Customer experience and customer service can make or break a small business. But what exactly are customer experience and customer service and how can you use them both to improve your business? Molly Moore from Ruby and Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert walk us through it.
Molly Moore on Customer Service vs Customer Experience
Molly is the CMO at Ruby. She runs sales, marketing, and customer onboarding. Molly shares that she started her career in sales, which has been an asset to her current role. Her sales experience has equipped her to know “what customers really need and what they value,” and it has fueled her customer-first mentality.
Molly joined the Ruby team about a year ago and was excited to join a brand that “is all about the customer experience both from the bottom up and the top down.” Ruby has been in business for 16 years and Molly says that their primary focus as a small business is “create real, human connections with our customers by answering the phones on behalf of our customers as well as online live chat.” Molly adds that what sets Ruby apart is the way they do that with a high level of personalization to help their small business customers grow and flourish.
Molly sees customer service as a one-time touch, like answering a question, and it’s not difficult to do that well. But, customer experience is more about “and ongoing personal relationship,” and she explains that’s how they do it at Ruby. She shares that at Ruby they invest a lot into making sure their receptionists are prepared to deliver an exceptional customer experience at every touchpoint, including:
- Training on tone and how the phone is answered
- Having a service pyramid they live and breathe by
- Instilling cultural values and making sure the entire team is aware of them
But, Molly says that one of the things that sets Ruby apart when it comes to amazing customer experience is their “Wow Program.” They empower their employees to wow customers each and every time they interact with them by providing little moments of joy. This can include things like handwritten notes and gifting. Molly says they even go so far as to give all of their employees access to the Ruby Amazon account so if a customer mentions something about their favorite team being in the Super Bowl, the employee can go online and send them some team gear.
Molly says, “it’s really about doing something unexpected.” Other small businesses looking to provide a better customer experience don’t have to go to the lengths Ruby has. But Molly says, “you can absolutely give somebody an unexpected moment of joy.”
A Lesson in Customer Experience
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert with 30 years of experience in the industry. Shep shares that he had his first lesson in customer service when he was just a young man. At the tender age of 12, he was running his own birthday party magic show business. After one of his shows, his mom encouraged him to write a thank you note to the parents who hired him to perform at their child’s party. His dad added to that and asked Shep to follow up within a week to thank them again and ask how they liked the show. Early on, Shep’s parents were instilling in him the “tenants of great service”:
- Showing appreciation.
- Getting feedback.
- Use the feedback to improve.
Since then, Shep says that everything has been about customer service and experience. “This is what I live and love.”
Customer Service Is More Than A Department
“Customer service is something that happens when the customer experience breaks down.” In a way, Shep says he doesn’t completely like this definition of customer service because it implies that it’s merely a department that you call when you have a problem. Rather, Shep argues, “customer service, and experience for that matter, is not departmental. It’s not a strategy. It’s a philosophy that needs to be ingrained in the company.”
Shep lauds Ruby for doing an excellent job with training and focusing on moments of joy. He says that it’s those wow moments, moments of magic, and being amazing that make something better than average and “being a little better than average all the time is what makes great companies.” But Shep impresses that it’s the “all the time part that’s really important.”
Shep continues that what sets customer experience apart from customer service is that experience encompasses every touchpoint from the very beginning to, hopefully, forever. He gives the example that when we get a new Apple product or a package from Amazon, we get excited about the box because it adds to the customer experience. He also notes that customer experience can create even the slightest impact without having to be people-to-people.
Customer Experience in Small Businesses vs Big Businesses
Ramon posed the question about customer experience, “is this something small businesses can realistically do.”
Shep’s answer says it all, “if they don’t, they won’t be in business for very long.” He adds that it’s not whether they can do it, “they have to do it.”
Shep gives the example of Ace Hardware. Although they are a nationwide and well-known brand, each store is individually owned by an entrepreneur. They are up against the big-box hardware stores, sometimes located right next door, with 5 times the square footage, that outspends them 30 to 1 in advertising dollars. But Shep says it’s a David and Goliath story, and if you’ve read the Bible, you know who wins (hint: it’s David). They do this by delivering an incredible customer experience and by doing local really, really well. Shep says that smaller businesses have an incredible opportunity to leverage customer experience to compete, win, play, and thrive alongside big businesses.
Missed Connection, Missed Opportunity
At Ruby, it starts with simply answering the phone. Molly says that if you’re looking for an accountant, you’re probably going to go with the first person you call who answers the phone and answers it professionally. At Ruby, they firmly believe that “missed connections are missed opportunities.”
She adds that if you don’t answer the phone in a professional manner, “there’s no customer to be had, let alone, ensuring that from a loyalty perspective, you have an ongoing great relationship.” She says that by not providing that human connection, not only are you losing out on that customer, you’re also losing the lifetime value of that customer and the potential revenue from referrals as well.
Shep chimes in with how Ruby really nails this for small businesses. Just by simply being there to answer the phones any time day or night, Ruby gives a business the opportunity to exceed their customers’ expectations. That’s customer experience.
About a year ago, Ruby acquired a live chat company and has integrated that into the service that they provide. Ruby is about personalization, but Molly says they love to use technology to enhance the human element that they’ve built their business on.
“Our value prop is we’ve got a live person behind that screen that is answering questions and getting people routed if we can't answer the question.”
Molly shares that while live chat definitely adds to the customer experience, it also adds to a business’s bottom line. She says that their customers see a 40% increase in leads when they have the live chat function on their website.
People want information fast. The faster and more personal we can get it to them, the better. Shep says that the bigger businesses are using technology too, but they’re pushing the human element out of the conversation. This is where small businesses can really set themselves apart, by using a live chat service like Ruby that is committed to maintaining that human connection.
Tips and Tricks
Nail that first impression. It’s the most critical component to give you the opportunity to win that person as a customer in the first place. Molly says that regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s the little touches, going the extra mile, doing that “extra” thing.
- Hire good people.
- Spend the money to train your people.
- Be consistent.
- Find out what your customers want.
- Look at your favorite businesses and take what they’re doing that you love and apply it to your own business.
Getting setup with Ruby is super easy. However, they do need to get some information for you in order to take calls on behalf of your business. Molly says the onboarding process is pretty short and painless. They want to know as much about your business as possible. This helps them to "answer on your behalf and sound like we’re sitting in your office.” Some of the things they’ll ask include:
- What is the best description of your business?
- Frequently asked questions.
- General information like business hours and location.
- What types of services do you provide?
- Who is in your company?
- Who do we send phone calls to?
Customization is Key
Ruby is much more than a basic answering service, they are virtual receptionists. They even have an app where you can go in and customize your availability and say when you want Ruby to put calls through to you. Molly says that one of the greatest things about this is “it allows the business owner to prioritize their day.” Ruby is there to give business owners their time back.
Ruby provides virtual reception services to all kinds of businesses and they understand and tailor their service accordingly. Many of their clients are criminal defense attorneys and when people are calling, they are more than likely in a very serious situation. Molly says that while their goal might not be to leave that customer with a smile on their face, they want them to “feel heard, taken care of, and some sense of relief.”
Molly says that another client they have is located in the southern part of the country and they want the phones answered with a “Hello, y’all,” and they are able to do that and customize their service for each customer.
Another way Ruby customizes the customer experience using technology is with a weather app inside their program. When a customer calls in and says, “Can you believe this weather?” Ruby receptionists can see where that customer is calling from, what is going on with the weather, and be able to talk to that.
Ruby Takes Small Businesses to Heart
Even though Ruby now has over 10,000 clients, they started out as a small business and have only ever served small businesses. Molly says “our people understand the value that we provide to our customers…that we are really helping them.”
Molly says that they don't have any remote employees because they believe in a team mentality - critical to being able to provide quality of service. Ruby has 3 call centers, one in Kansas City and 2 in the Portland area. Everyone at Ruby is a full-time employee and they have full benefits. Molly says that Ruby is all about investing in their employees, investing in training, and ensuring that those things together will help them deliver great quality of service. “Invest to grow rather than contract to get a better bottom line.”
Make It Easy
Shep advises business owners to look at their processes and their touchpoints and see how they can make things easier and more convenient to improve the customer experience. Ruby offers a solution to the phone call and live chat touchpoint in making businesses more accessible, and more convenient, to their customers.
Molly adds to this point by throwing down some numbers. She says that 65% of prospects want to engage with a brand via the phone and 29% of answered calls lead to a purchase. People are missing that human element.
Want an easy way to improve your business’s customer service and customer experience? Answer the phone! Better yet, let Ruby do it for you. You can find out more about the services they offer at Ruby.com.
You can also see more of what Shep has to say about customer service and customer experience at Hyken.com.