HOW WE DELIVER A 7 MONTH PROJECT IN 7 DAYS
For six years, we had a challenge on how to provide WOW customer service, without paying WOW bucks for it. I feel confident that we finally found the right system, and I think there is a lot to learn about how you can implement something similar in your own business by learning from our experience.
Last year we had a significant number of clients leaving Shopping Cart Elite. The number one reason for leaving was because the client never launched their website. Some tried for weeks, some tried for months, but they never launched it. Some of them took 5 hours of support from us, some took 50 hours before quitting. When we calculated the numbers we realized that if we put the total amount of hours we spent on customer support into completing the end to end process for our clients, we would have spent the same amount on payroll. Except we would have happy clients with live websites, and we would have an incredible retention rate.
As Seth Godin wrote, The only purpose of customer support is to change feelings. Not the facts, but the way your customer feels. The facts might be the price, or a return, or how long someone had to wait for service. Sometimes changing the facts is a shortcut to changing feelings, but not always, and changing the facts alone is not always sufficient anyway.
If a customer service protocol (your call center or complaints department or returns policy) is built around stall, deny, begrudge and finally, to the few who persist, acquiesce, then it might save money, but it is a total failure.
The customer who seeks out your help isnt often looking to deplete your bank account. He is usually seeking validation, support and a path to feeling the way he felt before you let him down.
The best measurement of customer support is whether, after the interaction, the customer would recommend you to a friend. Time on the line, refunds given or the facts of the case are irrelevant. The feelings are all that matter, and changing feelings takes humanity and connection, not cash.
Our competitors have HUNDREDS of customer service representatives on payroll doing STUPID WORK, and I mean stupid as they deliver ZERO value to their customers because they cant truly help them. Helping customers would mean involving developers, designers, data managers, project managers, etc. the only thing our competitors do is stall the client from moving forward. Just because they answer the phone when you call, doesnt mean a thing.
I dont want to make this post about our competitors, but if you want to read more about it, you can read an excellent post here.
GOAL TO ELIMINATE CUSTOMER SUPPORT
We wanted to eliminate customer support, so we decided that if we do ALL THE WORK for our client then 100% of the customer support should be eliminated. We thought, how awesome would it be if a client comes to us and requests 7 months of work, and we can deliver it in 7 days. We wanted to do the graphic design, data, store setup and custom development in 7 days or less. Of course, we knew that wont happen overnight, but that was the goal. At the time, we only had 12 staff members, and in six months we scaled to 60 staff members to achieve these results.
By month two, the 7 day goal was VERY FAR from reality. Our average launch time was 90 days, and it took over 200 of combined customer service hours to get results for each website.
Keep in mind that we DO NOT CHARGE FOR THE SETUP. We do everything for free for our clients if they commit to a one year agreement.
We designed systems, software, processes, we hired extra staff, managers, etc. and the best we got was 60 days to launch. THIS WAS NOT ACCEPTABLE and I REFUSED TO ACCEPT THAT.
The main problem was that even though we were doing all the work, we still needed to provide customer support. Clients had specific requirements, questions, etc. and we had to keep them in the loop the whole time to keep them happy.
The reason it took so long to launch was due to the communication delay between departments and the clients.
EMAIL IS DEAD
When we would try to communicate with the clients via email, we had all kinds of problems
Emails would not get delivered all the time or go to spam
There is a minimum of 1 hour and up to 2 days delay getting a response
Email responses would get lost
Email responses would arrive to the wrong person
By the time email was responded the dedicated worker was already doing another project
We had to get rid of the emails and think of something different.
SUPPORT TICKETS IS DEAD
Shopping Cart Elite has a built in support desk, so we spent two months overhauling it to make a CRM / PROJECT MANAGEMENT software out of it. It worked! But not for everything
It was much more organized
Emails would arrive to the support desk and never get lost
Emails would merge into specific tickets which would be linked to the correct project
Department Manager would own the tickets and assign staff to be accountable for the work
A centralized daily and weekly report was created to show the big picture of all the projects for our COO to review
Everything seemed perfect, except we still had the same problem with emails. We would ask the customer to fill out help forms (tickets), and replies back and forth would take forever. We even implemented an email open tracker to confirm if the client viewed the email or not.
The support desk made us much more organized and well informed, but we were still very far from 7 days.
TELEPHONE IS DEAD
We decided to hire account managers, which would be accountable to bridge the gap between departments and the client to try to get to that 7 day mark. What ended up happening was the Account Manager became an Account Messenger.
He would do STUPID work running after clients and being the broken telephone between the client and the department managers. Sometimes the client was busy, or not available, and the account manager couldnt keep up.
When we did a survey on all the existing trials on what they thought about our customer support, we got a BIG F. 95% of the clients were upset.
DEDICATED & PERSONAL LIVE CHAT ROOMS
I refused to accept that all of this work will go to shit, and it will become a failed attempt to launch clients in 7 days. So I started thinking about the core problem.
The core problem was that even though we were doing all the work for the client, the fact that the client wanted to feel like they are a part of the team didnt change, and the client was RIGHT. He should be a part of team especially during the building stage.
In todays world, clients expect everything to be DONE NOW! We want fast food, fast delivery, and fast RESULTS.
So I figured why dont we replace EMAILS with SKYPE! Which will give us LIVE, ON DEMAND communication between all departments. We will allow communication between the Support Desk to work with Skype instead of email. This way whatever needs to be recorded in archives can be placed right into the ticket, and whatever is chatter can be ignored.
Fortunately we were already in developing an intelligent chat that would make Shopping Cart Elite work with Skype, so it was a perfect fit.
We made our clients go on Skype and be available all the time during the building stage, we created a chat room on Skype and placed all department managers, COO, CEO, account managers along with the client into each chat room.
If the client had questions, the right person was there. If anyone from our team had questions for the client, the client was available as well. IT WAS GREAT!
Immediately after implementing this new process, everything started to shine. We were able to lower the launch date down to 30 days from 60 days overnight. I realized that the biggest factor for the delay was COMMUNICATION due to OUTDATED TECHNOLOGY.
In addition, the dedicated chat rooms allowed everyone to learn more about their departments. As I would reply to the client, or another department would speak to the client everyone was on the same page. I asked the account manager to start compiling frequently asked questions and making a document for the whole company to learn more about what clients ask and how to answer their questions.
ON OUR WAY TO 7 DAY LAUNCH
The picture is a lot clearer now, all we have to do is to fine-tune some of the processes, tweak the software, hire more staff, and we will reach our goal for LAUNCHING A NEW CLIENT IN 7 DAYS. We plan to have this in place by first quarter of this coming year, and if we meet that goal, then it would have officially taken us ONE YEAR to implement this strategy.
It was a long way coming, and I couldnt be more excited about it.
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