customer service

12月 072018

There is one equation every retail store, call center, traffic, airport or hospital manager should know by heart.  No, it’s not E = mc².  The one I had in mind is this: W = 1 / (μ – λ) It may not look like much, but it can mean the [...]

Analytics you can use: Manage your queue for better customer service was published on SAS Voices by Leo Sadovy

12月 072018

There is one equation every retail store, call center, traffic, airport or hospital manager should know by heart.  No, it’s not E = mc².  The one I had in mind is this: W = 1 / (μ – λ) It may not look like much, but it can mean the [...]

Analytics you can use: Manage your queue for better customer service was published on SAS Voices by Leo Sadovy

8月 132015

If you know me, you know two undeniable things (other than my love for froyo): I consider shopping a sport and I am an Analytics geek. Being an Analytics geek means that I see potential for using data everywhere, and never more than when it’s my data as a customer. And through sheer perseverance – I think of it as contributing to the economy (I’m not an economist) – there’s a lot of it sitting in data stores around the world.

Privacy aside, as far as I, the customer, is concerned, the data is there so that I can have a better experience, and so that my retailers and service providers can make (just) enough money to keep improving my experience.

As a customer, what do I want?shopper

  1. The right product – don’t you hate not being able to find the thing you have psychologically and financially prepared yourself to buy?
  2. Good service – I want to be a (very) repeat customer so give me a reason!
  3. A feeling that I got a good deal – at least in my head…
  4. Convenience – with work, friends and family, I am all about efficiency.

Turning the (credit) card over, for a retailer or service provider what do these 4 points mean?

The right product – do we know how demand for our products will change?

Do we know our peaks and troughs in demand to make sure that shelves are never bare without the right products and that our storage space is not wasted on too much excess stock? There are few monopolies now in retail and so as a customer it’s much easier for me to spend my money somewhere else in town or somewhere else in the world online. And if I have to go out of my way to find a particular product, I am (most) likely to buy other things while there.

bottlesIs demand consistent like cooking chocolate that spikes 6-8 weeks before Christmas or ice cream that is driven by changes in the weather? Or is it irregular like a fashion product that comes in and out of popularity based on advertising investment, celebrity endorsement or what happens on the Paris catwalk?

What are our product demand trends and what are the things that impact them?

Good service – what can we do to attract our customers back?

If you want loyalty, the shopping experience needs to be emotional. Other than pleasant and helpful staff that appear magically at the exact time they’re needed, what services suit the personality of our products and expectations of our target customers? It may seem counter-intuitive but there is a café in my city that is known for its less than nice staff to match its moniker – but it’s always packed, probably because of its wide selection of cakes, and inner city location near a university.

happyWhat are our customers saying in surveys, verbally and on social media? Are they checking in with positive or negative comments? Do they like our décor or do they want more cake options? Once we know who our target audience is and how they think, where are our target areas to setup shop and what products should we stock up on? Is there a group of customers that are high value and need more attention?

How do our customers actually feel about us and what can we do to keep improving?

A feeling that I got a good deal – how often do we need to run promotions?

Let’s not beat about the bush, when I see “SALE” I have an instinctive need to enter into the uncomfortably crowded store and generally feel obliged to make a purchase. But I, and my bank, wouldn’t necessarily classify me as a bargain shopper. So what is the right amount I should be promoted to – both to retain my loyalty as a customer but stay profitable as a retailer?

offerWhat is our point of diminishing returns for promotions – is “more” better, or is “more” just more? Does buying a hot chocolate mix cannibalise on instant coffee? Could promoting a cheaper red wine still lead to the purchase of a more expensive red wine with the cheaper wine? Is “30% off” more attractive than “Buy 2 get 1 free”? To really know, these variations need to be compared and tested. For a small number of products, knowing our customers and products could be enough but where there are unknowns, we need analytics to help provide those answers.

Do we know the price tolerance of our target customers for our products and the maximum quantity cap per customer?

Convenience – are we using the right channels for our customer?

Some may say that convenience is just another word for lazy, but with so many competing activities, convenience is a necessity. Like when I discovered online shopping (sighs). For me, it’s just another channel for my sport, though a channel that sometimes disappoints because I am a tactile shopper – sitting behind a computer is just not as much fun. But it’s so convenient (and dangerous).

mobileWhat are our customers expecting – what makes sense for our products, environment or culture? Which of our products make sense to have in-store, online, sold through consignment or some combination? Do we need apps for online purchases? Should these apps have embedded payment methods? Should we include free shipping (yes!) or same-day delivery? Does everybody deserve this service or should it be exclusive?

How can we get our product closer to our customers in the most cost effective way?

So many questions and so little time, where do we start?

It's not immediately with the data, though there is a lot of this and analysing it is important.

  1. First step is to ask: what is our ultimate goal – is it customer satisfaction, profit, exclusivity, humane…?
  2. Then ask questions from our customer's perspective - use our personal experiences if we are the target market - and map it to our goal. We need smart people - domain, objective and subjective experience and systems knowledge - to ask these questions. There are no wrong questions but as we learn new things from the data we didn’t previously know, we will find better questions to ask.
  3. Anything we don’t know straight away – demand shape, ideal customers, regional profiles, customer sentiment, price sensitivity, optimal contact points, economic breakdown – we can almost definitely find out through the data available internally (price, promotions, supplier, POS transactions, call centre) or externally (competitive, industry and economic trends, social media, disruptive strategies).
  4. Most importantly, be open to the results – every surprise is a free gift from our data.

Stay tuned to the next instalment for more on how to get the right answers to our questions. If shopping was a sport (pretty sure it is), it would be a marathon rather than a sprint, just as analytics is in retail – we must start somewhere, some is always better than none, and with a clear goal and the right support, we can build on smaller precious victories and become a champion.

For avid shoppers, retailers and service providers, start getting competitive offers at the SAS Retail Analytics store of information. For those in Australia and New Zealand, who are eager to learn more and get hands on with a retail-specific scenarios, visit the SAS Visual Analytics Try-Before-You-Buy website. Scenarios include Customer Analysis and Promotion Effectiveness.

tags: analytics, customer experience, customer service, demand, retail

A Shopaholic’s Guide to Analytics was published on Left of the Date Line.

2月 202015
It's that time of year: Awards season. While we on the SAS Social Media Team will be happily following along this Sunday for the 87th Annual Academy Awards (via Twitter, naturally), we thought it only appropriate to use this as a time to celebrate our customers in social from 2014. From […]
12月 252014
Way back when my brother and I had different wish lists for Santa Claus

Two brothers: same hat, different wish lists for Santa Claus.

As my followers can attest, my normal viewpoint in this blog is as a marketer focused on marketers. And I try to stay true to the tagline of this blog: Evolving relationships for business growth.

I chose those words very carefully so that evolving could with be interpreted either passively (as if describing what’s happening with marketing and customers), or actively (as in the deliberate process of changing how marketers engage with their customers). I think both equally are valid reasons for a blog, but I happen to find it more interesting to talk about the active approach.

So today, I intend to share my viewpoint as a customer as a way to highlight some of the main themes we’ve explored on this blog. And since it’s Christmas Eve (very soon Christmas morning on the eastern Pacific Rim), it made sense to make it a Christmas list (like the kind Eartha Kitt warbles in “Santa Baby”). If I could ask Santa Claus for what I want from my vendors and service providers, this is my list.

  1. Be respectful

I am busy, and I try to be my best whenever I am wearing the many hats I wear – as a marketer, father, husband, son, Scout leader, community member. If you and your product / service can help me meet my goals in one of those roles – great! If not, please leave me alone. I’ll call on you when I need you. If you pester me, I’ll get annoyed and just might look elsewhere when I need it.

For marketers, this means respecting do not call lists and email opt-outs. Ideally, it means using opt-ins instead of relying on opt-outs. And when I opt-out, please don’t keep spamming me or only offer opt-outs from the current tightly-defined email list that you define. And please stop calling me at home. There is never a good time to call me at home – because I am *never* sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Ever. You will always be interrupting something and I won't be happy about it.

  1. Be responsive

The corollary to respectfulness is responsiveness. If I am trying to give you my business or need some help, please don’t make it difficult for me. This can either be in your contact center as outlined by my colleague, Rachel Alt-Simmons’ last post, Customer service, don’t #FAIL me now, or having a social media monitoring and response strategy as outlined by my other colleague, Antionen Scott. In the case of social media, I can guarantee I am not the only one sharing my pains (or singing your praises).

  1. Be responsible

This is a biggie – and particularly as it pertains to the role of customer data and how using it affects your customers. To illustrate how this matters, my wife and I just got our credit card re-issued for the 4th time this year. And this is on an account we’ve had since 1992, with this year being the first time this happened because of fraudulent use. And each time our card is re-issued, we have to change 21 auto-pay arrangements that takes up time we just don’t have to spare. It also affects our payment history with key vendors and it interrupts the cash flow of charitable donations that depend on donations. So far it’s rippled out like that four times this year.

My colleague Tamara Dull published a phenomenal blog series here this year on Monetization, Ownership, Privacy and Security of big data called The Big Data MOPS Series that highlights these issues. Make no mistake:

Marketing is the steward of the customer relationship and
big data is driven mostly by customer data,
so big data is a big issue for marketing.

  1. Be authentic

This request is related to the idea that marketing is the steward of the customer relationship. And all organizations have a mission of some sort – a reason for being and guiding principle that makes the organizations’ activities meaningful. In most cases, the corporate mission is stated in terms of benefitting customers (or society in general) - whether the customer is defined as clients, members, patients, constituents, subscribers, rate payers audiences, etc.
* If that is not the case, you may need to rethink your mission.

I think it follows that marketing should support the corporate mission – your brand should have a promise and your products/services should deliver on that promise. This should apply to public statements made by your executives – even those should support your corporate mission.
* If that is not the case, you need to rethink your marketing.

Authenticity has always been important, but what’s different is that the stakes are higher. In our always-on, always-connected socially active digital world, news travels fast and bad news travels faster. And bad news online seems to have the half-life of uranium, so it’s very important to have internal alignment that drives consistency in words and actions across the organization.

In a previous post, I’ve said that Digital marketing is really about people and by that I meant that it’s about how your organization serves, relates to and interacts with people.

  1. Be transparent

Transparency is related to all four of my previous wishes because the organization that operates transparently has nothing to hide. We all know that businesses are around to make money, so you don’t have to make excuses for wanting to do it. But if making money requires trickery, unduly influencing regulation, or changing a value proposition with your customers that is either stated outright or implied, then you need to rethink your process.

And if you make a mistake – own up to it as soon as you learn about it and make amends quickly. This is something we all learned from mom and dad and there’s no reason it shouldn’t apply to organizations. It’s common courtesy.

So that’s all I want for Christmas. These are my viewpoints as a customer both as an end consumer and as a B2B client. Marketers can be better – and we should be. Is that too much to ask?

What’s on your list?

tags: big data, customer service, digital marketing, email marketing, social media
12月 232014

When we talk about digital customer services, it’s all about creating online self-service capabilities for our customers. This is great for everyone! We’ve made it easy for the customer to get what they need; it’s cheaper and faster for organizations to deliver the service to the customer. Need a copy of your receipt? Want to know where your package is? No problem! Over the past decade, many companies have moved to self-service models that promote convenience, accuracy and speed for most normal, everyday transactions. But what if you don’t have a normal, everyday problem? Companies are taking three basic approaches to digital service strategies:

No Humans Available

How hard is it for your customers to get service?

How hard is it for your customers to get service?

Many of the big e-companies won’t even post a contact number on their site (or at least put it in an obvious place). Just try and find a human to talk to at Facebook, eBay, Twitter or Uber, for example. Most of these sites will first route you to the FAQ board (they want to help you help yourself), the community board (get other community members to help you), push you through the digital equivalent of a call center IVR (press 1 for this, press 2 for this, etc.). You get to the end of what seems like an infinite decision tree of questions and you still didn’t get the answer you were looking for. And if none of that works, maybe – just maybe – you’ll be allowed to submit an email to “customer support.”

Okay, this isn’t all bad – after all, people do ask a lot of dumb questions, but most online “Help Centers” aren’t very helpful if you don’t know how to ask the right question in the first place. Use at your own risk.

Unhappy Humans as a Plan B

Are your service reps THIS cheerful?

Are your service reps THIS cheerful?

I just went through this process with a newspaper I subscribe to. Just last week they served me with an account cancellation notice. The credit card tied to the account had expired four months earlier. I received no notifications that the card had expired, and they let me run up a tab before sending the cancellation notice.

Four things needed to be fixed: update credit card, pay outstanding balance, reinstate account, and continue service. Only one of these transactions could be completed on the web. I also discovered that home delivery and online subscription services were separate. I first attempted to fix all of my problems online, which turned out to be impossible. I caved and called customer service. After navigating an irrelevant IVR menu, I spent 15 minutes on hold before reaching a surly customer service representative. Everything got fixed, but really? Are my expectations too high?

Self-Service with Real Humans

Isn't it so much nicer when they're both cheery AND helpful?

Isn't it so much nicer when they're both cheery AND helpful?

One of my favorite examples of an organization that does this well is Progressive Insurance. Their online auto insurance quoting process takes about five minutes. As you go through the process, their rate-quote engine makes calls out to external data sources and predictive pricing models in real-time. If you have questions at any time during the quote, you can click-to-chat or call a customer agent. Your online information is saved in-session and the customer service reps can see where you are in the quote process without making you repeat any information. They’re there if you need them, but not if you don’t (and they’re pretty darn cheerful if you need assistance).

The reality today is that most businesses are technology driven, so digital services must become part of a company’s DNA. Digital service design is all about understanding what services the customer wants and then enabling technology to allow the customer to complete that service. It’s not about disintermediating humans from the process, but using technology to facilitate positive and profitable customer interactions.

And if your customers are not getting the service they want, they might just air their grievances on social media: #customerservicefail.

tags: customer service, Digital, real-time decisioning, social media analytics
7月 172013
The key to a successful inventory optimization has more to do with organizational goals than what you can witness in a nifty demo. I know that sounds glib, but as I said before, the proof of good inventory optimization has more to do with aligning a balance between inventory costs [...]
4月 172013

I was driving back from Washington, DC this weekend after spending a couple of days admiring the cherry blossoms and taking my oldest son sightseeing. Wanting to grab something fast for lunch, we stopped at McDonald's a few miles outside the capital. I ordered Chicken McNuggets for my son and a couple of crispy chicken snack wraps for me (it seemed healthier than a Big Mac®). I waited to get back on the interstate before tearing into the bag. Big mistake.

The first bite confused my taste buds. I was expecting the crunchiness of lightly breaded chicken stuffed inside a delicious white flour tortilla. Instead, it was grilled chicken! Granted, it was even healthier than my order, but that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t what I was expecting.

As I dejectedly ate my lunch (after all, a grilled chicken wrap is better than no chicken wrap), I put my marketing hat on. It occurred to me that we sometimes pull this same chicken bait-and-switch on our customers. I’m not talking about offering a great deal on a product, only to have a handful in stock. I’m talking about customer experience.

Customers expect a certain level of service. Exceed it, and they’ll leave with a good impression and come back again. Fail to meet it, and they’ll do more than just not come back – they’ll tell their friends – on social media and at Junior’s soccer game. Perhaps the best example of this is Disney, the masters of the customer experience. They don’t call Disney World the “happiest place on Earth” because patrons enjoy waiting in line for an hour to ride Space Mountain or buying a pricey hamburger for lunch. It’s because everyone working there – from the folks crammed inside an oversized Mickey Mouse costume to the college-aged kids reminding riders to keep their arms and legs inside the log flume – treats park visitors as if they were the most important person there. And they meet or exceed expectations. That’s part of what makes a great customer experience.

On the other hand, if our customers are expecting a proverbial order of crispy chicken, but you give them grilled chicken, it’s not going to end well. Unless they are really, really hungry. Here are some examples:

  • A white paper download on your website with a less-than-thorough abstract. A customer registers for it, but it’s not what they were expecting. The result? Loss of faith in what you are saying.
  • You promote certain functionality in your latest software, only to have it not work exactly like it’s supposed to. The result? Loss of faith in what you are selling.
  • Customer service is supposed to be a strong point of your company. But when a customer contacts you about a billing error, they are given the run around. The result? Loss of faith in you as a service provider.

A poor customer experience can significantly damage your reputation as an industry leader, a trusted advisor or the place to go to get X. The business world is littered with companies that just don’t get the benefits of an incredible customer experience. Airlines that regularly damage luggage, cable companies that are never on time and local government offices that occupy half your day are the butt of late-night talk show jokes and office water cooler talk. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are three things to consider:

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Customers are really smart. And they will take you at your word – as long as you keep it. This can be hard for marketers who like to “spin” or sell vaporware. But it’s critical to developing and keeping trust.
  • Make your customer feel like the most important person in the room. It doesn’t take much to make a customer feel special. Just like my eight year old, they just need a little attention, want to be heard and like to be rewarded. Even if you can’t buy them ice cream, do something so they feel special.
  • Fix problems fast. We all make mistakes. And when we do, go out of the way to correct them. Remember when I said customers are smart? They are also very forgiving, especially when you readily admit fault and offer a fair solution.

More than 50 years ago, Disney created a service vision to suggest that no matter what your role was, your job was to make guests happy: “We Create Happiness.” Maybe more companies could capture some of the Disney magic if they adopted that slogan.

tags: customer experience, customer service, Disney, mcdonalds
1月 312013

This post originally appeared in our SAS Voices blog, published by my colleague and fellow blogger Courtney Peters. It's a great story about how Oberweis Dairy harnessed the power of marketing analytics to cultivate loyalty. That effort has helped them grow from a family-owned dairy farm to a major regional food manufacturer and retailer.

It’s no secret that marketing analytics helps large organizations determine what offers are best for their customers and their business, but can powerful marketing analytics be harnessed for small and medium business success? For the answer, I turned to Oberweis Dairy, a 90-year-old mid-sized business that has grown from a family-owned dairy farm to a major regional food manufacturer and retailer.

Oberweis, like many SMBs, wanted to do more than just simply increase customer loyalty rewards - they wanted to better understand consumer behavior across the board. After looking at the data they determined they could deliver additional customer value across channels and achieve a higher return for the business.

In the paper, Using Analytics to Drive Customer Loyalty: Three Real World Examples, Bruce Bedford, Vice President of Marketing at Oberweis, outlines three projects where analytics played the pivotal role in driving customer loyalty. Here are some of his findings:

  • Project 1: Using Marketing Analytics to Promote Cross-Channel Behaviors
    Oberweis has ice cream shops spread throughout the Midwest. It also has convenience stores, a consumer packaged goods division and a subscription-based home delivery service. The dairy stores operate on a point-of-sale (POS) system, but the home delivery business operates on an independent enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. To see cross-channel behaviors, Bedford said, Oberweis used the store’s Moola loyalty cards to link customer account records across the two systems. Now Oberweis can determine each time a home delivery customer walks into a store and purchases fresh ice cream.
  • Project 2: Using Marketing Analytics to Improve Customer Service
    Next, the company decided to focus on its 46 dairy stores. At the stores, customers were having trouble deciding what they wanted to order before they reached a cashier because the menu was too complex. The company decided to test a series of menu board concepts and evaluate them based on the year-over-year profit change observed in test stores. Using analytics, Bedford was able to accurately assess the results from the tests. Clearly, an accurate, thorough understanding of data requires using sophisticated analytical techniques. Only then can you be sure of the results – and the effect on your bottom line.
  • Project 3: Using Marketing Analytics to Improve Customer Retention
    The home delivery business at Oberweis makes about 1.4 million deliveries of farm-fresh milk annually across six states in the Midwest and Virginia. Like any subscription-based business, this division routinely takes steps to acquire more customers and keep them satisfied and loyal. Oberweis uses three primary methods to acquire new home delivery customers: a door-to-door sales team, direct mail, and their website. After collecting data from each one of these channels for one year, Oberweis was able to set up a strategic testing model that ultimately unveiled a new promotional plan, improving their retention rate by 35 percent.

 In many loyalty programs, businesses offer their customers more than they should in attempts to keep them happy. It is such a simple concept but one that is missed by many SMB’s: With marketing analytics, businesses can reduce customer overkill, determine what your customers really want, and then decide what types of value they will appreciate. This knowledge is invaluable for businesses that use time-dependent data to drive important decisions.

tags: customer loyalty, customer retention, customer service, marketing analytics, SAS4SMB
11月 012012
It’s no secret that analytics helps large organizations determine what offers are best for their customers and their business, but can powerful analytics be harnessed for small and medium business success? For the answer, I turned to Oberweis Dairy, a 90-year-old mid-sized business that has grown from a family-owned dairy farm [...]