Quick Summary: The U.S. adaptation of “The Office” can’t teach us anything about customer service or CX, or can it? This article will break down Robert California’s speech and reveal how much truth is in his words. Harry Maxwell, B2B Growth Marketer at Zoov, and Stacy Justino, Director of Customer Happiness at Wistia, share their thoughts.
As much as we would like to talk about Michael Scott and his personalized gift baskets to win back customers, or Kelly’s eagerness to get on the phone in the customer service department of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, these aren’t the characters that perfectly reflect what it means to be a customer today.
Robert California takes over from Deangelo Vickers and his inspirational juggling routines as the new manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. He takes one look around, drives down to Florida, and convinces the CEO to give him their job, such is the confidence of the man.
Don’t take everything this man says seriously. He is, after all, a character from a TV show. In one episode, however, he explains exactly the thought process of most consumers in the modern age.
So, can the U.S. adaptation of “The Office” actually teach us something about the customer experience? Let’s see.
“Where you once worked in a dying industry, you now work at its birth. Those superstores are terrified of us. Anybody know why?
Let me tell you how I buy something these days. I know what I want, and I go on the internet to get the best price, or I don’t know what I want, and I go to a small store that can help me.
The era of personal service is back. You are back. You’ll find that customers will pay our higher prices, and then they will thank us. And we will say to them, ‘You are welcome.’”
This article will break down Robert California’s speech and reveal how much truth is in his words. Stacy Justino, Director of Customer Happiness at Wistia, and a mentor and leader in the Support Driven community, shares her thoughts with us.
How important is Price?
“I know what I want, and I go on the internet to get the best price…”
61% of shoppers will tell you that price is the most important issue for them when shopping over the internet. For 85% of buyers, the price has to be right. This is very common for B2C, and will certainly play a role in B2B too. Either way, price is very important for people who know what they want, especially when there is competition.
In a highly competitive market, you might see two very similar goods at the same price. Assuming you are indifferent about the differences in the products, what will be the tie-breaker? If you are buying online, maybe it’s the cost and speed of delivery. Of course, there are other factors at play.
Harry Maxwell: How important is price?
Stacy Justino: Price usually plays a big factor, especially for smaller organizations, but what is more important is the perceived value for the price. Oftentimes, one of the value-adds that is important in choosing a product is the quality and level of support a company provides.
The crucial role of customer service
“…I don’t know what I want, and I go to a small store that can help me. The era of personal service is back. You are back.”
When you don’t know what you want, you go browsing. If this is the case, you’ll ask friends, family, and business connections (where relevant) to find the product or service you’re considering. When you want to buy a new kitchen appliance, you go in-store to see what they look like in real life, and to get help making the purchase decision. This is all true.
Now imagine this in a digital buyer’s journey. If you go to a customer-centric company’s website, they have the option to chat to someone if you need help with anything. We are living, as Robert says, in the “era of personal service.” It may be less face-to-face than in-person in recent times, but the philosophy has not changed.
1) Be there for customers when they don’t know what they want
Proactivity is one of the buzzwords in support today, and for good reason. “Personalization” is commonly misconstrued as getting people’s names right, but it’s much more than that.
In marketing, there is the theory of, “right message, right person, right time,” which is an example of proactive communication to the customer. The right message to the right person also implies personalization and, since customer service is the new marketing, why can’t it apply here too?
HM: How can companies achieve this?
I once used a free trial for Shipt. I didn’t want to convert to a paid subscription straight away, so I had set a calendar reminder one day before my free trial was up. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they had sent me a reminder email 1 week before the date was up!
Anticipating customer contacts can not only save you costs, but also win the favour of your customers. This Zendesk article may provide you with more valuable insight.
You can’t hide things from customers, nor should you try. Honesty is the best policy and, even though your customers might be disappointed about something that went wrong on your side, they will appreciate you being up front about it.
To go one step further and combine the “anticipate” aspect with this, you can link to or highlight relevant help center articles in blog posts. Folks who might only be familiar with your blog can be made aware of your help center through this simple cross-linking strategy, and vice versa if you link to related blog posts in your help center articles when it makes sense.
2) Ways to deliver personalized service
40% of U.S. consumers say they have purchased something more expensive than they planned to because of personalized service.
For support responses, an easy way to personalize is to greet the customer by name. Also, take the time to restate the customer’s problem and acknowledge the customer’s feelings. 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. Going the extra mile to display empathy or acknowledge a customer’s problem before trying to solve it straight away will be looked upon kindly.
HM: What is your experience of personalized support? What are some examples that have stuck with you?
SJ: At Wistia, we encourage our Customer Champions to send personalized videos to customers such as thank you videos or instructional content showing a customer how to walk through a specific process within the product.
Personalized support videos can have a pretty significant impact on a customer’s experience. At Wistia, we found that support tickets solved with personalized videos resulted in a one-touch resolution 40% of the time, and a customer satisfaction 6% higher than the department average.
If you use templates, or are curious about the effect of tailoring messages for your customers, here’s a short study that explains how personalization affects key metrics (First Contact Resolution, CSAT, Handling Times).
Depending on your industry or business, providing recommendations to the customer is another great way to personalize your support. Again, this demonstrates the winning combination of proactive and personalized: I love retail sites that utilize TrueFit like Macy’s.
3) Personalization at scale – overcoming this challenge
When companies are small, they usually have more time to give each customer. If your business prides itself on a personalized customer experience, often the challenge is to scale operations to provide the same level of care without increasing costs proportionally.
HM: What are your tips to make personalization sustainable and scalable?
SJ: Build internal reference guides
You can either build internal reference guides or incorporate them into your site map. Take a look at this example, at the very bottom of Big Fish Games’ site map with subgenres like this. This made it super easy for agents to link customers to specific pages around a theme or series.
Use your data to segment by customer type, product, or issue category to send customized automated responses. For example, a specific customer issue requires either an order number or a user ID. If the customer doesn’t include that information in the contact form, or they wrote directly to firstname.lastname@example.org where they wouldn’t have been prompted to provide that information, you could then set up a specific auto-responder that mentions that an order number or user ID will be needed to look it up.
Route tickets smartly
When different customer types/issues require a different level of information, you could route these into specific queues.
For example, customers that are using your product during the first 60 days might need more details and could benefit from more resources. Grouping tickets based on product or customer type will help your agents be more efficient because they can focus on similar problems and have to switch context less often.
There are multiple solutions that can help you do this. We use Miuros Assist to re-route tickets at Wistia, but here is a guide to implementing some automation yourself.
Be human and say, “Thanks!”
“Customers will pay our higher prices, and then they will thank us, and we will say to them, ‘You are welcome.’”
60% of businesses have lost a customer because they feel the business is indifferent to them. It may seem like such a small thing, but saying, “Thank you” goes a long way. Thanking customers for their purchases, time, and efforts develop and cement relationships and improve customer loyalty.
“You are welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with?” — it’s an industry standard for a reason!
Your customers will always need you
We are living in an increasingly competitive world, where people are understanding the importance of — and investing in — customer service and customer experience quickly. Anything you can do to make the customer experience as frictionless as possible is a positive; so be proactive and anticipate your customer’s needs.
However, your customers will always need you, so when they do, bring the personalization that makes them feel that human connection! The role of customer service is of vital strategic importance for your company’s success — and don’t you forget it!
“The era of personal customer service is back. You are back!”
About the Authors
Stacy Justino is the Director of Customer Happiness at Wistia.
She has a passion for building out support as a career both within the orgs she leads and in the greater tech community. She is always game to talk about all things support, but especially support quality and support tools & technology.
She thoroughly enjoys eating good food and singing and has traveled across the globe doing both.
Harry Maxwell is a B2B Growth Marketer at Zoov, based in Paris, France, where he’s shaping smarter cities.
Prior to Zoov, Harry spent almost two years at Miuros in business development and as a content marketing project manager.
Michelle Hancock is the Senior Manager of AMER Support at Hubspot.
Michelle coaches and leads leaders to create diverse and high-performing support teams.
Michelle likes classic rock, cycling to gospel music, and traveling with their husband. They love being by the beach and being bossed about by their Yorkie, Gatsby.
Sara Skiff is a Donor Support Manager at ActBlue, an online fundraising platform for Democratic campaigns, committees, and progressive organizations.
She enjoys sharing knowledge, coaching, and advocating for her team and the donors they support.
When not working, she spends time with her husband and two children, getting used to Massachusetts suburban life after many years of living in NYC.