Tag Archives: customer retention

Faces of Customer Satisfaction

Collecting, Analyzing, and Acting on Customer Satisfaction Data with Salesforce Visual Flow

I recently worked with a team that had to share news with their customers and partners that could negatively impact the customer’s satisfaction with the company’s products and, ultimately, their relationship.

While the team spent a lot of time preparing the talking points and prepping their sales team on how to share the news, I realized that a key component was missing:

How would the customers feel or respond to this news?

I thought these were important reactions that we should try to collect and analyze, which would then give the team insight as to what to do next.

Requirements

My requirements were as follows:

  1. Make the data collection process standardized. While we wanted to be able to gather actual comments from customers, I also knew we would need to provide the sales team with a simple scale to categorize the customer’s response to the news. This would give us a way to interpret whether the reactions were favorable or negative.
  2. Make the data collection process actionable. Whenever you collect data, you always want to keep in mind how you can make the data actionable. At the very least, this means the ability to use the data to create reports, charts, and dashboards for the leadership team to stay informed and make decisions. Taking it a step further, would there be “triggers” in this process that might call for some type of timely follow up?
  3. Make the data collection process simple. As much as possible, we wanted this to be part of the sales team’s regular workflow that would take just a minute or two of their time.
  4. Make the data collection process mobile. We realized that many of the discussions would be handled face-to-face, so the salesperson would need to be able to provide a quick update on their smartphone or tablet.

The first two requirements — standardized and actionable — were the most important. The last two requirements — simple and mobile — could be optional requirements under certain circumstances, but in this case, I knew we had the tools available to make these requirements possible.

First, I wanted to address the most important requirements. To make the data standardized, I wanted to provide the sales team with a simple scale to categorize the customer’s response to the news. It had to have just a few options that would be easy for the sales team to select from.

The simple scale we settled on was:

  • Positive
  • Neutral
  • Negative

To make the data actionable, I knew we would be able to take the responses from this very basic scale and develop a simple chart that would show the percentages responding to each option: positive, neutral, or negative. We would also want to be able to connect each response to an individual salesperson and to an individual contact at a customer, so that we could pull in other information for our dashboards — percent of customers contacted; percent of key customers contacted; number of customer contacts by salesperson; etc.

But beyond charts and dashboards, there were other actionable triggers we could consider.

If someone had a negative response to the news, we should flag them for follow-up by someone on the leadership team. To simplify the follow-up, we would assign it to the salesperson’s manager. They could then review the information and decide if they would follow up on their own, or send it on to another member of the leadership team.

If someone had a positive response to the news, we should flag them for follow-up for a customer testimonial. We could then assign this to a member of the marketing team.

Now, with these requirements and ideas in mind, I could turn to the tool that would make all of this possible: Salesforce.com Visual Flow.

Developing the Solution

To make the process simple for the salesperson, I created a custom button on the Contact page in Salesforce, called “Relationship Update.” Clicking this button would start the Visual Flow, which would present the salesperson with the data collection process. Placing the button on the Contact record in Salesforce made it easy for a salesperson to access during their interaction with the customer.

And because it’s built in Salesforce, it automatically checks the box of making the process mobile.

I wanted to present a simple data collection form for the salesperson to fill out, collecting the following data:

  1. Date of Contact (defaulting to today’s date, but changeable if they need to add older information)
  2. Three radio buttons to classify the Relationship Status:
    • Positive
    • Neutral
    • Negative
  3. A large text box to collect any additional Comments

Now to the “fun stuff” of what the Visual Flow would automatically do in the background with that data:

  1. Update a Relationship Picklist field that I had created on the Account record, which would in turn update a Formula Text field on the Account record that would display a text version of a stoplight image:
    • a green Positive
    • a yellow Neutral
    • a red Negative
  2. Create an Activity History record with:
    • A standard Subject line (making reporting easier)
    • The selected Status in the Subject line
    • The Comments in the Description
    • The Date and User
    • Link to the Related Contact and Account records
  3. Post the Comments to the Account’s Chatter feed with a Topic of #RelationshipStatus so that users can subscribe to the Topic and receive updates as they happen.
  4. If a Status of Negative is selected, send an email to the user’s manager, including the Comments, so that the manager is aware and can follow-up or escalate as appropriate.
  5. If a Status of Positive is selected, present the user with a second screen, asking if this Contact might provide us with a good testimonial. If the user selects the Yes radio button, a Task is created for a member of the marketing team. If the user selects the No radio button, no Task is created.

Implementing the Solution

Thankfully, with the tools that Salesforce provides, implementing this solution was quick and relatively simple. I presented the idea to the sales leadership team and got their approval on Wednesday afternoon, I developed and tested the tools in Salesforce on Thursday, and we trained the sales team on how to use it on Friday morning.

And because simplicity was a key focus of the solution, it was easy for the sales team to understand the process and use it — we spent about 15 minutes providing them with a demonstration, and then allowing them to enter sample records into a Sandbox environment.

Results of the Solution

Overwhelmingly, this was a positive solution for the company. I say this not for my own benefit as the person who developed and implemented it, but because it would have been useless had not the sales team done such a great job of contacting their customers and using this process to provide valuable information to the company.

We quickly started to see the benefits of gathering this information:

  • Thanks to the reports and dashboards, we were able to monitor the positive/neutral/negative feedback scale, and realize that just over 90% of the customers contacted had a positive or neutral reaction to the news and feeling about the future of the company.
  • Thanks to the reports and dashboards, we were able to create a contest among the sales team regarding who could make the most customer contacts within given time periods. It’s amazing how an inexpensive gift card or coffee mug can bring out the competitiveness among a good sales team.
  • Thanks to the triggers, we were able to flag any negative responses for follow-up by the management team, helping to alleviate some of the fears that customers had and assuring them of the company’s plan to manage the situation. This also helped the leadership team understand the areas that most bothered customers or led to misinformation, so they could be sure to clarify those in press releases or FAQs.
  • Thanks to the triggers, we were able to flag any positive responses for follow-up by the marketing team, and received some very encouraging comments from customers who were committed to remaining customers of the company.
  • Thanks to the comments and hashtag being added to the Chatter feed, we were able to “at-mention” other users (@username) and bring them into conversations about feedback from specific customers. For example, one customer mentioned some negative information their employees had received from a third-party vendor. We were able to bring the company employee who managed that vendor relationship into the discussion on the Chatter feed, they were able to follow up with the vendor to provide them with correct information, and helped resolve an issue that we would otherwise not been aware of.
  • Thanks to all of the information coming in, we were able to work with the marketing team to create posters that were then posted around the company’s building — near employee entrances, in the elevators, etc. The poster included the customer sentiment chart (positive/neutral/negative), as well as some of the testimonials we were able to gather. This allowed employees who didn’t regularly interact with key customers to see the overwhelmingly positive response to the information, and helped boost morale across the company at a dark time.

Takeaway

Even when managing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, it can be easy to lose sight of capturing more than customer demographic or purchase data. But with the right mindset, priorities, and tools, you can also capture customer sentiment and feedback, which can add a new level of insight into your company’s performance and the strength of your customer relationship.

Customer and Contractor

Improving Your Company’s Brand Through Customer and Contractor Communications

We recently had some improvements made to our house, and after going through the experience, there were some things I noticed about the process that I thought could be improved. I shared my observations via letter with the president of the company, but I’d like to share them publicly, too.

To be clear, I won’t share the name of the company we used for these home improvements, for their own sake, but I am happy with their work — I would use them again, and would recommend them to friends or family who were looking for similar work to be done.

However, there were two main areas where I thought they could improve:

  1. Communication — We received more consistent and more informative communications from this company when we were still a prospect than after we became an actual customer. That’s not the right balance.
  2. Decision-Making — When there was a problem with our order, the lines of communication and decision-making between the company employees and subcontractors was unclear, so my wife and I felt pressured to make a decision that shouldn’t have been ours to make. That’s unfair to the customer.

Let me provide the story here, and I’ll make observations as I go, and then summarize at the end.

Pre-Sale

My wife and I had been discussing, off and on, the idea of making some improvements to our house. So one day in early October 2016, we were pleasantly surprised to return home and find some men from a company we had been researching who were canvassing our neighborhood, providing basic information and setting up appointments. We talked with them and set up an appointment for a salesperson to come to our house.

I was impressed with their pre-sales process automation:

  • October 13 — We received an Appointment Confirmation email. It was well designed, branded for the company (including a photo of the company president), and contained helpful information.
  • October 14 — We received a second Appointment Confirmation email. This email was a plain text message, but it was still helpful in reminding us of our pending appointment.
  • October 15 — The day of our actual appointment, we received another plain text email, but it provided our salesperson’s name. This is marketing genius — whenever a customer or potential customer invites your company and your employee into their home, put the customer at ease by identifying your employee by name before they arrive. Include a photo, if you can.
  • Throughout this time period, we also received a few text messages that helped keep us informed of when exactly our salesperson would arrive.

On Saturday, October 15, the salesperson arrived at our house for the sales appointment. He was immediately likable, which at least for many people, also makes him immediately trustworthy. He was very professional in touring our home, making notes of what work we wanted done, and explaining the process to us. He explained the different options that were available, and how they may or may not benefit us as a family. He provided lots of good information, and gave us a good, no-pressure quote. We were pleased with the price he gave us, and had no issue with immediately becoming a customer.

At this point, I was impressed with this company. They had a good lead generation system, they followed up on leads in a timely manner with a defined process that was obviously automated, and their salesperson was top notch. The danger here was that they had set high expectations from me as a customer regarding their communications ability, and the quality of their employees.

(There was one issue I had at this point — I was surprised that their sales process was still paper based. The salesperson had an iPad, but used it only to show us some marketing material. He didn’t use it to record the measurements, develop the price, or complete the sale. In an industry that relies on accurate measurements and communication of those measurements, why not develop a mobile app that simplifies the process for your salesperson and for the customer? This discussion will have to be a separate post.)

Measurement

Our measuring appointment was set for Thursday, October 20 at 10:00 AM. We were pleased that the measuring appointment was set so soon after our sales appointment. This was the appointment when a different representative from the company would come out to double check the measurements made by the salesperson, and verify that all of the information was correct.

For this appointment, we received only one email before the appointment — we received it the day before, on Wednesday, October 19, but it didn’t provide the name of the person who would be coming to the appointment. This seemed strange to me, that they could provide the name of the salesperson when we were not a customer, but now they could not provide the name of the person who would be coming to perform the final measurement.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you the name of the person who came to measure our windows — not because I didn’t receive it in an email, but because he was completely unremarkable. I don’t expect everyone to be as likable and charismatic as our salesperson was, but I did expect the person who was coming to this appointment to be highly trained and knowledgeable. If anything, I expected him to know even more about the work we were having done. However, I remember having the distinct feeling that he wasn’t as informed or as fully trained as he should have been. I have confirmed with my wife that she had the same impression. This would be verified later in the process.

Post-Sale, Pre-Work

That email we received on October 19 was the last email we received from the company. Again, it seemed strange to me that now that we had agreed to have the work done, and were paying several thousand dollars for the work, we were receiving less information than we had received when we were simply a prospect. This is completely backwards.

We knew that the process would take a while after the measuring appointment — supplies had to be ordered, and parts had to be custom made for our home, and then of course we would need to schedule the time when the actual work would take place. However, we received no information during this time period. To me, this is a key time to maintain communication with your customer — keep them up to date on the status of their order. Reassure them that actual work is taking place on their behalf. This is where a relatively simple communication process and/or automation could go a long way.

Here are some examples of information that I as a customer would find extremely helpful during this time period, reinforcing the soundness of my decision to hire this company to work on my home.

Let the customer know:

  • When the measurements have been received and confirmed
  • Who has been assigned to oversee the order or project, and provide contact information
  • When the materials have been ordered
  • When the materials have been received by your company
  • When the project manager will be contacting me to schedule installation
  • Who will be coming to my home to complete the work

We received none of this information. We had placed our order on October 15, so when it came to December 1 and I still had heard nothing, I called the company. I finally was able to speak with an employee who confirmed that the materials had been delivered to them the day before (on November 30), and that “someone else” would be contacting me to schedule the installation. If a good communication process had been defined and implemented, I would have received that information via email, saving me the phone call, and saving the company the time that a representative spent on the phone.

After a week went by with no further communication from the company, I texted the salesperson, whom we had not spoken with since mid-October. He responded immediately, and later that day, another employee called to schedule the work on our home for Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday, December 21.

Once again, we received no further communication from the company until Monday, December 19 — the day before work was scheduled to begin — to state that our installation would need to be pushed back a day, to Wednesday, December 21 and Thursday, December 22, because the installers were delayed at their current project.

This was a major inconvenience, as we then had to shift other things in our schedule to accommodate the work that would be done on our home. I was also frustrated by the lack of information — I didn’t know who to expect at our home (Are they employees or contractors? What are their names? How many will there be?), or what to expect when they arrived (Is there prep work we need to do? What will they do when they arrive?).

Installation

The morning of Wednesday, December 21, I received a phone call from a company employee who identified herself as our project manager. I was grateful for the call, but was surprised that this was the first time I had heard from her. As our project manager, I would have expected some communication from her much earlier in the process.

She confirmed that the installation crew would be arriving that morning between 9:00 and 10:00 AM, and provided the crew leader’s name. The installation crew arrived on time, their vehicle and trailer looked clean and professional, the installers looked cleaned and professional, and one crew member was even wearing a sweatshirt with the company’s logo on it, which I thought was reassuring.

But the crew leader introduced himself by a different name. It’s a minor thing, but it threw me off a little bit. I asked him about it, and he answered, “Oh, my first name is [the name the project manager gave me], but I go by [the name he gave me].” If that’s the name that the crew leader goes by and likes to be called, then that’s how the company needs to introduce him.

From the beginning, the installation seemed to go off-track. The crew leader began his walk around of our house, and noted that the measurements for one of the rooms — the room that represented just over half of the entire project — were wrong, and so the materials he had were the wrong size. This was not reassuring. Even worse for me, he didn’t seem to know what would or could be done about it — he needed to call his manager.

In the meantime, the rest of his crew started work on another room in our house. I didn’t know what to expect, and was surprised by how much demolition was involved to prepare for the new work and materials. Because we had received very little communication after we placed our order, and because the installers provided no information when they arrived, I struggled to envision what the finished product would look like, and my confidence level was low because of the wrong measurements in the other room.

When you are a contractor, you are accustomed to the work you do and what is involved. Do not assume that the customer has the same experience or knowledge that you do. Take a few minutes before you start work to explain the process of what will happen and what the customer can expect. This is their home, after all.

While the installers started working, I called our project manager to see what she could do to help. She didn’t know yet about the wrong measurements, and said she would have to call the installation manager for more information.

This is one area where I really became frustrated that day. In this type of work, I can’t imagine that this is the first time they’ve encountered this scenario where some information was wrong, or something would need to be fixed. I expected them to have a clear process of how to resolve the problem and communicate that resolution to me as the homeowner. I obviously expected wrong.

The crew finished the first part of the project, and I was very pleased with their work. They did good quality work with high quality materials, and everything looked nice when they finished.

As they continued working, the unremarkable measurer showed up at our house, apparently to be educated by the installation crew leader regarding his inaccurate measurements. The crew leader explained the problem to him, but the measurer was adamant that the crew leader’s method did not match with how he was trained to measure, and he seemed very self-defensive.

Even worse for me, there was discussion between the two of them of whether or not the installation crew could “make it work” — perhaps my least favorite phrase in home improvement — and both seemed to be looking to me to make a decision regarding whether I wanted to use the materials that had been ordered to “make it work,” or if I wanted to pursue ordering materials that would be the right size.

This seemed like a completely inappropriate expectation of me as the homeowner — I strongly believe that someone from the company should have stepped in to say, “[X] is the right way to do it, so we will make sure that [X] gets done, and here is what we will do to make it happen.”

I called the project manager once again to fill her in on what was happening — notice her lack of proactive communication when she knew there was a problem at our house — and she said she once again would need to contact the installation manager for more information.

Thankfully, in the afternoon, the salesperson stopped by to check on the installation progress. He confirmed that the measurements for the room in question were wrong, and that the right way to handle it would be to order new materials for that room. This meant that there would be a delay in that room, but I was perfectly fine with that — I would much rather have a delay and get the right materials than to try and “make it work.” I cannot begin to express how reassuring it was to finally have someone step in and make the decision on behalf of the company so that everything would be done right.

The installation crew finished the work in the other rooms, and we are very happy with their work and the quality of the materials that they used.

The next morning (Thursday, December 22), I received a phone call from our project manager to confirm that new materials had been ordered for the remaining room in our house, and that she would contact us again once the materials were received and ready for installation. I’m slightly troubled, based on our track record so far, that I have no idea how long we will have to wait for our new materials to be ready. We should be receiving regular updates as to the status of our order.

Takeaways for Improvement

Here are the areas where I think this company could greatly improve:

  • The post-sale communication process needs to be as polished (or more polished) than the pre-sale communication process. If the company can put that much effort into communicating with me before I spend a single penny with them, they can put that much effort into communicating with me once I’m a customer who has spent several thousand dollars.
  • All team members need adequate training, especially when accuracy is the key component of their job. Sending out a person to perform final measurements when they don’t fully understand how to measure all scenarios is a mistake that only compounds itself once the installation work begins.
  • A clear line of communication and decision making needs to be established, documented, and understood by all members of the team, including employees and contractors. The customer should never feel like they’re being asked to make a decision about a mistake your company has made — your company policy should be clear about how to make it right, and what that means for the customer.

Remember, each employee or contractor is representing your company, and providing the customer with an experience that is either positive or negative. Make sure you’re not overlooking key areas that can lead to your customers having a negative experience.


How did I keep track of these details? Evernote