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  • March 31, 2017
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

Enhancing Customer Experience in a Diverse World

Can I share a pet peeve with you? It’s this phrase, something I both read and hear way too often:

“If you’re like me, you’ll...”

Wait, I’ll what? I’ll think that Joe Blow is the best musician ever? That everybody hates snow? That I want a hoverboard? That Brand X is better than Brand Y? That blue is the popular color this year so I should invest in blue clothing? That Celebrity Z is overrated—or underestimated?

The fact is, I’m not like you. I may not even know you. And when I want to make a purchase or contact customer service, I don’t want to be treated like one of the gang, indistinguishable from everyone else wanting to buy something or ask a question of customer service.

Big and Tall

Consider this simple scenario from the physical world. A very tall man walks into a retail store and asks for directions to the department selling jackets. The first inclination of the person at the information desk would be to refer him to the Big & Tall department. But a simple question, “Is this for you, sir?” would ascertain that he’s looking for a jacket for his wife or his 10-year-old nephew, and not for himself. Simple question, complex answer. But suppose this isn’t a face to face situation. It’s a phone call or a website query. Now the person charged with answering the question lacks the visual context of a tall man. More clarification is necessary to achieve excellent customer satisfaction.

I recently had a problem with my internet connection. I phoned technical support. What I quickly realized was that she was running through a troubleshooting checklist. And she was doing an excellent job of it. Luckily, she couldn’t see me grinning as she asked me to power down the modem and then power it up again. I’m familiar with the common problem that tech support desks face: They can’t insult the end user by asking if the computer/modem/device is plugged in or not, so they have a script that reassures the user that they aren’t stupid for not having electricity flowing because the device is unplugged.

The ultimate answer to my internet problem was not technical, it had to do with squirrels (well, probably just one squirrel) munching on an external cable. I was very impressed with how tech support handled my inquiry, working through the checklist from basic to more complicated, and when asked if the company had exceeded my expectations, I gladly replied in the affirmative. The squirrel probably wasn’t as complimentary.

Knowledge Base

Having the knowledge base to effectively handle both purchasing decisions and customer support is essential to engaging customers. As Verint’s Kelly Koeliliker points out, an effective knowledge base allows customer service to provide customers with speedy, effective, and accurate information. Diverse as customers are, not to mention the assortment of channels and devices they use, a common trait is wanting their buying decision or problem solution to be quick, current, and correct.

Customers have little idea of what happens behind the scenes: They know only that they had a good or bad experience. It’s up to those designing the customer contact project to build one based on best practices. Several items strike me as essential—up to date product information, answers to questions most frequently asked, and corrections to any erroneous data.

Useful content in a knowledge base can, however, vary by context. An owner of product 2164 does not need to be distracted by product 2283 when contacting customer service about an issue specific to 2164. Part of this entails knowing your customer, but the interface used by the customer contact employees enables them to use appropriate guidance methods to quickly get to customer satisfaction. Topic trees, checklists, structured scripts, and clarifying questions help establish needed context.

It’s a Diverse World

If you’re like me, you probably want an excellent customer experience. However, your definition of that excellent customer experience might not be the same as mine. In a diverse world, with customers who do not fit into the same mold, creating a system to meet every customer’s need is far from easy. One customer enjoys being called by name, loving the feeling of being recognized. Another dislikes the familiarity of a customer service rep using her first name, preferring to be known as Ms. LastName. And a third finds the use of his name intrusive and indicative of a privacy violation. Talk about a no-win situation, particularly if calling the customer by name is mandated by your employer. The solution is simple. Ask. “According to our records, your name is… Is that correct?” “May I call you by your first name?”

As my grandmother used to say, “There’s no accounting for taste.” Although, looking back, I think she meant, “I don’t understand why everybody isn’t just like me.” If you’re like me, you’ll understand her taste. But you aren’t like me and have no idea what her taste was or, even if you do, you could disagree with it entirely. That’s OK.

If you’re like me, you’ll want your organization to develop its interactions with customers using knowledge management and best practices to optimize the experience. That’s an “if you’re like me” I think we can agree on. 

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