Monthly Archives: November 2013

Can You Measure Customer Service?

measure customer serviceYou have defined what good service is for your agency. You spent the time cranking out a service statement that all your people understand. The owners know it, the sales people know it, the service staff knows it, even the bookkeeper knows it. You plastered it on everyone’s desk, the break room, and the bathroom stalls. It is your mantra.

Weeks go by and you are beginning to wonder if anyone remembers your service pep rally. Are the slogans and statements shadows in people’s memory? Everyone signed onto your ideas, the staff helped you craft the philosophy, but how do you keep everyone on track with it?

You don’t want your service philosophy to become background static in everyone’s work lives.

Is there anything you can do to track your service activity and whether it is effective and reaching the goals you have set for your agency?

I think you can. In fact, I have seen it done.  Here’s three simple ways to measure customer service.

1. Metrics.   Are there numbers you can look at to see what is happening in the service department? Yes. There are two specific metrics your management systems should be able to tell you.

Retention. If retention is dropping, something is happening from the service side of the house. Yes, there could be other reasons such as company pricing or new stringent underwriting guidelines, but if you see this drop then it should be an indicator that something is going and customers are not happy.

Make sure you track this on a rolling twelve month basis, and track policies not written premium. Written premium can be deceptive because of rate activity, but you can not hide behind lost policies. If grabbing retention data is hard, the next best thing is to track cancelled policies. This one is simple and can be done monthly.

Referrals. If people are sending you customers, then something in your office is working. Now granted you may have great pricing, but I bet your people skills have more to do with it. You have a created a great experience for someone and they want to share it with a friend. Finding someway to begin tracking customer referrals. Most management systems have a “source” field that you can track where business is coming from.

[warning: for numbers geeks] Here’s a metric, I learned years ago that really helps with trend. Line graphing helps, but this one is tricky and can be revealing. It’s called the 3 vs. 12. Take the last rolling 3 months and compare to the last rolling 12 months. The percentage of change will eliminate anomaly months, and levels things out so you don’t start panicking if you have a bad month. [Analytic talk complete]

2. Mystery Shopping. You may bristle a little when you hear this. You may even worry that this will turn you into some crazed micro-manager with an office full of people whispering “service nazi” behind your back. Don’t worry. This doesn’t have to be crazy, but I promise it works.

Contact friends or customers and ask them to call in requesting a potential change to their policy. School them on questions and what to look for. For example, mystery customer #1 calls because they are looking at a new Honda Odyssey and wants to know what it will do to rate, and do they really need rental and what is that loan/lease gap coverage the car dealer mentioned. Mystery Customer #2 calls because they are considering an umbrella, but doesn’t really know what it is and how it works. These are simple things to do. Let your people know that you are doing them.

3. Surveys. Over the years, how many surveys have you mailed out to customers? How many did you get back? Probably not many, and if you got anything back it was only from the angry customers. This makes it look like you have big problems, because you don’t hear from the good ones.

Put yourself in their shoes. Do you like surveys? Be honest, don’t you just look at the 1-10 scale and check 8’s or 9’s on everything, if you do it all.

Use email surveys. You can create free surveys online at surveymonkey.com. If you search in Google you can find other options as well. Limit the survey to 3 questions. Make sure at least one question is open-ended and doesn’t generate a one word answer. Try to make them creative and occasionally ask about other places they get good service, so you get a sense of what they expect and what they like. This will let you tweak your own processes to exceed customer expectations.

Here are some sample questions: Would you refer your friends to us? Are answers to your questions clear and helpful? What drives you crazy about dealing with service people?

So what do you think? If you are serious about taking your service to the next level, measuring it is really the only way you can enforce and improve your standards.

Measuring service activity will keep your service standards from becoming a nice platitude. It will make it real and tangible in your office.

Are there other ways, you have measured your service performance?

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

photo credit: Sergey Sus via photopin cc

How Do You Create Customer Service Goals?

medium_4929302647One big secret to creating your own brand of great customer service is to give it a goal.

It needs a target, a finish line, an image of perfection to strive toward.

Without some tangible goal, it just flounders around like some amorphous amoeba.  You can’t pick it up and look at it because it slides through your fingers. You can’t describe because it’s always shifting and changing and only broad adjectives will work.

If you give it a goal, if there are real images of the perfect customer interaction, then you have done something truly different. You have separated yourself from most businesses. You have branded yourself and you are on the path to create a different experience for your clients.

So where do you start. Let’s start with the experience you want to create for your customers

* Customer Experience: Spend some time thinking through great customer experiences you have had. They are probably few and far between. Get your staff involved, but don’t call a meeting. Give everyone a couple of days to turn in examples of great experiences they had with various businesses and what made them great. If people are struggling then have them write out the bad ones and what made those miserable. Sometimes it is just easier to know what to avoid than what to do and add.

Recently I had a great experience with a local body shop.

Unfortunately we had a handful of minor dings that needed repaired. Of course, I asked around to find someone good and fair. First this place was beautiful as body shops go. Everything was clean, and all the employees were in perfect uniforms. They didn’t talk down to me or treat me like I was stupid (because I am, knowing nothing about cars). They gave me options on fixing the damage. They gave me a time frame for completion and an estimate on price.

So the day came to take the car into the shop, and by day’s end the phone was ringing letting me know it was complete. We drove over to the shop, and there it was, no scratches, clean and shiny. Surprisingly they completely cleaned out the interior of the vehicle as well (impressive). I walked in the office to settle up, expecting the price to be a good 10% higher than they said. Of course, I thought, they found something wrong or ran into some roadblock that cost a little more money. No, no, no, it was actually less than quoted. Only by a dollar, but it was still less. We drove away happy.

On the other hand, I battled it out with a phone company recently, receiving nothing but poor service at every turn. I will spare the gory details, but I decided to change phone companies to lower some of my bills. I called and got everything setup to start. They told me it would be a week before they could make the changes, which didn’t bother me. I hung up the phone, and crossed my fingers. A day later, I had questions and thought I would ask about my order. I called back, and it took several folks before they could find it. Then I began getting different answers about whether my number would be changed. One said no, the other said yes. One did some magic button pressing and placed me on hold. Someone transferred me to the division that would get it straight, yet they couldn’t. Eventually I cancelled the order, willing to pay more with my current carrier, just because of the hassle and incompetence.

I guarantee you have had similar good and bad experiences. Spend some time collecting stores and deciding what made them good and bad and how you could apply them in forms of do’s and dont’s within your own agency.

* Agency Behaviors: After you begin to collate your experiences into a workable list, turn them into true agency behaviors that everyone can accomplish:

smiles while on the phone, don’t let the phone ring more than twice, call backs in less than 12 hours, birthday cards for all customers, proposals emailed to customers within 2 hours, etc.

Make sure they match the things that you and your people value in your own experiences. During this exercise, you can even ask every customer about their own good and bad experiences. You and your staff may value different behaviors than your customers, and ultimately it is about them.

* Service Outcomes: List out real outcomes of the service experience you want to create. What does a satisfied customer look like. Define their experience after talking with you.

Then determine what impact will this have on the agency: increase in policy counts, increase referrals, improved retention, etc.

Make things as tangible as possible so they can be evaluated for effectiveness.

After you finish this exercise you should have a clear picture of what “great customer service” means, and you have created a target for your office.

It is tangible and something everyone can grab and hold. Communicate it to the agency and even your customers. Review periodically. Don’t be afraid to be creative and even a little weird. Throw in some random surprises that you would like to do for people.

Establishing customer service goals creates a tangible brand that your people and customers can embrace with delight.

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

photo credit: Rick Bolin (IntelGuy) via photopin cc

Does Customer Service Really Matter In Your Business?

Customer Service Everyone says they have it and it’s the key that sets them apart.  Ask an insurance agent or any small business what makes them different from another business, and you know what they will say: “Great customer service”.  I don’t think I work with one agency that doesn’t claim to have great customer service, and I agree, most do.  But is that really a differentiator, does it really set you apart, if everyone else claims to have it.

Maybe.

Let’s talk about what really “great customer service” means, because I believe this may not be what we think.

Why is it important to your agency?  This may sound like a stupid question, but it’s worth considering, because service can easily become a mundane part of the agency.  It’s easy to let this part run on auto pilot, while you worry about where to find accounts, pay the bills, deal with HR issues, worry about the building, etc.

Consider this:  your service people are the face of your agency.  Very few people in your office talk with your customers as much as the service people do.  While the salespeople may be out hunting, the service people are creating impressions by the hundreds of every week with current customers, vendors, and company people.

Whether people continue to do business with you or not is often based on the relationship they establish with your service staff.

If there is stress in your office, if your people are negative and grumpy, if working conditions are miserable that will be communicated to your customers.

We all know this is true.  Think about the times you have to call your cable or phone company.  The monotone, robotic, depressing sounds that come from the receiver tell you those people are miserable, and if you can escape from doing business with them you will.

How about visits to the DMV?  Depressing!  It’s not the customers that drive the misery.  It’s the people behind the counter.  They are bored or discontented and their attitude produces a fog of depression in every corner of the office.

Not only are your service people the face of the agency, but they have the power to create and shape the culture of the office.  The sales people are usually gone, but the service people are always there and how they interact and shapes the atmosphere in the office.

One of the quickest ways to begin to change the culture of the agency is to affect attitudes of the people talking with your customers.

I see this all the time.  My regular trips to ABC Insurance are tense and unhappy.  There are whispers and gossiping, then one day I walk in the door and attitudes are dramatically changed.  There is energy.  People are smiling.  No complaints.  What has happened?  The customers are the same, the owners are the same, the office hasn’t been redecorated.  After putting on my detective hat and asking a few questions, I discover “Suzie Q” left last week for another job.

One sour soul poisoned the agency culture, but once she left, the attitudes turned on a dime.

So great service is important.  No one would argue the point, and having great service people not only impacts customers, but infects your whole operation.

Is it enough?  I don’t think so.  It’s has become so understood, especially for the local business, that good service is the baseline.

It is necessary, but to become really great there is more.  Figuring out ways to create customer loyalty and enhancing their experience with you will really set you apart.  Very few shops don’t neglect phone timeliness and are educated enough to generate sufficient answers, but do the customers have a unique experience?

Be Productive,

 

Theron Mathis

photo credit: Lab2112 via photopin cc