Jeff Toister is an internationally recognized Customer Experience Professional, who is in the Top 50 Thought Leaders to Follow on Twitter according to the International Customer Management Institute. Jeff’s aim is to help companies fill and unlock potential in their service. He has also written a number of books and created a number of training videos for LinkedIn Learning.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
I’m an author, consultant, and trainer who helps customer service teams unlock their hidden potential. After holding a series of corporate jobs that involved both customer service and customer service training, I launched my own consulting business in 2005 to pursue my passion. I’ve always been fascinated by how to get employees to perform their best, and there are many obstacles that make customer service difficult, such as not having the right tools or resources. So I spend my time writing about those challenges and what successful customer service professionals have done to overcome them.
What’s the importance of Customer Experience for companies?
Let’s start by defining customer experience, or CX. Some companies have used CX as a new buzzword that really means customer service, but it should be more than that. CX includes all of the interactions a customer has with your organization, from pre-purchase to purchasing a product or service, to using your product or service and getting support if needed.
A positive and consistent CX can bring many benefits. It allows companies to operate more efficiently, retain more customers, grow average order values, and create a stronger brand reputation.
What’s the most significant change in terms of customer behaviors you’ve observed lately?
Customers are increasingly distracted, which can make them harder to serve. People are glued to their phones while waiting in line at a coffee shop or fast food restaurant, which means they aren’t fully present when it’s their turn to order. Customers contacting a contact center via phone, email, or chat are trying to do other tasks at the same time, which ends up making it more difficult to understand their needs. Customers often make mistakes or have unreasonable expectations when trying to use a product or service because they aren’t paying attention, and then blame the company for their struggles.
All this creates a challenge for companies trying to provide a positive experience. You have to find a way to gently guide customers to a positive result.
Can you tell us more about your “Customer Service Tips of the Week”? How do you find inspiration for this series?
I had delivered customer service training for a client, and the results were very positive. During a follow-up meeting with my client, she mentioned that she was looking for a way to consistently reinforce the concepts covered in training. It was a really smart question because we naturally forget things over time if we don’t reinforce our knowledge and skills. My client and I did a little brainstorming and came up with a reminder email that would refresh the team on one specific tip one time per week.
The emails were so well-received that I opened the weekly emails to anyone who wanted to subscribe. (You can subscribe here)
After your previous books, do you have any projects to release a new one in 2019?
Yes! I’m releasing the second edition of my first book, Service Failure, in April 2019. This book will be called Getting Service Right because I wanted to give it a more positive title. The book reveals hidden and counterintuitive obstacles to make it hard for employees to deliver outstanding customer service, and provides practical solutions from leading companies, successful customer service professionals, and my own work as a customer service training and consultant. The new edition will also feature new research and updated examples that weren’t in the first book.
Can you tell us about the best Customer Experience you’ve ever had? And the worst one?
That’s a difficult question to answer, because I’ve had a lot of both good and bad experiences. Companies like REI, In-N-Out Burger, and Alaska Airlines consistently deliver outstanding experiences because they have a great product, offer good value, and have friendly and helpful employees who are always willing to make a personal connection.
My worst customer experiences tend to start with small problems that balloon out of control. For example, I once had to contact a cable company 23 times just to install service. It was frustrating to waste so much time on something so simple, and I know the employees were frustrated as well because they weren’t empowered to just fix the issue.
According to you, what will be the key Customer Service trends for the next 12 months?
You can spend a lot of time trying to do the next big thing, without doing the current thing particularly well. When I advise my clients, I often tell them to stop worrying about trends and focus instead on execution. Try to get things right the first time, every time. Invest time and money in identifying and fixing problems so customers don’t need service. Make it as easy as possible for customers to get what they need. These basics will never go out of style, though this is where many companies struggle.
What would be your top advice to deliver a remarkable Customer Experience?
Try asking a random sample of employees to describe what it means to give your customers a remarkable experience. Chances are, you’ll get a lot of great answers but they’ll all be different. You can’t create a consistent experience if you don’t have internal agreement on what a good experience looks like!
Start by creating a customer experience vision for your company. This is a shared definition of an outstanding experience that gets everyone on the same page.