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Every two weeks we send out a survey to our customers asking them about their experience with our company’s, service and products. Every manager is KPI’d on this score, as it is the most indicative measure of whether our customer is happy with our service and company. Our goal is to score over 90%, but recently we have scored consistently below with an average score of around 84%.

Perspective

 
To put things in perspective the average online retailer scores 82%. Amazon has been the industry leader with an average score of 86%. Furthermore, I believe that we are at a disadvantage because we are selling custom products, and obviously there are much more points of failure to selling a custom product that needs to be rapidly manufactured and delivered to the customer versus an iPad that is sitting in a warehouse waiting to be shipped. Nevertheless, we are a small company and I think we have more ability to control our score than a larger company, so I have set the goal at 90%.

90%

 
I know 90% is achievable, but it has really been a struggle for us. Our managers care about customer service, and I also believe that our staff truly wants to provide excellent customer service, but a score of 90% has remained elusive. I found that most customers truly enjoy their experience with us when things go right, and they do go right most of the time. However, I found that when there was a problem with their order, their likelihood of becoming dissatisfied increased dramatically. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of them had to do with our team being overwhelmed with work, and also trying to get information from our production team which is in a completely different country.

I made a decision that seven days after a customer placed an order our system would automatically send an email to the customer asking them about their experience. The email was sent from management@thestudio.com and if the customer replied the email would go to myself the CEO & Founder of the company, the President, Operations Director and Senior Project Manager. The email that we sent to the customer can be found at the end of this article. The idea behind sending out this email was fourfold:

1) If the customer was receiving bad service they had an immediate outlet to express their dissatisfaction and an executive member of the team would deal with the problem.

2) It put our staff on notice that if they did not properly handle a customer, that management would easily find out.

3) When we reply we cc the customer service representative that was assigned that particular customer so that they can see the right way to serve our customers.

4) It gave us invaluable insight into what was making customers angry, and at what stage they were getting angry. It has allowed us to create new systems and protocols to improve our level of service.

Positive Feedback

 

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A lot of the feedback we have gotten from customers has been great such as:

You guys have been unbelievable and I will recommend you to everyone we know. Good job.
The service has been great. Your staff is excellent. However, more notes or a copy of the patch ordered could be displayed on the dashboard or under the order history section. I having missing notes from three patches I ordered and if I wish to re-order more patches, I have no information, so I don’t know which patch is which. Other than that little detail everything has been excellent.

I honestly have to say that the follow-ups by your team is top notch. I am anxious to see the final results of the products, we might do business again very soon. Congratulations for excellent customer service.

Negative Feedback

 

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Although we love to hear great feedback and we share it with our team, we prefer to receive negative feedback, because we learn how to improve.

Thank you for contacting me during this process. Everything is going well so far. The only request that I have for now is to have my name written correctly. My name is Austin xxxxxx, not Austin Na. It throws me off every time I see one of the emails from your company giving me a wrong (new) last name!

Little things such as the feedback  shown above made us realize that our team was writing NA into our CRM and customers were getting “(new) last names”. As a solution we quit making the last name a mandatory field, if our sales team didn’t have it, and if NA was inputted, the CRM would automatically omit that. Little things like this compounded with literally thousands of small improvements over a year have an amazing ability to improve our level of service. Other complaints can be found below.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it is going as well as I hoped. I don’t think I am communicating my changes I would like to see to the two designs, and to be honest, I am starting to get a little frustrated. Is there anyway I could talk directly to the designers in charge of my patches? I think my requests are getting passed to them second hand and I don’t think I am able to be a clear as I could be. That would be great if you could help me out with that.

Actually, I have been having major issues. The account that was set up for me to manage my order does not work and has not worked since day 1. They keep resetting the password, and it does not work. When I try to reset my password, it says my account is not recognized – clearly the password is not the problem. I have called my project manager several times and have never gotten a call back. Nobody over there seems to have any concept of customer service. The only way I made any progress was to threaten to cancel my order. Finally after almost a week of back and forth my PM approved my design and is working through the stitch out.

It is after 2 pm. STILL NO PATCHES! NO FOLLOW-UP by your company! I HEAR “customer service”, and “the customer is important”, but not seeing any ACTION to back up these words.

-What is my recourse from you? I am out of options for my event and these patches, if they ever DO arrive, are worthless to me if I can’t get them sewn in time. And it looks like there will be no time today since it is nearly 2:30 and still nothing.
-Still VERY dissatisfied.

It is of course painful to receive these messages, but it is immensely helpful. In the beginning I had to literally reply to almost every email. However, I told our Senior Project Manager that I would give her two months to catch up, reorganize her team, and at that point she would be expected to reply to all of the emails and manage this process. In the first month that we sent this email the score stubbornly stayed at 84%. However, I knew that it would eventually have a positive impact. Finally the score went up to 85%, then 86%, and then up to 88%. Furthermore, I’m proud of our Senior Project Manager, because she now handles every last email.

As executive managers we reply very rarely if we feel that we need to make a special connection with the customer, but we still read each email to make changes to our system and processes. I’m confident that this year we will achieve our goal of scoring over 90% which will be an amazing accomplishment.

Takeaways for your small business

 
#1 – You should start KPI’ing as many of your staff as possible on the company’s customer service score. Get a baseline by sending out surveys for about two months, and then set a goal that is above your current score.

#2 – Provide incentives but also warnings to your team for specific scores.

#3 – I recommend using SurveyMonkey.com to send out the survey. It’s easy to use and collect the data afterwards.

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#4 – Let your team see the score frequently, so that it is constantly on their mind and being reinforced.

#5 – When you get the results back have meetings with your team on how you can prevent the problem from happening again. If one customer is having a particular problem, you can guarantee 10 other customers are having the same problem, and just shopping somewhere else instead of reporting the problem.

#6 – This is going to exhaust you and your executive managers, but I truly recommend giving the customer the ability to contact your executive team directly. In the beginning you can be more involved, and once mid level managers gain more experience, you can let them lead the way to solving the customers issues. Its a hassle dealing with customer complaints when you have a business to run or manage, but the amount of insight that you will gain will be more valuable than the data you are trying to interpret, and frankly more important than meetings with your team, asking them why there are customer service issues.

#7 – (http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/) Read this guys columns on Forbes. He is a customer service guru, and I have really learned a lot from his articles.

micah-solomon

The email we send out to customers

 
Dear Customer,

This email is from the management team at The/Studio; Nina Ballado our Senior Project Manager, Greg McCurley the President and Joseph Heller the CEO & Founder. We built this company on the principle of “You Imagine. We Create.” and we believe that the manufacturing process should be easy and fun.

We also believe that the only thing that truly matters is that you the customer thinks the process is easy and fun and that we are accurately producing the product that you envision. It’s been 7 days since you placed your order, and we just wanted to check in and make sure that we are exceeding your expectations. If you have any feedback on areas we can improve, things you liked, things you didn’t like, just let us know. If you don’t have any feedback at this time then we’d love to hear from you once you receive your custom product.

Just in case you are wondering do we really read every email? The answer is absolutely. We read, reply to every email and take action on your behalf if necessary. We also use your feedback as a way to constantly improve our system and processes.