimise inconvenience to shoppers. Twelve fully trained concierge ambassadors are stationed at the busiest nodes of the mall to advise and guide shoppers during trading hours, seven days a week.

“During a refurbishment project such as the one we’ve implemented, it’s very important to make sure that shoppers are well informed of the processes that are underway. This is one of the reasons why the concierge ambassador programme was started,” says Andrea de Wit, marketing manager of Menlyn Park Shopping Centre.

Apart from helping shoppers to navigate through the centre during renovations, the ambassadors provide helpful hints and updates on new tenants. “Our shoppers have been thoroughly delighted by this initiative and it’s had a positive effect on our footfall numbers over this period.”

The ambassadors are stationed in the existing centre, in the Village (the “temporary mall”) and in Grocery Avenue, which contains the centre’s main food and grocery outlets. They will be on duty right through to December 2016, seeing the centre through most of its renovations.

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