Did Infusionsoft Make it Right? You Decide.

Customer experience and back-end service support have always been hot buttons for me. When you work your backside off to close sales deals, the last thing you want to find out is that a customer bailed because excellence in another part of the customer experience broke down. iStock_000016225393Medium

In the “old” model, you sold something and everything was fine – until it wasn’t. When something went awry, fingers crossed, your service team handled it. But waiting to react is not consistent with the world we now find ourselves doing business in.

Companies remain too internally focused. Most do not stop to consider what their policies feel like to the prospect or customer. Policies are almost always focused on what’s best for the company not for the people who will choose to interact and do business with them.

An Update to a Recent Post About Service

Twenty days ago, I wrote a post called Just Cancel My Account – Part 1 In the post, I shared my personal story of what happened when I decided to end my business relationship with Infusionsoft. I did my best to be professional in my post, but I was ticked off. You can read the original post to understand all the details, but I was not happy to be billed for another month when I believed I was canceling my account ahead of the billing cycle.

Monday, I was surprised to receive an email from a senior manager at Infusionsoft (I’ll name the company but not the individual) telling me that Infusionsoft was aware of the situation, apparently management had a conversation about it and had decided to refund my money. OK. Nice. Unexpected. Thank you. It shows that they are trying. I give them credit for that.

And…

Read my correlating tale of Kick Butt Service delivered by Zappos when something went wrong. You’ll understand why Infusionsoft, well meaning as they may be, has work to do.

Stop Justifying…Get Outside Your Company Walls

I originally planned to post the entire email, but decided to pull key statements from it instead. Here is my reaction to the email.

1. I do appreciate the refund. Though to me it felt like 3-days into the cycle didn’t justify keeping my entire monthly fee, I now understand that the timing of “their systems” didn’t quite jive with my understanding of when billing actually happened. More importantly, and to be fair to Infusionsoft, I did agree to their terms and conditions when I initially became a customer.

The refund is a nice gesture and…

2. I received the email 18 days after I wrote my blog post. The post was circulated widely through Twitter, LinkedIn and by my blog followers but I’m hearing from someone 18 days later? Though I didn’t expect a response at all, the fact that this wasn’t picked up sooner is surprising. Are Infusionsoft folks not monitoring the net and social networks for mention of them? Or did they pick the post up within a day or so and then spent 2-weeks deliberating what to do?

3. My colleague, Jonathan Farrington would argue that Infusionsoft wouldn’t have done anything if I had not written a blog post that cast their company in a negative light. That’s probably true. The question is…should you wait until someone calls you out online before you decide to do something? I did ask the billing folks to refund my money given I was barely 3-days into the billing cycle. Aren’t their employees empowered to “do the right thing” immediately?

Then there is the justification…

4. Is the “justification” for Infusionsoft policies and their behind the scenes reasoning warranted when sending me the conciliatory email? Probably not. It always bugs me when a company (or person) says, “We value your feedback.” and then goes on to tell you all the reasons why they do what they do.

“We don’t have online cancellations for several reasons, one of which is we have customers that we talk with every day that needed extra help, or specific consulting that have actually stayed with us and been very successful in using the application.”

Perhaps Infusionsoft does have customers who don’t know the difference between contacting tech support for help and canceling their account. I don’t know. But I am still asking why I had to call, talk to someone, tell them what I wanted and why, and then be forced to wait for a call back from another employee to spend more time going over it again? The process needs to be revisited.

5. What are your thoughts about being asked to “remove” or “rewrite” your blog post, because a company now tries to do the right thing?

“I would also ask that you consider removing, or rewriting the post to share that while we might have been slow to do the right thing, we did strive to get there.”

Infusionsoft made an attempt, and I do give them credit for it. But no, I won’t remove my original post or rewrite history; the story happened as I told it. Thanks for the refund though.

It’s More Complicated Than That

“Become disenchanted with anything that takes complex subjects and breaks them down into “Top 10” lists.” – Brian SolisWell-known physical formula

Social media has changed business. Today’s buyer looks nothing like the buyers I first met when I began selling 25 years ago. Technology allows them to evade us, block us and downright ignore us if they so choose. It’s a new world, and if you don’t think so, I’m worried for your future in selling.

Anyone who reads my blog posts or articles knows that I am unwavering in my belief that WHAT you sell is less important than HOW you sell. For the sales reps who have, to this point, made a pretty good living selling through feature dumps or demos, understanding that the “what” is less relevant now is a tough transition to make.

That I keep seeing questions or conversations about how to better “cold call” tells me that we have a lot of sellers stuck in the past. A member in one my LinkedIn sales groups asked if you should leave a voice mail when calling someone you don’t know. Group members actually debated techniques…yes, no, phone number in the beginning, compelling pitch in the beginning, phone number at the end… really? Instead of trying to improve upon an outdated mousetrap, get a new one.

Change is needed and it isn’t simple.

I follow a number of highly regarded leaders in sales. One of those leaders is Tamara Schenk, who writes an excellent blog that you should follow. Her recent post on the difference between simplification and simplicity is brilliant. It crystallized for me what the problem is related to the thundering din that is social selling. In their attempts to make social selling sound simple, the usual suspects have created a loud, confusing mass of noise that leaves sales leaders either completely confused – OR – they mistakenly assume, because that’s what they’ve been told, that if their sales people just follow a prescribed set of steps, their sales challenges will dissipate.

There is NO one size fits all.

Are there tactical elements that typically lead to success when using social for selling? Of course. Will they work for every seller, in every industry the same way? No. Should you even start with tactics in the first place? Absolutely not.

You see, that’s the biggest gripe I have regarding the chatter that largely surrounds social selling. It is surface at best. The message has become… just deck out your LinkedIn profile, send InMail to the prospects on your search lists, Tweet the content of industry influencers – so that they will one day reciprocate – and share a few blog posts… boom, you are now a social seller. The top of your funnel will magically fill up, decision makers will scramble to clear their calendars to see you, and deals will close in no time. You wish.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and succeeding.

“As customers make their decisions differently, every time, because their situation is different – so do sales leaders. There are no silver bullets. Every sales organization’s challenges are specific. Every sales organization’s customers are different. The way that your specific customers want to engage with your sales organization is different as well.” –Tamara Schenk

Social selling is not simply about adopting a new set of “tools”. Success requires developing a new mindset related to selling entirely. A change is required in attitude, approach, process and skill set. Change is tough, it can be messy, and it is painful in the beginning. Leaders must think holistically about what needs to change, what they have to work with – people, tools, process – and what they need that is missing.

I’m not saying don’t give sales people LinkedIn training, but I am saying that isn’t the first place to start. And if that’s all you do, expect limited results.

A Tale of Kick-Butt Service

I love Zappos.iStock_000015017344Medium

Hard to remember when I first heard about Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO. Digging back into my memory banks, I think it was when I was still with Microsoft and Tony’s company, LinkExchange was acquired for a hefty sum. I remember thinking…a multi-millionaire at 24? I barely had a steady job at that age. WOW!

But I don’t love Zappos because I’m a big shoe buyer. Contrary to urban myth, not all women are! I don’t like “traditional” shopping either. I love the Internet; hate going to the mall. There is something so deliciously fun and easy about having packages delivered right to your door. I admit that my face lights up when I come home from a meeting and find presents waiting for me. So what if I sent them, it’s still fun.

OK, I got off track for a moment.

I am a Zappos customer.

When I need shoes or athletic wear, I’ve bought from them. They have other great stuff too. Point is that the process has always been smooth and easy. Though I’ve purchased from Zappos, that isn’t the only reason I am a fan. For starters, I love their CEO.

As CEO, Tony is quite engaged on social media. He interacts and engages with people online and demonstrates that he cares about the people who buy from him. His beliefs around culture and service mirror mine.

And who can’t love a company whose CEO pens a book called Delivering Happiness?

The company culture is amazing. Heck, they are so keen to get the right people into their culture of excellence, that they’ll pay you to walk away if you do not fit.

Service practices should be designed to make your life, as a buyer, easy. Zappos has got this down. You can automatically return something that you ordered from them if it doesn’t work for you with no hassle AND for free. The return authorization is sent with your order.

I love Zappos, and I had also never had a problem until…

On 2/4, I placed an order. Fine with the regular shipping, I figured the order would arrive around the 8th. Then I receive the confirmation email today that says my order just shipped. What? Ordered 2/4 but not shipped until 2-days later? I took to Twitter with my question at 3:56pm Eastern.

Bam! 4:01pm Eastern I had a response. The response wasn’t a lame…click this link and report your problem here…a real person was actually engaging me.

This is the exchange that ensued (read from the bottom up):

zappos

I had selected the free shipping, because I wasn’t in a big hurry. But when I saw that 2-days had elapsed between order and ship date, I was a bit annoyed. I wanted an answer as to why my order wasn’t shipped sooner. That had never happened before.

The support rep didn’t justify, argue or give me excuses. I’m simply told my shipping was upgraded; I can expect my order tomorrow. That is seriously cool!

I didn’t actually receive an answer to my question about what went wrong, but obviously something went awry. OR, maybe I misunderstood the email and that’s why the rep said “no worries” when I inquired if I’d made the mistake. Again, no blame assigned to me…the customer. The way the service person handled it, who cares what went wrong, if anything?

That’s the lesson.

When things go wrong or customers misunderstand your communication, all that is expected is that you make it right. WOW them! Don’t make their life challenging or difficult. Don’t put the burden on them. Just handle it.

If you compare this story to the one I shared in my prior post about Infusionsoft and their “make it a challenge to cancel my account policy”, the differences are stark. Point of fact, I have spent a heck of a lot more money with Infusionsoft than Zappos, but Zappos treated me as if I have been spending thousands on Christian Louboutin’s for years. Not only will I continue to be a loyal buyer, which will translate into thousands over time, I will continue to tell everyone I know to buy Zappos!

Finally, what I really love is that Zappos understands that their customers will interact with them in ways that suit them. Zappos’s doesn’t force you to communicate with them in their way, they adapt to YOUR WAY! They actually have people manning a Twitter account who are clearly held to responding fast. I contrast that with other companies who claim to have service presence online but never actually respond to you.

Zappos gets an A+ from me. They are a shining example of what kick-butt service looks like AND feels like to the customer. If you don’t buy from them – you should!

Just Cancel My Account – Part 1

In my last post, I said that I planned to share some recent examples of the less than WOW experiences I’ve had as buyer of business products. I wish I could say this post would be the only one, but I have many more to showcase going forward.

All I wanted to do was cancel my account…it should have been easy.

Business concept of problem, cancelled

At the end of 2012, I transitioned my email marketing to Infusionsoft. I’d been a long time Constant Contact user, but now I needed a more robust system that supported more sophisticated marketing campaigns and was integrated with an online shopping cart. I’d heard a lot about Infusionsoft from a variety of sources – all of it positive. After doing more research myself, I decided to make the move. Over $6,000 dollars later with nothing much to show for it, in January I decided to cancel my account.

The promise is that the system is easy to use. That wasn’t my experience. Even creating basic newsletters burned too much time. Two assistants never could figure it out and were constantly flustered. Without having the support I needed to manage the system – unless I wanted to spend thousands per month for a “certified” consultant – I let the account languish while I explored other options.

Experience matters. Every interaction counts. The system didn’t work for me, and that’s OK. I was fine to cancel my account and move on. Instead, I’m calling out Infusionsoft as one example of a company whose processes/policies make life difficult for their customers.

Here’s my story…

1. I wanted to cancel my account but Infusionsoft doesn’t make it easy for you. I should have been able to cancel online or with a quick email to the service department. Nope. Infusionsoft insists that you call them. Right away I knew why that was their policy. They wanted an opportunity to “sell me” on remaining a customer.

2. Grudgingly, I make the call. The gal who answers the phone notes my request and tells me that someone will be calling me back “to verify” that I want to cancel. WTF? I’m thinking, why am I talking to you then? I’ve already burned up time making this call to handle something that shouldn’t be a hassle for me. I gave you my name and account number but someone else has to call me to verify that I do want to cancel? Argh…

3. Later in the day, I receive a call from a representative who is a “loyalty guy”. I understand you want to cancel, he says. Yes, I do. The system isn’t working for me, I tell him. He says, tell me what the problem is…maybe I can help. I basically lay out the story for the 2nd time (I’d already told the gal that I talked to) and tell him that I am firm on canceling. OK, I see you’ve made up your mind, he says. Well, yeah dude. That’s why I’m canceling; otherwise, I would have called tech support for help. Stop wasting my time.

4. Loyalty guy confirms that my account will be canceled immediately. Imagine my surprise when 3 days later, I’m billed for another month of service. Then I notice that my account is still active.

5. Phone call number three and this one to the accounting department. Naturally, I had to leave a message. I explain the situation and ask for my money to be refunded.

6. Later that day, I receive a phone message from accounting gal saying that – yes, she confirmed my request to cancel but that my billing cycle was in progress when I called them. According to their billing policy, Infusionsoft doesn’t issue refunds, so my account remains active until the end of the billing cycle. Of course, you won’t be billed again, she says. Isn’t that nice. Another $259 wasted for software that I’m not using.

What really ticks me off here is the time I had to waste going through their silly gymnastics to cancel my account. Then I’m billed for another month of service to boot. We are talking 3-days into the new cycle but Infusionsoft doesn’t prorate or return your money if your cancellation timing happens to be off. On top of that, loyalty guy never confirmed that I understood their billing policy or told me that I was already into a new cycle. Yes, I realize that I agreed to the written terms at some point. Still, the right thing to do was to tell me to be sure I understood what would happen. It would have saved me another phone call!

This is not service excellence. It is a classic example of how companies like Infusionsoft are blowing it. Even if a customer decides to cancel your service, the last thing you should want to do is piss them off! I was already annoyed at the wasted money and time that had been spent trying to get the system to work for my business. Infusionsoft’s process only made it worse.

The final point I want to make is this…

Had it been easy for me to cancel my account, I would have gone on my merry way. If someone asked me what I thought of the Infusionsoft system, I would have told them it didn’t work for me, but that I knew plenty of people using it successfully. Now I’m telling everyone I know to steer clear.

P.S. To the Infusionsoft consultants who want to come at me and tell me how easy the platform is to use…please, save your breath. I’m very accomplished with technology. You think it’s easy because A) you are drinking the Kool-Aid and B) you’ve invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to become certified. Contrary to the Infusionsoft marketing hype – without extensive training, it is not that easy to use. I don’t have that kind of time to waste, and if I can’t pay someone a reasonable fee to do the administration for me it isn’t worth it.

 

The Future of Business is Change

Though I maintain my steadfast passion for igniting sales transformation, I do not believe that placing emphasis on improving just one silo of the business makes sense if anything is expected to change. The conversation should no longer focus on social selling or social media marketing, as if each is operating in a vacuum. Organizations need to become much more focused on becoming a “social business”. Time for change. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

Engaging consultants or trainers to help improve Sales, Marketing or Service capabilities – in silos – won’t net much more than marginal improvement. With departments myopically focused on their own improvement, not surprisingly, you rarely see the large scale, institutional change needed when the market evolves to a point where it is clear that business practices must change.

Social media did that…it disrupted business completely. Most companies were not – are not – getting a real handle on what that means for the future of their business. And I haven’t even started talking about the impact of multiple generations on a social business strategy.

As social, mobile, cloud and digital technologies are going to force business leaders to rethink everything they thought they knew about how buyers choose to purchase something, it isn’t only Marketing or PR that has to change things, but Sales, Service and every other department too. The connected buyer communicates through any number of modalities…text, phone, email, mobile, social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging – and cloud computing services like Evernote or Dropbox. Not everyone with dollars to spend will want to interact with your company in the same way. If you keep trying to force them to do that, you’ll lose.

After eight years, I thought companies would be seeing greater success and be a little farther along in their strategic use of social media to support business objectives in Marketing, Sales and Service. One reason it isn’t happening is because social strategies ARE NOT LINKED to the performance of business goals. According to Brian Solis and Charlene Li in their white paper, The Evolution of Social Business, they suggest that business use of social media is often guided by a peer or competitive-driven “social for social’s sake” philosophy. Unfortunately, there is a ton of truth in their observation.

It is rare to find the company that doesn’t relegate the social strategy to the Marketing department even though social now impacts the entire enterprise (inside and out), but certainly Sales and Service in big ways. Even if companies establish measurable outcomes to track, and it’s a big IF, social initiatives fizzle and die due to a lack of strategic vision, funding and oversight that is guided by top down vision from the C-Suite. This has to change.

Buyers have choices…lots of them. You are kidding yourself if you think otherwise. Do you know what happens from that very first interaction with a prospective customer? Do you know what they are thinking? Do you know how you stack up in their minds?

What about your customers? Are they sticking with you? Are they happy? Are you sure? What happens if something goes wrong? What’s the service and support experience like? You may think you know the answers to these questions, but my bet is that your company is not doing as well as you think.

If you expect to have a future in business, your business has to change. Stay tuned for my next several posts, because I will be sharing my own personal experiences as a business buyer. Hopefully, as a business leader, it will give you a bit more to think about.

Talk is Cheap

In 2005, I wrote an article outdated customer service. It is now 2013, and I’m still asking the same questions about service and customer experience as I did back then.

Person Annoyed by Others Talking

When it comes to delivering a service experience that WOWS are most companies talking rather than doing?

At the time that I wrote my article, I quoted Tom Peters from his book The Pursuit of Wow in which he said, “70% of customers hit the road not because of price or product quality issues, but because they did not like the human side of doing business with the provider of the product or service.”

It doesn’t feel like much has changed. Yes, companies like Zappos and Amazon WOW. But what about all the thousands of other brands out there?

I recently read a blog post penned by Frank Eliason, Director of Global Social Media at Citi. In his post, he says that “One of the reasons the Customer experience is broken at many companies is we have tried to force the Customer into our view instead of taking the Customer view.” Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. How often are companies insisting that their employees walk in the shoes of their customers? How often is the boss going “undercover” to really see what’s going on?

We’ve had rapid advancements in technology – digital, mobile, social networks – in the past 10 years. More people can be reached faster and in more unique ways, but what good does any of that do if you talk about service but never actually deliver. As buyers, have we become so accustomed to mediocre service or worse that we just tolerate it?

Customers want to work with those businesses who demonstrate a sincere desire to help them with anything they need, and they are willing to pay for it. Yes, they want products to work and services that meet their needs. More importantly though, they want people who care that what they sell does their business no harm.

Major departments inside organizations continue to work in silos. Pour a little social media into the mix and the problem is exacerbated. Proudly proclaiming to the world that you provide service and support via Twitter means nothing if you never respond to complaints shared on your page. It happens all the time.

I’m going to be talking a lot more about customer experience in the coming days and weeks. Businesses need to start realizing that there is no “linear” path that a prospect now takes on the way to becoming a customer. Marketing, sales and service folks all need to work together to define and deliver exceptional experience at every touch point in the prospect–to-customer life cycle. Beyond the feel good aspect of delivering WOW experiences, there is financial gain as well.

Is providing great a rich and robust customer experience really that difficult?

I’ll close with these words from IBM founder Thomas Watson who said, “If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work”.

Influence the Customer Experience

My post about the Social Shake Up conference is getting a lot of play. That’s good. My goal was and is to shake up traditional thinking about what social media means to business. During the Day 2 kick-off session with Brian Solis, he said it best when he said…”You cannot slap something new onto what is comfortable.” In other words, you cannot do what you have always done – even if you use new tools – and expect a different result.

C-level executives have got to enter the discussion.

Social isn’t a fad! Executives must first accept this one fundamental truth. Your business is being disrupted. How people make buying decisions has changed. In order to adapt to this new reality, companies must create a social business strategy that considers the “new” customer lifecycle from beginning to end.  Sales, Marketing and Service folks must break out of their silos, trash traditional thinking and work together to create an experience that wows from beginning to end.

Let go of what you think you know.

As with the technologies that preceded them, social, digital and mobile have continued to further evolve. Some of you are too young to remember that there was actually a time when we didn’t text or communicate via email on our phones. We certainly didn’t surf the web or talk to our friends on Facebook. Nope, we actually just used the mobile phone to make phone calls. Weird, I know.

These days buyers use multiple devices to remain connected – laptops, smart phones, iPad’s, tablets and soon Google Glass. They can access news and information when and how they prefer to consume it. They do not rely on your marketing, PR or advertising to make their buying decisions. They gather information from multiple sources, and they rely on the peer reviews of others when making a decision to purchase or not. Why? Sorry, but they don’t trust your pitch.

Social, digital, heck, the web in general has completely changed expectations of what buyers want from the companies who seek to gain a share of their wallets. And I believe that the number one expectation today’s buyer has is that your company has to EARN the right to do business with them.

How do you earn that right?

By creating and delivering buying experiences that cultivate trust, loyalty and advocacy. Understand what your buyer cares about, speak to what is important to them, treat them with respect, honesty, transparency and fairness throughout the buying process, and they will reward you many times over. Keep talking at them or burn them when something goes wrong and in a nanosecond they will tell everyone they know to avoid you. This applies whether you touch the buyer as an executive, a marketer, sales person or customer service representative.

Though I have evangelized the importance of sellers using social media as part of their sales process, I have always believed that sales, marketing and service must be completely aligned when creating an overall experience that moves a prospect from interest to sale to happy customer. If any of the pieces are broken, you lose.

Do you know what it is like to try and do business with your company?

The irony is that most companies probably have no idea what it is like to be a potential customer. I think of one “big data” company who doesn’t even use the data to qualify buyers. Instead, they put sales resources into having reps call anyone who attended their webinar. How do I know? I know because I run a small business and am not their target client. It did not matter. They had sales reps calling and emailing me anyway. This is a classic example of a customer acquisition process that wasn’t thought through from beginning to end. I wish I could say that this was the exception rather than the norm.

If you are an executive, in marketing, sales or customer service, here is my challenge to you.

Pretend YOU are the potential customer. Go through every step of the buying process just as buyer would. Pick your website apart. Carefully review your social media marketing messages. Make a call to the sales department and experience what it feels like to have features, benefits and a product demo pushed on you. Reach out to customer service with a problem – phone, Twitter and Facebook. How was the problem handled? What was the response time?

Once you have done these things, rate the experience. Would you buy from your company? If your answer isn’t a resounding hell yeah, that was awesome, you need to stop, rethink whatever you think you know and roll up those sleeves… you have work to do!

Stirred Not Shaken

Earlier this week, I attended the Social Shake Up conference hosted by Robin Carey and the Social Media Today team. For a change, a major social media conference made its way to Atlanta.

Our city is often overlooked for reasons that I don’t understand. Some of the world’s largest and most respected corporate brands are headquartered here. Names you will recognize like Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, UPS, AFLAC and Newell Rubbermaid being just a few of them. Oh, and my company is based here too!

We also have a thriving technology community with many promising start-ups poised to do big things. Fortunately for Atlanta, Robin has vision and decided that the ATL was the destination for her conference. Thank you, Robin!

I’m contributing this post to the Sales Thought Leaders blog, but honestly, my thoughts, comments and observations are for business leaders at all levels.

I have to say that the biggest thrill of the conference was finally meeting a cadre of people that I’ve known online for some time. When I think about how social media has completely collapsed the world – in a good way – it is amazing how many people you develop personal and professional relationships with before you ever, if ever, meet them in person. I hung with a gang of rock stars (they know who they are!), and I learned from their perspectives and insights about social media’s impact on business.

Now the things that I would change…

  1. The promise of the conference agenda was to “shake up” thinking about social media and the impact on business. In fact, the conference promotions even said that content would focus on more than marketing. In large part, it did not. And even though the presentations were good, nothing earth shattering or ground breaking was presented. To be fair, with multiple sessions going on, I couldn’t attend them all. Maybe someone was gobsmacked in another room, but as I talked to colleagues it seemed the general impression was that the focus was marketing oriented.
  2. The opening keynote was weak and highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly about marketing in this new age of digital. I felt it set the wrong tone. Frankly, I would have led with Brian Solis, who keynoted Day 2. If you are going to shake it up, start with talking about Social Business as your strategy not social media marketing tactics.
  3. Content light on sales – 1 pre-workshop, which people paid extra to attend (I was on the panel) and 1-panel/case study with IBM’s inside sales team leaders. Out of 38 sessions, only 1 main session on the conference track for sales.
  4. Marketers largely don’t understand the sales side of the business. They should stop acting like they do. In one session on customer engagement, I asked how the speaker’s company was empowering sales people to use social to educate, influence, engage and develop potential customer relationships in new ways. The answer? We helped them clean up their LinkedIn profiles, and we cue up offers for them to share. Really? Offers? That’s it?
  5.  Yes, Dorothy, like most things in business, work is required. One somewhat arrogant panel marketer turned consultant expert said it was “hard work” and you shouldn’t expect sales to take that on. What? I don’t believe in being rude but I wanted to say, stick to marketing girlfriend; you have no idea what you are talking about. Sales people MUST learn to incorporate social networking strategies into their sales process or the competition will eat their lunch and prospects will pass them by.
  6. Content light on customer service. Even those sessions that purported to focus on the customer actually did not. The community sessions were good but the overarching focus was “marketing” and “content”. I thought the best customer session was the one entitled Throwing Open the Floodgates: Empowering Employees. The panel shared some great insights into how to turn employees into online advocates and brand ambassadors for their companies. The overriding message was to have a process, give employees training and support and let them go.
  7. More tactical than strategic. We have to stop talking about creating a “socially enabled enterprise” but then default to social media marketing tactics. The conversation is not happening at the right level in most organizations – the C-Suite. Social and digital media affects the “business”. Does your organization have a Social Business Strategy? Or have you simply put marketing in charge of driving the bus?

Leaders at all levels need to ask themselves, how are sales, marketing, service and even the finance department aligned to a Social Business Strategy that focuses on the customer experience? Marketing might crank out a great offer, but what happens when customer service is overwhelmed and cannot keep up with demand? How will you handle the ensuing backlash when customers feel they are not getting support through traditional channels – as happened to me this week with Comcast – and go online to seek out help but no one bothers to respond?

Next year, I want the conference to “shake it up” by targeting the C-Suite executives. In large majority, attendees were marketers mixed with some sales and service folks. If you consider that far too many executives still think social is a fad, or that social is merely a function of the marketing department, we have a widening gap between how customers buy and what they expect and what companies deliver. Until addressed at the highest level, the problem is only going to get bigger.

Executives need to get engaged. They need to attend next year’s conference, learn and have their outdated assumptions challenged. And we need sessions that walk these executives through the why and how of creating a Social Business Strategy that drives customer experience at every level. Until then, you can talk about shaking things up all you want but all you are really doing is slapping lipstick on a pig.

What’s the Experience, Really?

I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t read about companies touting how important it is for them to deliver a stellar customer experience. Think Apple. I also hear executives from companies, including our own clients talk about their focus on improving upon and delivering on a customer experience that wows.

But does the talk always match the walk?

No.

In two unrelated personal situations, it became obvious to me that the people chartered with delivering the said WOW customer experience haven’t gotten the memo about how important it is. Even though the people are nice enough, the overall experience wasn’t all that!

Here’s the story of just one situation…

Early last week, I had an important need to upgrade our credit card processing service. The promise is that the process takes 2-days. A longtime customer, I was confident all would go smoothly. While that was mostly the case, there were a few bumps in the road…

The story begins with finding out that there was a limit to the credit card processing dollar amount on my current account plan. That meant that a customer transaction couldn’t not currently be handled. I needed to upgrade my account. OK, I put in the application to apply for the software upgrade needed. How tough could it be?

A day later, I receive a phone call from one of the reps who needed to “grill me” on my business and the services offered. It was like I had to justify myself as a business professional by someone who clearly knew nothing about my business.

Next, I’m told that I have to submit additional paperwork (contact, payment terms, etc)– to prove I’m legit, because I guess the Federal Tax ID and owning a business for 10 years wasn’t sufficient.

I receive an email with instructions to FAX the documents to a specific number. I do that immediately.

Next day, I receive a phone call from another rep that evidently confused my application with something else, which got me confused. Now I’m wondering why the rep that I talked to the day before didn’t tell me that I had not signed up for what I thought that I did. Now I’m becoming annoyed, but the gal on the line with me says she’ll clear it up.

She also tells me that she called because the documents I was to send to them had not been received. I said I faxed them at 5pm the day before and have confirmation. Oh, she says, it can take up to 24 hours for us to receive the paperwork. Of course, they don’t tell you that up front. She then goes on to say that it is faster if I upload them through my account. I do that while on the phone with her. I then ask why – if it’s better to upload through the account – that this information isn’t in the email that they send to you. I’m not sure she says…this happens all the time. Uh, hello, fix it someone.

Ten minutes later my rep calls me back. Turns out, I’m not crazy. She made a mistake. I had applied for the right service upgrade. I’m wondering if we can now finally move this forward.

I’m told I’m good to go. No, wait. I’m not. The credit card is American Express. Another approval needed. That clears and I get the email saying things are all set.

I input the credit card transaction and it goes through smoothly. But…wait for it…

Bam – I go to transfer funds to the company bank account and I receive an error that says that funds cannot be transferred until I submit requested paperwork. This is the very same paperwork that the gal the day before confirmed she had in hand.

End of story…I write customer service about my problem and give them the names, dates, times, I talked to folks. Someone woke up and cleared up the issue.

I’m sure you have your stories too. There are just too darn many examples of how lousy service provided by most companies really is. In my example, it is redundant phone calls, faxing documents as told, but then told that uploading documents is faster and moves your account processing along. People not clear on the product that I was purchasing. Having funds being put on hold because another service doesn’t see the documents in my account? Is this a case of people looking at different systems and maybe they aren’t all tying together? Whatever the reasons, this is a process that needs some cleaning up.

This cost me about 2 hours of my billable time. Exactly how is that a great customer experience?

My recommendation to every company out there…

Stop talking about how important creating that WOW customer experience is to your business and actually do something about it.

Here’s a thought…

Find out for yourself what it is like to be on the receiving end of what you believe to be great service. Put every single one of your service people…heck, everyone in your company…through the process of your customer experience. I guarantee that the exercise will give you a whole new perspective about the type of service experience your customers and prospects are actually receiving!