Create Elated Customers for Life by Delivering Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

The following is what you will learn by reading this blog:

  1. The main business capabilities for a company to possess to deliver superb and legendary customer service

  2. The most critical capabilities to develop in order to enable your front-line employees to be able to deliver excellent customer service

  3. The introduction of the concept and definition of Surprise & Delight Customer Service and how the world’s top customer service companies deliver this consistently

  4. Examples of the best Surprise & Delight Customer Service that I have personally encountered and how they are linked to the critical components listed in #2 above

  5. Top customer service companies considered to be world-class in delivering Surprise & Delight Customer Service

  6. The programs you need to implement so that your company can deliver consistent Surprise & Delight Customer Service to your customers

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SECTION 1: Benefits of having elated, “surprised and delighted”, customers:

The research I have conducted indicates that truly elated customers, who are consistently surprised by the level of service they receive from your company, go on to tell multiple friends, relatives, acquaintances, co-workers about your company, products/services and stories of their great experiences interacting with your company. This grass roots customer advocacy transforms your customers from just your customers into infectious and 24×7 adjunct company sales and marketing agents, convincing people they interact with to buy from your company.

Additional research also shows that this customer transformation does not come when they rate your company and service as merely “Satisfied” but rather only when a customer is elated and rates your customer service with a 7 , or “Extremely satisfied”, rating as shown here:

Sample Customer Service Ratings

Sample Customer Service Ratings

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The following graph illustrates the correlation between the rating provided by a customer on their customer service and the strength of their company advocacy and likeliness to recommend a company.

Correlation between Customer Satisfaction Ratings and the Likeliness to Recommend/Advocate for a Company

Correlation between Customer Satisfaction Ratings and the Likeliness to Recommend/Advocate for a Company

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SECTION 2: Capabilities required to deliver exceptional “surprise and delight” customer service:

There are more than 10 dimensions in developing and delivering customer service excellence including the following:

  1. Development of a customer-oriented vision and strategy.

  2. Development of service excellence standards that are institutionalized across the enterprise.

  3. Development and maintenance of a company culture that drives team unity and focus as well as customer service excellence and a mindset of customers first.

  4. Implementation of a customer errors, omissions and anomaly recovery processes.

  5. Implementation of a customer experience and customer service excellence measurement system.

  6. Inclusion of customers in helping define and develop the final customer management capabilities, content, methods, etc.

  7. Implementation of a customer bill of rights and non-negotiable customer standards.

  8. Development of customer emotional connection points based on customer journeys.

  9. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

  10. Deployment of training that ensures front-line employees are customer service excellence certified so that they can deliver world-class customer first service.

  11. Delivery of surprise and delight (S&D) customer service & experience through the development of S&D customer processes.

While all of the above are important I feel that the last three are of critical importance in making customers consistently extremely satisfied.  In the next section we will cover the definition of surprise and delight customer service and share real examples of its delivery across many service-related industries.

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SECTION 3 – Surprise & Delight definition, examples:

Surprise and delight customer service is consistently going well above and beyond customer expectations such that customers feel both surprised and delighted by their treatment & level of service by your company.

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Surprise & Delight Customer Service

Here are some examples of where I have personally encountered surprise & delight customer service:

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1) Hotels:

A) High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid, NY: I recently checked into the High Peaks Resort in the Adirondack Mountains during the time of my birthday.  The front desk has a champagne reception for all incoming guests. When we were offered champagne, my wife told them that we were celebrating my birthday.  The attendant responded by saying, “we will take care of it” and took the glasses away. I said to my wife, “that was confusing as they said we will take care of it” and then promptly took our glasses from us.   We got to our room shortly thereafter and heard a knock on the door. It was a service attendant with a bottle of champagne and a personalized birthday card signed by the front desk staff. Talk about surprise and delight customer service!! We were so impressed! Obviously, this resort embraces and understands the importance of S&DCS as described in #11 below.

  1. Delivery of surprise and delight (S&D) customer service & experience through the development of S&D customer processes

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded just after this superb treatment by the High Peaks Resort:

  1. They really care about their customers.

  2. This hotel really goes out of their way to make their customer’s stay memorable.

  3. They know how to make a customer smile.

  4. That just made my day.

Bottom line, I felt emotionally connected to the hotel and its employees following this treatment and felt like it was in business to make their customers happy vs. merely making $$$.

High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid NY

High Peaks Resort, Lake Placid NY

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As a global consultant I have had my share of extended stays at Marriott hotels. Here are a couple of surprise and delight stories that I have always remembered:

B) Marriott Shelton, CT.   I stayed at the Shelton, CT Marriott for nearly 8 months, typically staying from Sunday to Friday. When the hotel wasn’t busy for the weekend, they blocked out my room for reservations and let me keep many of my belongings in my room so I didn’t have to pack & unpack each week and could feel at home upon returning.  While away, they would gather all my dirty clothes for dry cleaning and have them hanging in my room closet upon my return.  On my last evening at the hotel the hotel staff threw me a surprise farewell party! They paid for everything – dinner, drinks, etc.  Talk about taking care of the customer with true surprise and delight service! I am willing to bet this instance of the delivery of S&DCS came as a result of both 9 & 10 on our list of needed customer service excellence capabilities:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

  2. Deployment of training that ensures front-line employees are customer service excellence certified so that they can deliver world-class customer first service.

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded just after this superb treatment by the Shelton Marriott:

  1. I’d recommend this hotel to anybody.

  2. They really appreciate a customer’s business.

  3. I have never been treated so well by a hotel.

  4. What a welcoming place to stay – they made me feel at home!

C) Marriott Princeton, Princeton NJ: Another extended stay required me to stay at the Princeton, NJ Marriott for 7 months.  One evening I was entertaining clients at the bar after a day of numerous long meetings. One client was fond of Remy Martin King Louis XIII cognac which sold for about $145 per shot at the time. A tradition of Marriott was, that if you had the last shot from the bottle, they give you the bottle, made from Baccarat crystal.   My client ordered three shots over the course of several hours which emptied the bottle. The bartender, being new, said he never heard of giving such an expensive bottle away and refused to provide the bottle to my client. I complained to no avail as the bartender refused to budge. The next morning while dressing, I heard a knock at the door, and it was the hotel GM with the empty bottle of King Louis XIII as well an additional half full bottle. He asked me to accept his sincere apology for a relatively new and untrained bartender who was filling in the previous evening and promptly gave me the two bottles. Needless to say, my client was thrilled by this surprise and delight turn of customer service events!! I am willing to bet this instance of the delivery of S&DCS also came as a result of both 9 & 10 on our list of needed customer service excellence capabilities:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

  2. Deployment of training that ensures front-line employees are customer service excellence certified so that they can deliver world-class customer first service

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded just after this superb treatment by the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal Village:

  1. That general manager is a class act and knows how to run a hotel.

  2. I was shocked that my disappointment wasn’t the end of the story and it turned into a positive event I will talk about for years.

  3. It was refreshing that they admitted a mistake and then went above and beyond to make it right.

  4. Wow! Talk about doing a 360 and turning a disgruntled customer into a surprised and delighted one!

Marriott Hotel, Princeton, NJ

Marriott Hotel, Princeton, NJ

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C) Marriott Philadelphia West, Conshohocken, PA (Philadelphia suburb): I was a senior executive at a consulting company in Conshohocken and traveled into the area frequently. The first several times in the area I stayed in several different hotels trying to find one that I liked. Since I was previously a Marriott top tier rewards member, I decided to give the Marriott Philadelphia West in Conshohocken, PA a try. The first time I stayed, I didn’t use the concierge lounge.  On my second visit, I did use the lounge in the evening and I fell in love with the place because of one incredible (a 1 in 1,000,000 person) great human being and Marriott employee.

The person’s name is Luigi and he not only manages the concierge lounge, he IS the concierge lounge and is the epitome of what a customer should experience at every concierge lounge across the globe. Luigi has been the manager of the lounge for many years and when possible, I go out of my way to stay at this hotel due because of his level of exceptional service.  Luigi always remembers my name, my wife’s name (even though he never met her), my favorite drink, food likes, dislikes, etc. I could be away from the hotel for many months and yet he always provides a warm friendly welcome” “Hello Mr. Jeffes – so nice to see you again!!” as he gives me a hug. He will tell you about all the appetizers and desserts being served that evening and then suggests some favorites. He entertains his guests by playing movies during movie night in the lounge. When he first introduced movie nights, he used his own money to provide the DVDs. Luigi clearly goes above and beyond and I can recall many surprise and delight moments where Luigi delivered superb customer service to me and many other guests. When you’re a road warrior like I was at the time, it’s the little things that make all the difference.  Seeing Luigi who makes a Marriott feel like your home and provides a relaxing haven when traveling, always puts a smile on my face. Luigi has surprise and delight customer service ingrained in his DNA and I have lost count of the number of times I have encountered this from him. One occasion stands out more than others in that I had an unusually dreadful day with many things not going as planned. I started early this day and worked unusually longer into the evening. I hadn’t slept much the night before and I was tired, hungry and feeling the pressure of the awful day I just had. When I went into Luigi’s concierge lounge, Luigi immediately picked up on my unusually sour mood as I must not have greeted him in the usual upbeat manner. He immediately sprung into gear, taking the following actions:

  1. Unsolicited, inquired of the front desk if there were any upgrades to a suite for me that evening.

  2. Asked if he could order my dinner to have it sent right to the lounge or my room.

  3. Handed me my favorite drink without asking.

  4. Since the lounge was very empty that night, asked me what I wanted on the television so I could unwind.

  5. Got me a hot towel to wipe my face and relax.

As a result, I started to immediately forget about the crappy day I had just had and started to feel myself relax. After about 30-45 minutes I was back to my old happy self with the experience of a bad day a distant memory.

What would happen to your service-oriented business if you had a Luigi? Your business volume and customer following would explode! Your customer loyalty would increase and customer service would become a distinct and immeasurable competitive advantage.

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Luigi is a natural at delivering exceptional customer service and this 1 in 1,000,000 person and service comes as a result of Marriott getting lucky enough to hire someone so exceptional. How do I know? I have stayed at Marriott properties and other hotels across the US and have not met anyone that even comes close to delivering the level of service that Luigi does.

By implementing #9 on our customer service excellence capability list, you will have much better odds of hiring someone comparable to Luigi:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

Here are the thoughts and emotions I recorded when it comes to Luigi and his level of service:

  1. I’d drive a long distance out of my way to spend a relaxing evening with Luigi.

  2. Luigi is a 1 in a 1,000,000 in terms of delivering exceptional customer service.

  3. Marriott is so lucky to have Luigi working for them.

  4. If Luigi were to become the head of training for all Marriott service employees, Marriott would blow away their competition in terms of delivering exceptional S&D customer service.

I won’t list the thoughts and emotions for the remainder of my S&D examples, but the point is that delivering exceptional customer service delivers a lasting and positive emotional connection between the brand, product/service and with the customer.

Luigi, Concierge Manager at the Marriott Philadelphia West Hotel

Luigi, Concierge Manager at the Marriott Philadelphia West Hotel

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  1. Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park, NYC. Ritz-Carlton is one of the top models for superior customer service world-wide and was a client in the past. Ritz-Carlton trains all of its employees to spot a customer opportunity in that they are trained to listen to and record each customer’s individual needs, issues, preferences, wants, wishes, etc. Employees are then empowered to deliver the type of service the customer wants without having to ask.

 

A great example is upon arriving at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, NYC a number of years ago, I remember casually saying to the bellman, among other topics, that I loved the view of lower Manhattan and that I didn’t eat on the plane.  I had just flown in from San Francisco. Upon checking in, the woman at the front desk smiled and called me by name before I mentioned it, told me that she arranged a high room with a beautiful view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and said she arranged for a snack to be waiting for me free of charge when I arrived at my room.  She said, “I heard that you didn’t have a chance to eat on your way here”. All of this was noted by the bellman and passed onto the front desk without my knowledge to deliver Surprise and Delight Customer Service upon check-in, something Ritz-Carlton is legendary at providing. I would consider Ritz-Carlton the platinum standard for delivering S&DCS as they possess and effectively deploy all 11 of the customer service excellence capabilities listed above. Their excellent service is not by luck or chance; it is ingrained in their culture and at the center of Ritz-Carton’s core values, policies and processes.

 

2) Restaurants:

A) Water’ s Edge Lighthouse, Schenectady, NY:

Water’s Edge Light House on the Mohawk River, Schenectady NY

Water’s Edge Light House on the Mohawk River, Schenectady NY

There are two local restaurants that my wife and I have frequented that have world-class professionals working at them. The first is the Water’s Edge Lighthouse in Schenectady, NY who employs a gentleman named Greg.  We had originally met Greg at another restaurant that sadly closed. Greg is the type of individual that remembers your name when you arrive, makes you feel at home when he is serving you, makes conversation about you and your family and takes every chance to ensure you are having a great experience. He gets to know his all of his many 100’s of customers by name and goes out of his way to anticipate and suggest my next need as I am in the process of thinking about it. My wife and I now call this level of customer service “the Greg standard”.  One time, we arrived on a Saturday night, having made a reservation earlier in the week.  Somehow the reservation had been misplaced and the restaurant was full.  When Greg learned of the situation, he said to me, “don’t worry we have you covered” and then made room for us in very short order when the place was absolutely packed. Talk about surprise and delight customer service. There was zero questioning of me about whether I had forgotten to make a reservation, which I hadn’t since I recorded the name of the person who confirmed and the time of day when I called).  Greg and the team just made it right.

Like Luigi, you would be lucky to hire someone like Greg, but you’ll need a lot of luck as he too, is one in a million.  By implementing #9 on our customer service excellence capability list, you will have much better odds of hiring someone comparable to Greg:

  1. Development of a set of hiring criteria and standards to be able to identify and source employees who have a predisposition for delivering exceptional customer service (friendly, outgoing, personable, believes in helping others, rates high on empathy, etc.)

Greg with the Manager of Waters Edge Lighthouse, Joey

Greg (left) with the Manager of Waters Edge Lighthouse, Joey

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B) Mario’s New Lebanon, NY:

Mario’s Restaurant, New Lebanon, NY

Mario’s Restaurant, New Lebanon, NY

Sarah from Mario’s in New Lebanon, NY is another person who stands out as meeting “the Greg Standard” with her warmth, professionalism and exceptional service.  Sarah gets to know each of her customer’s names, likes, food and drink preferences.  She remembers the new wine that you tasted the last time you were in and makes everyone feel special.  We sometimes don’t even have to look at the menu as she will recommend a special that she thinks we will like or asks if we are ordering one of our known favorites.  At peak hours, Sarah handles customer requests with a sense of calm and professionalism. When she is serving numerous drinks, dinners and taking orders in person and via phone, she always finds time to smile and accommodate requests, chat, ask questions, etc.

My surprise and delight example from Sarah came when I atypically came in without a reservation due to a change in schedule.  Sarah looked at me and said they were full and then said, if you can wait a minute, I’ll see what I can do. Sarah did her magic and creatively asked the customers if they could move down to accommodate another guest which they all surprisingly and enthusiastically did.  Sarah has a “following” that enjoy dining at the bar when she is working.  Due to her pleasant demeanor and professionalism, I was able to get a spot for dinner, and even though the bar had squeezed in one more person, Sarah handled everything without a hitch and made me feel welcome.  Over the years, customers have shared with me that one of the main reasons they go to Mario’s is because of Sarah and the great food. Just like Luigi does for the Marriott Philadelphia West and Greg does for the Water’s Edge Lighthouse, Sarah’s presence adds to the overall experience of enjoying a delicious meal in a great atmosphere at Mario’s. Luigi, Greg and Sarah are all 1 in a 1,000,000 service professionals who are naturals at surprise and delight customer service and you’d be extremely lucky to hire someone like them.

Sarah from Mario’s Restaurant

Sarah from Mario’s Restaurant

3)

3) Retail:

 A) Amazon:

Amazon
Amazon

There is a now famous story brought to light by the New York Times titled “Put Buyers First? What a Concept”. It details how a customer, by no fault of their own, didn’t receive a shipment of a PlayStation for his son just before the holidays. Here is an excerpt from this article and a potentially disastrous situation was turned into a surprise and delight customer service moment: “It was early in the morning, and I had awoken with the sudden, sinking realization that a present I had bought for one of my sons hadn’t yet arrived. It wasn’t just any present either; it was a PlayStation 3, a $500 item, and a gift, I happened to know from my sources, that he was hoping for. Like most things I buy online, the PlayStation had come from Amazon.com. So I went to the site and tracked the package– something, thankfully, that is a snap to do on Amazon. What I saw made my heart sink: the package had not only been shipped, it had been delivered to my apartment building days earlier and signed for by one of my neighbors. I knocked on my neighbor’s door, and asked if she still had the PlayStation. No, she said; after signing for it, she had put it downstairs in the hallway.

Nonetheless, I got on the phone with an Amazon customer service representative, and explained what had happened: the PlayStation had been shipped, delivered and signed for. It just didn’t wind up in my hands. Would Amazon send me a replacement? In my heart of hearts, I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on. I was pleading for mercy.

I shudder to think how this entreaty would have gone over at, say, Apple, where customer service is an oxymoron. But the Amazon customer service guy didn’t blink. After assuring himself that I had never actually touched or seen the PlayStation, he had a replacement on the way before the day was out. It arrived on Christmas Eve. Amazon didn’t even charge me for the shipping. My son was very happy. So, of course, was I.”  Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/technology/05nocera.html

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B) Zappos:

Zappos

Zappos

 

Right in-line with this blog article, Zappos is an e-commerce company whose #1 core value is to “Deliver WOW Through Service”.  In addition, in keeping with a customer first mantra, CEO Tomy Hsich states that Zappos is “a service company that just happens to sell shoes.” Here is a story I read while researching this article that definitely applies to Surprise and Delight Customer Service.  “Recently, a newly-married couple were packing up their belongings in preparation for moving. The husband packed his wife’s jewelry inside one of her purses, and packed the purse inside what he thought was a spare Zappos box. The wife, it turns out, was intending to return that purse to Zappos using that very box. Which she then does, having no idea that inside the purse now were several thousand dollars of her jewelry!

When the couple arrives at their new home and starts to unpack, bedlam breaks out as the wife figures out what has happened and why her jewelry is missing. The rep she reaches at Zappos decides to reroute the box directly to his desk, but once it arrives, the rep fears for the safety of the valuables if he were to ship them, and purchases a plane ticket to hand-deliver the package himself.  When he arrives, the incredibly grateful couple invite him in for dinner. Now they’re customers for life, as you can imagine.” Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2017/08/01/three-wow-customer-service-stories-from-zappos-southwest-airlines-and-nordstrom/#77ad6ace2aba

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Section 4: Top Surprise & Delight Delivery Companies:

 

Here is a list of several larger companies I consider to be at the top of their game and world-class in delivering surprise and delight customer service:

  1. Ritz-Carlton (consulting client)

  2. Marriott (consulting client)

  3. Zappos

  4. Amazon

  5. Southwest Airlines (consulting client)

  6. American Express (consulting client, 4 different projects)

  7. Costco

  8. Chic-Fil-A

  9. Wegmans Food Markets

  10. Publix

  11. Apple (consulting client)

  12. USAA Insurance

 

Section 5: How to implement Surprise & Delight Customer Service for your company or organization

 

How do companies like Amazon Ritz-Carlton and Zappos consistently deliver exceptional or legendary levels of customer service?  Do they rely on being lucky enough to hire the 1 in 1,000,000’s like Luigi from Marriott Philadelphia West or Greg from the Waters Edge Lighthouse or Sarah from Mario’s above, or do they possess something else, like a secret sauce to deliver this type of amazing customer service? Having consulted for Ritz-Carlton in the past, I know that many follow a similar 5 step process detailed below.

Step 1:  Map your customer journeys:

 

Leveraging an integrated team of process experts, customer service and front line employees, map the various ways customers journey through an experience with your company. Examples include:

  1. Customer prospect, exploring your potential services and/or products

  2. First time website visitor, buyer.

  3. Repeat or renewal website visits.

  4. Existing customer, new product and/or service purchase.

  5. Customer returns, complaints or warranty claims.

  6. Service termination or account closure.

Here is a chart that illustrates examples of these various types of journeys:

 

Customer Experience Journey Sample, Example

Customer Experience Journey Sample, with Measurements

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Step 2:  LISTEN TO AND CULTIVATE meaningful and valuable customer needs, preferences, etc.:

 

In parallel with mapping you customer experience journeys, develop a program that continually gathers customer insights into what is most important and meaningful for each individual customer. A gift card could be given to any customer, but to know that customer A likes Starbucks, and customer B would love a Amazon Kindle gift card and customer C would value an ITunes gift card goes a long way to demonstrate that you are paying attention.  It also demonstrates that you are in tune with customer interests and care about them as individuals.  These 1-to-1, personalized surprise & delight moments build loyalty and  make a customer feel valued.

 

Step 3:  Map customer S&D opportunities along your customer journeys:

Once you have determined and documented the majority of your important customer journeys and determined what is meaningful and valuable to each of your customer’s preferences, start overlaying customer surprise & delight opportunities along these journeys. Here is a real example of how a client mapped a surprise a delight moment for high value customer issues. The key is to develop business rules that need to be satisfied in order for that surprise and delight moment to be fulfilled. In this case, a high value customer whose order was misplaced and later corrected once error was discovered, receives a gift as an apology for the error.

Customer Experience Journey with S&D Opportunity Process Example

Customer Experience Journey with S&D Opportunity Process Example

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Example: Value of item lost $500. High value customer A would receive a $100 Starbucks gift card, customer B would receive a $100 Amazon gift card and customer C would receive a $100 ITunes gift card.

 

Step 4:  Develop & deploy customer S&D policies & procedures:

 

The next step is to distill all of the surprise & delight opportunities mapped along customer journeys into a set of front-line employee policies and procedures. Here are a couple of examples of each:

Policies:

  • We will compensate high value (high value is client specific) customers for errors and anomalies that are of no fault of their own.

  • Front-line employees shall be responsible and rewarded for turning satisfied customers into delighted, loyal customers by empowering them to easily and quickly deliver surprise & delight moments.

  • Each front-line employee shall undergo front-line customer service certification training to ensure they are prepared and equipped to delivery legendary customer service via surprise and delight moments, customer needs cultivation, etc.

  • Cultivate and reward the best employee surprise & delight customer stories from each quarter and showcase and provide rewards for ‘the best of the best’ at the end of the year.

Procedures:

  • If a high value customer is calling to complain about a missing shipment of high value that was lost of no fault of their own, we will compensate with an item of meaningful value to that customer worth 20-25% of the missing item.

  • Prior to checking into the hotel, we will check the customer preference and need profile on record to ensure all needs are met during the upcoming stay.

  • Employees are to document all cultivated customer preference insights during their current visit in the global customer preference database in order better serve the customer’s individual likes, preferences, needs, etc. Details on how to do this are documented in the global customer preference database procedures manual and trained on during front-line employee customer service certification.

Step 5:  Develop a set of S&D hiring standards & train on S&D policies, procedures, etc.

The last step is to ensure you are hiring the best employees that they have the highest Exceptional Customer Service Aptitude (ECSA). In addition, you need to continually train and certify your employees on customer service policies, procedures, processes and how to consistently deliver exceptional, surprise & delight customer service.

1) Screen for the Best:

To hire those with the highest ECSA, you need to develop a customer service screening questionnaire as I have done for many clients to be able to consistently hire those who are predisposed at delivering great customer service and screen out those who are not. By doing this, you are screening employee candidates to find and hire only those who posses the characteristics that are most like Luigi, Greg and Sarah who are naturals at delivering exceptional S&D service.

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2) Train to be the Best, Continually Improve:

The next sub-step is to develop a set of high quality customer service training materials and processes to certify your front-line employees on exceptional customer service delivery policies and procedures. All new employees should be certified via the training and all existing employees should have to re-certify to ensure adherence to the latest exceptional customer service policies and procedures. Ongoing training for all employees will help ensure a high level of customer service is being consistently delivered.

 

Summary:

You can either hope for good luck in the hiring of natural and exceptional customer service employees that are 1 in 1,000,000 or you can develop a holistic Customer Service Excellence program with multiple dimensions and capabilities such that all employees perform to the level of a Sarah, Greg and Luigi. By hiring, training and enabling your front-line employees to consistently deliver surprise and delight moments for your customers, your company will develop a cult-like customer following similar to Zappos, Amazon and Ritz-Carlton.  Your customers will remain fiercely loyal and will actively advocate to increase your revenue, margins and brand reputation. With all this being true, there is no excuse to not actively work on creating the best surprise & delight customer program possible?!

If your organization is seeking experienced assistance in deploying legendary levels of “surprise and delight” customer service, then give me a call or e-mail me at 518-339-5857 or stevenjeffes@gmail.com

Lastly, this is just one article of over 50 articles I have written on Customer strategy, customer experience, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 121,000 world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside Salesforce.com, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here: https://blog.feedspot.com/crm_blogs/

Best Practices in Customer Experience (CX) Measurement and Analytics

The following are the top 10 concepts you will learn in this blog article:

  1. What are the most common set of metrics used to measure customer experience quality and effectiveness.

  2. What these common customer experience metrics are used for

  3. When are these best practice customer experience metrics best measured

  4. What a customer journey (a.k.a. customer life-cycle) is and how it related to customer experience metrics

  5. Why a balanced scorecard is better than any one single customer experience metric

  6. Why NPS is not sufficient to provide a comprehensive picture of your customer experience quality and effectiveness

  7. The top 10 best practices in developing a world-class customer experience measurement program and balanced scorecard

  8. Sample of what a customer journey looks like as well the customer experience analytics collected at each journey phase

  9. Examples of embedded detailed customer journey phase analytics paired with summary & executive level customer experience analytics

  10. How to develop customer experience analytics that also drive the development and support of a customer first, surprise and delight culture.

Peter Drucker once said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This ageless and famous quote applies to almost all situations and customer experience is no exception. There is virtually no way to determine how effectively your customers are being treated without a robust set of measures to gauge how well you are fulfilling their needs, wants, desires, etc. In this blog article, we will cover the specific metrics that best practice companies use to measure their customer experience delivery along with it is done.

 

Peter Drucker's Famous Measurement Quote

Peter Drucker’s Famous Measurement Quote

The Chart below illustrates some of the more commonly used customer experience (CX) metrics and how/where they are used in the customer journey continuum.

Commonly Used Best Practice Customer Experience (CX) Metrics

Commonly Used Best Practice Customer Experience (CX) Metrics

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) – one of the most common uses of customer satisfaction ratings is on ratings websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, etc. using the now famous five star rating system seen below. Other customer satisfaction feedback mechanisms are more sophisticated, querying customers on an array of customer experience topics that are multi-dimensional in nature.

Customer Satisfaction Score Example

Customer Satisfaction Score Example

  • Customer Churn Rate: Customer churn rate is almost always expressed in terms of a percentage and is a product of the number of lost customers divided by the number of retained customers for any given period (day, week, month, Quarter, Year).

Customer Churn Rate Example Calculation

Customer Churn Rate Example Calculation

  • Customer Effort Score: Customer Effort Score is recorded to keep a pulse on how easy it is for a customer to accomplish certain transactions with your company (e.g. return a product, handle an issue, inquire about upgrades, etc.). It is obtained via surveying customers following a major interaction and is expressed in terms of a numeric, typically on a 1-10 or 1 to 7 scale. Here is a sample I developed for a client where the score is translated into a 1 to 7 scale (from “Strongly Disagree”=1 to “Strongly Agree”=7).

Customer Effort Score Example Quantification

Customer Effort Score Quantification Example 

  • Customer Average Time to Resolution (CATTR): This metric is a measure the average time it takes to resolve categories of customer interactions (inquiry, product issue, service issue, contract renewal, return, etc.). This is expressed in average time per interaction category as shown in this example

Customer Average Time to Resolution (CATTR) Example Calculation

Customer Average Time to Resolution (CATTR) Example Calculation

  • First Contact Resolution (FCR): All companies should strive for what is called “one and done” customer service, enabling the customer to handle any need with one short effort. The benefits of achieving this are endless including the following: Research I have read has indicated that a 1% increase in FCR rates translate into decreasing operating costs by 1%, increases of both customer satisfaction and employee scores by 1-3% as well as increasing customer loyalty (up to 20%). How companies measure FCR vastly differs including surveying customers, tracking it in a CRM system, tracking it in a contact center database or querying the customer at the end of a call. Many companies sadly do not track this metric and lose out on the visibility and resulting benefits this provides.

One & Done Customer Service

One & Done Customer Service Creates Elated Customers

  • Contract Renewal Rates: This metric is more company specific but, when applicable and used in conjunction with the other metrics, provides a great barometer on the health of the contract oriented business. For example, you might be experiencing great FCR and customer average time to resolution, but contract renewal rates might be lagging due to a perceived lack of value by the customer for the price paid. By using this metric in a balanced scorecard along with CSAT, FCR, CATTR you have a much more comprehensive view of total customer satisfaction than with just a few measures, allowing you to reduce business risk and potential revenue surprises.

High Contract Renewals = High Customer Satisfaction

High Contract Renewals = High Customer Satisfaction

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the most commonly used and simplest customer experience metric that exists.  NPS is typically measured by asking the following question:

How likely are you to recommend [business, service, product] to a friend or colleague?

Customers rate your company, service, product, etc. on a scale of 0 to 10. Respondents are grouped in the following categories:

    • Customer Promoters (Score 9-10)

    • Customer Passives (Score 7-8)

    • Customer Detractors (Score 0-6)

Calculate Net Promoter Score is typically calculated by subtracting the percentage of net detractors from net promoters. Here is a great illustration on how this is determined, calculated:

Net Promoter Score Example Calculation

Net Promoter Score Example Calculation

It has been found that only those customers who provide a rating of a 9 or 10 on the NPS scale are those who will truly become adjunct volunteer company sales and marketing agents and are a result of experiencing surprise and delight levels of customer service. These same elated customers are the ones who tell everyone they meet about your exceptional company and your amazing, services, products, customer service, etc. More on this in a future blog that will address the topic of “Delivering Consistent Surprise and Delight Customer Service”.

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On this last point of NPS, there exist many misnomers about what to measure for customer experience effectiveness. Many professionals I have met in my consulting travels have the misconception that measuring one metric like Net Promoter Score (NPS) is sufficient to measure the quality of the customer experience you are delivering to their customers.  This is equivalent to believing that taking your body temperature is sufficient to determine your overall health when in actuality there are many measures taken together that help make this healthy/not healthy determination. The same is true for measuring the quality of your customer experience. While NPS is a good measure for helping to determine the quality of your customer experience effectiveness when used correctly, similar to body temperature, it must be augmented with many other measures to determine its overall effectiveness.

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Other customer experience metrics include employee turnover (a leading indicator of customer satisfaction), year-over-year same customer spend, customer loyalty and average longevity, customer acquisition rates over time, etc. I will go more into this when I cover the topic of customer journeys.

Customer Experience, Satisfaction Humor

Customer Experience, Satisfaction Humor

First, let’s examine my recommended top 10 best practices for measuring your customer experience delivery effectiveness.

  1. Monitor Customer Experience Metrics in Real Time and continuously improve customer experience programs based on actual CX metrics/program performance.

  2. Track top level Customer Experience (CX) Metrics for all customers (i.e. average customer satisfaction) and for individual customer segments (i.e. price sensitive customers or high value customers).

  3. Request both customer qualitative and quantitative ratings throughout the Customer Life-cycle during critical customer interactions. Accomplish this my providing a conduit for your customers to become brand partners who are invited to participate in providing program feedback prior to full launch, provide detailed focus group feedback on selected topics and for most valuable customers to participate in exclusive customer advisory boards.

  4. Ensure group appropriate customer experience metrics are being delivered to each layer of the organization (highest importance summary level for CEO – Chief Customer Experience officer, more granular metrics for tactical managers and line staff).

  5. Cultivate and measure your own internal customer metrics and calibrate against externally measured CX like the American Customer Satisfaction index or metrics collected by firms like the Service Management Group (Kansas City), Direct Opinions (Beachwood Ohio), C-Space (Boston), Engine Group (NYC), etc.

  6. Track customer experience effectiveness via a balanced scorecard of Customer Experience Metrics including customer satisfaction, NPS, Customer Churn and renewal rates, customer spend per year and employee turnover (a proven leading indicator of customer satisfaction).

  7. Ensure the collection and dissemination of Customer Experience metrics meet the golden rules of being seamless to your customers, easy to obtain and are ingrained as part of normal business operations.

  8. Review customer experience metrics during key management reviews like operational reviews, leadership team reviews and financial reviews. Ensure action plans are developed for metrics above and below expected performance levels.

  9. Ensure that the company culture and training is supported and in-line with customer experience metrics by making everyone’s KPIs metrics align to the performance of key customer metrics.

  10. Develop customer journeys (a.k.a. customer life-cycles) and develop customer experience metrics for each major step in the customer journey.

The last best practice is to identify key end-to-end customer journeys or paths of customer progression when engaging your company and then attach appropriate customer experience journey analytics along those customer paths. Once you understand the different touch-points and how they impact the overall customer journey, you will be in a far better position to pick the most appropriate metric to use at each touch-point. The best metric is company determined based on a developed set of customer experience standards and goals.

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In my example in the introduction, Net Promoter Score (NPS – which answers the question, “How likely are you to recommend [business, service, product] to a friend or colleague?” and is rated on a 0 to 10 score), is not a total customer experience solution metric. The reason is that NPS works best when measured at the end of a customer journey (a.k.a. customer life-cycle), such as at contract renewal time. For example, if a customer is getting frustrated returning a product or trying to resolve a service issue, then they will likely defect long before they are queried on NPS. It is better to measure customer satisfaction right after an interaction to have real-time insights into a customer’s experience satisfaction and not wait until NPS query time.

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Here is a sample customer journey I developed from a recent client consulting engagement along with the metrics they decided to collect at an aggregate level as well as along this customer journey. Some of the metrics and customer journey names have been changed to protect my client’s identity. In addition, this client wanted to err on the side of measuring many metric points frequently and not all clients are this exhaustive in measuring their program. Some of these metrics were already in place before we added many others.

Customer Journey Analytics Illustration

Customer Journey Analytics Illustration

The above illustrates one of the main customer journeys (discover to renewal) in the life of a customer along with the Macro customer phases in that journey (i.e. 1-customer discovery, 2-customer sales & on-boarding, 3-customer support, 4-customer renewals) as well as the micro phases in that journey (product, service credibility evaluation).

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The above chart also illustrates the fact that it is important to track global/summary metrics at the top of the organization (i.e. total customer satisfaction) in order to gauge overall customer experience health and to balance these with more granular measures along the customer journey phases (i.e. First Contact Resolution in the on-boarding and support phases). While there is a recommended set of best practice metrics to collect for standard customer journeys, each company will make a different selection of the mix of metrics. For example, if a company’s life blood is contract renewals then the metrics will be more geared toward gauging the customer’s satisfaction for the existing contract experience (value for contract price, value of contract to client’s business, contract terms & ease of doing business vs. perhaps product return rates).

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One best practice embedded in the above is to report on the number of customer stars (in the 1st and 3rd phases above) per period whereby employees who have delivered exceptional “surprise and delight customer service” are recognized and rewarded. Customers of this company as well as executives from the company are provided incentives to recognize employees who went above and beyond in delivering exceptional customer service. This company tracks this via reports and recognizes top employee customer stars quarterly and annually with top company customer stars getting recognized, rewarded, etc. This helps build a culture of support for being customer exceptional with top stories being told over and over to teach employees what it means to be customer exceptional  and encourage others to emulate this valued behavior.

Summary:

In summary, measuring your customer experience quality/effectiveness must be guided by a set of best practices to be effective and comprehensive. The use of customer journeys as well as customer experience journey analytics, balanced by summary customer experience metrics comprises a customer experience balanced scorecard.  By not measuring or under-measuring your customer experience delivery effectiveness, you are flying blind and having to take guesses as to whether your program is delivering exceptional customer service to your customers or not. Only when you reach the level of consistently delivering exceptional “surprise and delight” customer service will you reap bottom line benefits of accelerated customer acquisition, reduced sales and marketing costs, increased customer loyalty and increased employee and customer satisfaction.

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With all this being true, there is no excuse to not actively work on creating the best customer experience program possible!!

If your organization is seeking experienced assistance in measuring and improving your customer service and customer experience, then give me a call or e-mail me at 518-339-5857 or stevenjeffes@gmail.com

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Lastly, this is just one article of nearly 50 articles I have written on Customer strategy, customer experience, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 121,000 world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside Salesforce.com, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here: https://blog.feedspot.com/crm_blogs/

The Top 10 Best Practices in the Development of Customer Experience (CX) Excellence Programs (CEEPs)

Customer Experience (CX) is becoming a greater focus for many companies world-wide. WHY? The development of Customer Experience Excellence has been demonstrated to enable marketplace competitive advantage and to create fiercely loyal customers who are willing to advocate for the company and its brands and are also willing to pay more for their products and services in exchange for uniquely excellent customer service. In addition, when customers are provided with truly exceptional/memorable customer service time and time again, they repeatedly tell positive stories about their amazing customer experience, telling as many people as they can influence about your company, how their experience made a positive difference in their lives and how your company cares about them vs. your competitors. In essence, delighted customers transition themselves into adjunct company marketing and sales agents for the company that is equal to millions in company paid efforts, plus their grass-root and viral influence is judged at least 5-10x more credible/believable vs. company paid advertising, marketing and sales.

 

The chart below is a small sample of the benefits gained by my clients and many other companies as a result of the systemic implementation of a customer experience excellence program. In addition to the above, employees are found to be much more content working for a company who truly cares about the well being of their customers and the service they are receiving.  It makes employees, as a client employee once said in a leadership meeting, “ I am Part of it, Proud of it”. In essence, making customers happy in turn makes employees feel satisfied.

Benefits of Having an Excellent Customer Experience
Benefits of Having an Excellent Customer Experience

As a result of my experience developing Customer Experience Excellence and CRM Programs for numerous Fortune 500 companies including {American Express, Intuit Software, HP, Ritz-Carlton, Pfizer, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Starwood Hotels, Marriott, JC Penney, Macy’s, Toyota of America, Nissan, General Motors, Lenox, Southwest Airlines, Astra-Zeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Welch Allyn Medical Systems, Vanguard, Citibank, Allstate, AXA Insurance, SONY, Siebel & Oracle Systems, SAS Software, Unica Software, Neopost, Bank of America, Samsung, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Hilton, etc.}, I have developed the following set of top 10 best practices in relation to the development of a customer experience excellence program:

 

1. The program must be advocated, supported and championed at the CxO level. This is evidenced by the increases in staffing of the position called the “Chief Customer Experience Officer” that most top companies now have.

WHY?:  Forrester reports that 76% of executives say improving CX is a high or critical priority and many companies have established a C-level position to oversee it. Great read, source: “Why every company needs a Chief Customer Experience Officer”, Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/06/why-every-company-needs-a-chief-experience-officer

 

2. A set of balanced scorecard metrics must be developed to measure the ongoing effectiveness of the program so that it may be continuously improved. A heavy emphasis must be placed on customer ratings of the program and associated service delivery.

WHY?: The metrics are the vision of the program and without these, the program is flying blind on whether the program is resonating with the customer.

 

3. The customer must be invited, as a brand-company partner, to participate in the program development, roll-out and ongoing evolution.

WHY?: Without really asking the customer about what they want/need directly, all other attempts or approximation of customer needs through analytics or intuition based decision making are merely guesses of what the customer really needs and wants and are likely to miss their mark.

 

4. The program must be benchmarked against, and kept competitive with, all companies who are considered to be world-class customer experience companies.

WHY?: You might feel you have a great customer experience program, but without quantitatively benchmarking it against the best of the best companies, you will have no idea how really good it is, whether it is falling behind with current/leading practices, etc.

 

5. Customer Excellence procedures, policies (SOPs) and standards must be developed that are in total alignment with the customer service vision statement and overall strategy.

WHY?: Customer experience excellence procedures is the bridge and playbook that takes the higher level customer service vision and strategy and translates into the behaviors (culture) and major actions are needed on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis to bring this vision and strategy to life and make it real to every employee.

 

6. Employees must be supported in the delivery of customer experience excellence by a set of training and development programs that certify them to be able to deliver on the customer service and experience excellence standards, policies, SOPs, etc.

WHY?: The customer experience excellence training programs translate the higher-level customer experience excellence procedure and policies into a detailed playbook of specific and tactical employee actions and interactions that are required to deliver an exceptional customer service experience. In essence, these are the detailed ‘how-to’ of customer experience excellence delivery that makes the program real for front-line and customer facing employees.

 

7. The program must be underpinned and supported by best of breed technology infrastructure to capture customer knowledge and intelligence, mine customer information, automatically deliver relevant customer information real-time, allow customer to set preferences, etc.

WHY?: Technology will not only become the longitudinal memory for customer insights including needs, wants, preference, etc., but it will also serve to automate the delivery of intelligent customer interactions such that the program doesn’t become burdensome (vs. simple) to operate as it evolves and grows.

 

8. Related to #7 above, the program must be sophisticated in delivering on the various customer segment needs and wants, yet needs to be simple to engage and manage for customers and employees.

WHY?: People do business with companies that make it easy to do business with – fast, efficient, responsive companies are sought out more than those that are not. In addition, a program that is difficult to administer is at risk for execution errors by employees or by them short-cutting or avoiding the process.

 

9. The organizational culture at all levels must be created that is supportive of the customer experience excellence standards and all incentives must be aligned to encourage employee excellence in its delivery.

WHY?: Research by Gallup shows that work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity — and they experienced lower employee turnover, absenteeism, and safety incidents. In other words, it is difficult (impossible?) to deliver excellence customer service without a great corporate culture.  Original Source:  https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236927/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx

 

10. The CEE program must be viewed holistically that takes into consideration people, process, technology and culture (PPTC) capabilities as well as all customer segments across all customer preferred channels of interaction.

WHY?: Pure and simple, a great program is implemented with the full (holistic) spectrum of capabilities considered. Focusing on only 1 or 2 of the 3 pillars of CEE (refer to CEEF framework chart below) will sub-optimize its performance.

Symptoms of a Poor Customer Experience

Symptoms of a Poor Customer Experience

While the previous chart pointed to benefits of implementing customer experience excellence, the above chart, while self-explanatory, highlights a few negative impacts of having poor customer experience delivery. In addition to the above, companies that have a poor customer experience also experience the following:

  1. Market share erosion

  2. Declining customer acquisition success

  3. Declining cross-sell and up-sell success

  4. Customer social sentiment that is increasingly negative across an array of social media platforms

The above chart illustrates that in order to effectively gauge the effectiveness of your current customer experience program, you must be measuring across a number of company areas to determine what is working and what is not. Sound familiar?   2) ” A set of balanced scorecard metrics must be developed to measure the ongoing effectiveness of the program so that it may be continuously improved. A heavy emphasis must be placed on customer ratings of the program and associated service delivery.”

Best Practice Customer Experience Framework

Best Practice Customer Experience Framework

The above chart is a best practice Customer Experience Framework that depicts the major pillars that enable customer experience excellence.

  1. The first pillar is the customer knowledge and insights that enable you to provide the customer with the right interaction at the right time and by the right channel of their choice.

  2. The 2nd is a robust customer strategy and delivery model to define the desired level of customer service delivery and how you will enable it.

  3. The 3rd and last is the development of a customer oriented culture to nurture and expand customer relationships that not only provides a differentiated customer experience, but also drives increased sales, loyalty and spend per customer.

I use this chart above, along with others, to develop the customer strategy, vision, policies, etc. Sound familiar?  5) Customer Excellence procedures, policies (SOPs) and standards must be developed that are in total alignment with the over developed customer strategy.

Key Deliverables in the Development of a  Best Practice Customer Experience

Key Deliverables in the Development of a Best Practice Customer Experience

The above chart is the waterfall development method I use to develop customer experience excellence. With few exceptions, each of the top level items must be mostly developed before the following lower level items can be developed.

For example, the top level CEE program vision, strategy and goals must be developed first, to be used as a guide for the development of its supporting standards, policy and guidelines.  All of these customer experience excellence deliverables align with the ten (10) best practices we covered at the beginning of this article.

Best Practice Customer Experience Development Approach & Methodology

Best Practice Customer Experience Development Approach & Methodology

Above are the depicted major work-streams I employ to develop customer experience excellence for my clients. These major work-streams align to delivering the top 10 CEE best practices as well as my waterfall deliverable development schema in the previous chart.

Summary:

In summary, improving your customer experience delivery doesn’t have to cost a great deal, can start slowly, can now be measured and the return on investment is generally in multiples (2-10x+) of the cost. Without a delivering an exceptional customer experience (via an exceptional corporate culture),  you will be unable to acquire and retain great employees, will have more costly sales and marketing efforts and your customers will not be acquired as quickly or remain as loyal (vs. competitors). With all this being true, do you really have any excuse at all remaining not to actively work on ensuring you are delivering the best company customer experience possible as to create competitive marketplace advantage?!

If your organization is seeking experienced assistance in measuring and improving your customer service and customer experience, then give me a call or e-mail me at 518-339-5857 or stevenjeffes@gmail.com

Lastly, this is just one article of 40+ total I have written on customer strategy, customer experience, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 121,000 world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside Salesforce.com, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here: https://blog.feedspot.com/crm_blogs/

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