2018-01

How to test your customer service

by Derick Lafleur
 | 
09 January 2018
How to test your customer service
It’s time to put on that fake nose and learn what it’s like to be a customer of your own business. Derick Lafleur talks testing your customer experience.

You may have heard of the reality series called Undercover Boss, in which a high-level corporate executive will don a disguise and secretly take on an entry-level job within their organisation. Their “mission” is to learn about the inner workings of their organisation. Although the show seems to have evolved over the years into more of a PR/marketing exercise, the original premise is still sound.

As a leader in your organisation, when was the last time that you personally experienced your organisation’s customer journey? When have you looked at your organisation from your customer’s perspective? If you haven’t done this, it is time to put on a fake nose and transform into an “Undercover Customer”.   

Like most organisations, you are likely tweaking components of your customer journey on a regular basis. A new option in your phone IVR. A new social media channel. Additional or fewer steps to an existing process. And on and on it goes. How do these incremental changes impact the overall customer experience in the eyes of your customer?  

In my blog “4 expert tips to improve your call centre CX”,  I referenced my diagnostic process whereby I immerse myself within an organisation’s operations and review it from their customers’ perspective. One of the key activities within my diagnostic process is to “test” an organisation’s customer experience. My diagnostic archives are filled with many examples of what not to do, and most of my “final report” presentations yield the usual response of “Wow, I didn’t know we did that”.  

So, it’s time to put on your metaphorical fake nose, and become an undercover customer by following these four steps.  


Step #1 – First Impressions

Your organisation most likely has plenty of content and information across many different mediums. These could include everything from your corporate website, smartphone app, advertising, SMS, social media, marketing/sales collateral, auto-generated emails/SMS/letters and much more.  

Take a moment to consider all the ways in which your organisation presents itself to the world, to your current and future customers. What does a Google search of your organisation look like?  This list will be longer than you think and in my experience, some items on the list will surprise you.  

Once I have collated this list as a part of my diagnostic review, I move through a very specific list of items to review. Some of these include:

Branding

Is there consistency in your logo, brand colours and fonts, taglines. For the overwhelming majority of my diagnostic reviews, I have come across everything from different colour schemes and taglines, to an extreme case where an organisation had three completely different logos in circulation with one that was supposed to be discontinued over five years prior. 

Offers

As soon as I find an offer on a channel, I will look for it on all other channels. Of course there are scenarios where an offer is channel specific. However, you’d be surprised at the number of times I’ve found different or contradictory terms and conditions for the same offer across different channels. Also, are there clear instructions on how a customer can or should action the offer? Surprisingly, this is often overlooked. 

General Information

Similar to Offers, once I find general information on the organisation or perhaps a policy, I will seek this information in the other channels. Again, I typically find different or contradictory information. An example from my diagnostic archives includes a completely different set of terms and conditions that an organisation’s agents emailed to new customers versus the version on their corporate website. 

​The key drivers to this discrepancy was:

  • (a) two separate sources for the terms and conditions, and
  • (b) no owner or process to ensure consistency across the multiple sources.

Step #2 – Engage With Your Contact Channels

From your review in Step #1, you should have a comprehensive list of channels on which your customers can engage with your organisation. What are your expectations, and more importantly, your customers’ expectations around the experience for each of these channels?  

It’s now time to discover whether reality matches expectations. Here’s a brief list of actions you can take to test your channels.


Phone

Call each number, navigate your IVR and look for the following:

  • How was your call greeted? In some of my reviews, I found glitches whereby the opening greeting was truncated, resulting in the organisation’s name not being identified.
  • Is it the same voice throughout the IVR? Does the voice sound like it's in a small jar or outdoors? As the IVR evolves over time, there is the danger of multiple voices or the same voice sounding different because of various recording environments.
  • How long does it take before options are presented to your customer? On a few occasions, I found IVRs with over one minute of messaging before options were presented.
  • How many options and layers of options do you have?
  • Is the scripting for the options based on your organisation’s structure or is it based on specific actions your customers want and need? How many times have you called an organisation’s IVR and you had no idea which option was best for your inquiry? Be as specific as you can, and use your customer’s language.

When you exit the IVR and are finally connected to an agent:

  • How did they greet you, was it consistent with the IVR greeting?
  • Was the agent aware of and did they reference your selection within the IVR? Nothing frustrates a caller more than asking them to make a selection and then not passing on this detail to the agent.


Email

Before you “test’ this channel, note the details (if any) surrounding the publication of the email address(es).  

Pre-send checks and reviews

  • Are there any instructions for your customers? What should they include in their email to you? In my experience, a high percentage of emails to an organisation will lack critical information, resulting in a reply to the customer requesting the missing information. If you need specific details in order to process an email inquiry, then ask for it ahead of time and avoid unnecessary emails.
  • Are expectations set around your organisation’s response time? In absence of setting expectations, each customer will set expectations on a timeframe that they deem appropriate, potentially leading to customer dissatisfaction and a second contact before you’ve had a chance to respond to the original email.

Now it’s time to send a “test” email.  I will typically use one of the following processes. 

Testing email campaigns

  • Knowledge Check – Using existing collateral, I will look for a process or policy then craft a specific scenario in my “test” email. Once I receive the response, I compare it to the process or policy documented within the existing collateral. Of course, you want an answer that is consistent with other collateral.
  • Sales Mindset – I will select a specific product, and come up with a question or two that clearly demonstrates my strong interest in purchasing the product. Once I receive the response, I check for (a) similar to knowledge check, was the content in the response similar to that published within existing collateral, but more importantly, (b) did the response include an offer to close the sale?

In my experience, email responses typically only address the original question(s). You should strongly consider a process or template whereby you include a link taking the customer to a shopping cart with their requested item already selected (convert as many sales opportunities as possible).  

In addition to a knowledge check and/or sales mindset “test”, you should of course also note the language, spelling, grammar, etc.  


Webform/Chat/Social Media/Postal Mail

I recommend taking a similar approach to the email process described above, with the following additional considerations:

Sanity checks:

  • Webform – What information does the webform require, and is the information a “nice to have” or “must have”.
  • Chat – How quickly were you connected to a chat agent? Also, test the customer “inactivity” threshold setting in your chat platform. In a few of my reviews, I’ve come across thresholds of less than five minutes, and in one case less than two minutes (if a customer hasn’t responded within this threshold, the chat session is closed and the customer has to start again).
  • Social Media – Does your centre utilise the same response templates as that for email enquiries? In a few of my diagnostic projects, I found that hyperlinks within a templated response didn’t translate onto Facebook Messenger, leading to a frustrating experience for customers.
  • Postal Mail – A rarely used channel nowadays, however an interesting test as to how your organisation manages it.

Step #3 – Knowledge Management

The next step is to test your knowledge management practices.  How effective are they? Use the same specific question or scenario as those used in step two across multiple channels. If you have a “grey” area in any of your policies, come up with a scenario that fits in this “grey” area. Then, simply compare the responses.  

In my experience, there is always a degree of variation which includes everything from subtle differences in language and such to completely different answers to the same question.    


Step #4 – Buying Experience

If customers can purchase products through your website, how efficient and effective is the buying experience?  What if a customer wishes to alter their order post-purchase, is it easy to do so? Time to test your organisation’s buying experience.  

Submit an Order

Keep it simple.  Select a product that has various options (eg colour, size) and place your order.  

Consider:

  • How many steps did it take to go through your ordering process? For each step, ask yourself whether it is “must have” or “nice to have”. The goal here is to make the buying process as quick and painless as possible.
  • How much information did you need to input, and did you have to repeat anything?
  • What expectations were set around fulfillment and delivery? This is critical around your customer’s expectations and avoiding dissatisfaction and unnecessary contacts.
  • Did you receive any post-purchase notification?

Use this mechanism to:

  • (a) confirm the order has been received,
  • (b) set expectations on the delivery timeframe,
  • (c) provide a link or instructions to monitor the delivery progress, and
  • (d) direct the customer to your online digital channels for any questions or support.

Tweak the Order

Now , it’s time to shake things up and modify your order.  

Consider:

  • What is the process for modifying your order (eg different size, colour, model, etc.)? Does your website content or the post-purchase notification include instructions on how to modify an order? Note how easy or hard it was to (a) source and understand the process for modifying an order, and (b) the process itself. My diagnostic archives are filled with examples of eCommerce sites that require a customer to cancel an entire order and re-submit again when all they want to do is alter one product. That is a terrible customer experience.
  • Did you receive a post-tweak notification? If so, did it reset/confirm the expectation of fulfillment and delivery?

So there you have it. Four steps to indoctrinate yourself into the world of being an Undercover Customer. Put on that fake nose and walk a mile in your customers’ shoes.

Find out more about how we can help you serve your customers here or call us on 1300 725 628.

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About the author
Derick Lafleur
Business Consultant – Salmat

Derick Lafleur has 20 plus years of experience in the contact centre industry across Australia and Canada. Starting as an outbound collections agent, Derick's career has progressed through various leadership roles in workforce planning, reporting and analytics, solution design, client relationship management, and commercial and contractual negotiations. As a Business Consultant within Salmat's Group Solutions Team, Derick is focused on assisting organizations in driving improvements in contact centre efficiencies and the customer experience.

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