Customer Service Standards Exposed in 3 Mini Case Studies

by Susan Ganeshan

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Recently my company, newBrandAnalytics, put out a report saying that according to hundreds of thousands of customer social media reviews, service matters most in hotels.

When I posted a link to the study on LinkedIn one of my ever-skeptical friends replied to the post saying:

“You needed a study to determine that!?”

Well, of course not. Most of us know that service matters most in any business with four walls. (Even more than what is hanging on those walls.) But let’s dig past this topline message to determine how you can run circles around your competition by focusing on improving the customer experience.

Your goal as a business is to prevent showrooming by creating a memorable shopping experience that brings the customer back repeatedly. We all wish there was a silver bullet to fix common service problems like high turnover and lack of product knowledge but in reality you need to focus on multiple aspects of service and do your best in all of them. Because your customer is paying attention and sharing how they feel about your service, both good and bad, with the social world.

Let’s take a deeper look at three key areas of service – each supported with a true story –  friendliness, attentiveness and knowledge.

customer service standards

1) Friendliness: First Impressions Make or Break the Entire Customer Experience

You don’t get to be a 200-unit, $1 billion revenue a year restaurant business without having significantly loyal customers. Yet this thriving business found that they were losing return customers and wanted to dig into the potential reasons. For this specialty food provider, the customer experience defined in social media posts revealed that while the table and bar service were efficient, friendly and contributed to enriched experiences, the hostess stand, reservation and check-in processes were severely lacking.

So the VP of Operations took action.

He knew he couldn’t fix the crowds or add more tables to the restaurant to reduce wait times but he could make the waiting experience more pleasant. He retrained the host and hostess staff, ensuring they greeted guests with eye contact, a smile and provided frequent communication on the status of their wait. This chain-wide change worked and resulted in a dramatic uptick in the customers’ sentiment and loyalty about the business.


2) Attentiveness: Be Careful Not to Stalk Customers in a Creepy Way

One leading furniture retail chain monitors its performance against two competitors offering similar products and delivery options. Every week, the brand’s nine regional managers view the latest rankings of sentiment trends and grades for product and personnel from the customer’s online reviews. Each location’s performance is compared against the brand’s competitors and to other locations within the chain.

Managers spotted a troubling theme of people complaining about the floor clerks “stalking” them throughout their visit. “I’ve been to other locations and was never harassed like this. We promptly walked out. Next time we’re going to IKEA.” They predicted this might be a problem for their competitors as well. Instead, when they dove into the social media competitive data, they saw a large volume of reviewers positively mentioning being offered free snacks by the floor staff upon entering.

The chain decided to borrow the idea by offering free lemonade and candy at their locations. The new approach made customers feel at ease and gave staff a friendlier and more natural way to greet customers as they shopped, alleviating the feeling of stalking. Using social media analytics, the leadership team proved negative reviews about the “creepy” personnel decreased.

3) Knowledge: Crowd Source Your Sales Associates’ Know-How

A recent study by Motorola Solutions found that 61% of customers surveyed believe they are more knowledgeable than sales associates. Furthermore, customers now find their mobile devices to be more reliable than sales associates. This is disconcerting for the brick and mortar retailer, especially when 72% of customers rely on product experts when making a purchase.

One popular sporting goods retailer declared 2014 as “The Year of The Customer.” In an effort to help this growing chain maintain the charm of the original store with a deep customer focus, the management team decided to focus on their floor staff and overall service.

The chain uncovered areas of weakness in knowledge about products by social listening for customer expectations: reviewing more than 8,000 online social reviews that mentioned store service and personnel. Using the data, the team decided to focus on two primary areas: staff attentiveness and staff knowledge.

Armed with the analytics that showed they needed to improve associate knowledge on pricing and sales promotion, store layout and products, they set out to re-train and focus their young staff. The staff was educated using a combination of customer reviews found on their site and others, the manufacturer’s product details and local experts.

Furthermore, they removed responsibilities like end of day store straightening and assigned that chore to after hours workers, leaving the staff more time to focus on the customers.

Other Ideas to Try at Your Location:

  • Use social media to track which employees are mentioned by name and reward positive mentions while addressing negative ones immediately. Create a “Hall of Fame” to show which associates are positively memorable.
  • Ask your customers to post reviews on social media. This keeps your positive foot forward online because our data shows that 73% of online reviews are more positive.
  • Steal a trick out of the Sephora playbook and offer online reviews including star ratings next to products via electronic displays. Wine stores have been labeling wines based on staff picks and expert reviews for years but Sephora and Amazon have proved there is just as much value in the wisdom of the crowd and that it works for any product.

360Connext recently published that it takes 12 good experiences to make up for 1 bad.

Another way to look at this is that you have the power to evaluate, listen and use all the experiences, good and bad, to learn and improve your customer service standards. It’s all up to you. You can do it!

Photo credits: visitgreenland via Creative Commons

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Susan Ganeshan

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