How to deliver customer service action which exceeds the adverts, and generates positive publicity

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Paul Hourihane is the founder of ReMark Asia Pacific. At ReMark APAC, they bring the best solutions they can find and have trust in from other parts of the world into Asia and point them in the direction of businesses that need them the most. One of the first brands they brought to market several months ago was a business out of Ireland called the CX Academy, which is an enablement and training product to help businesses up their act in terms of customer experience excellence and drive better outcomes for the interactions they have with their customers on a day-to-day basis.

Very often, there is confusion between customer service and customer experience, so Paul differentiates customer service as what you do, how you do it, how quickly you do it, how effective it is, and all that stuff that is measured quantitatively, while customer experience, on the other hand, is all about the emotional outtake after an interaction with a brand or company. Airlines are a great example. People don’t tend to talk about how the check-in was a disaster, how the air hostess wasn’t very nice, the flight got delayed, etc. They tend to talk about the entire experience, if it was awful, if it was wonderful, if it met a person’s expectations. It’s all about people’s expectations and then meeting those expectations which results in an emotional outcome. The most positive results about the effectiveness of a customer experience and how it integrates with PR is what can be called a remarkable experience that people will talk about, and one of the key objectives of PR is to get people to talk about you. 

ReMark’s service offering

ReMark helps companies evaluate where they’re at and how they can improve, and it’s done through actions, not ads. The overpromising done by marketing folks is a hard act for the actual business to deliver and meet those expectations, so ReMark gets them to align that. They also try to determine what emotional outcomes the business is trying to drive and having to deal with on a daily basis. Some of them are more quantitative. Some are qualitative.

Paul enumerates six outcomes that any business is going to drive to. Trust is the first and most important. It’s the hardest to earn and easiest to lose. Second is what they call drivers of excellence. The word that everybody wants to hear most often in the world is their own name, so it’s important to get a person’s name right and to get to know their business situation, purchase situation, or emotional situation. Making it easy to transact or complete the business within the desired timeframe is another outcome. Empathy is next, and it’s about understanding the situation and what it’s like to be doing business with someone if they’re stressed, in a hurry, or disappointed. For instance, casinos have got a very interesting empathy play. With gambling, people are happy, sad, excited, and stressed. The next outcome is a really important driver which is called “You fix things.” If someone bothers to complain and say there’s an issue with the business, it means they care. If you fix it heroically, you’ll get rewarded with an enormous amount of positive energy, emotional outcome, and remarks from other people. 

For CX Academy, what ReMark did was they educated the staff at scale, and that was key. CX Academy offers certificate and diploma courses that are endorsed by trade associations in a university. The whole point is to give businesses a management measurement framework of the outcomes that they’re driving to as a business, and then give them an ability to enable their people– senior, middle and front end– to execute and drive those outcomes.

COVID has made actually things interesting for ReMark. Some frontline staff have become lions when they were once lambs. Talking to brands about investing in their frontline staff became a very different conversation than it might have been a year or two ago. Business owners are now appreciative and telling their staff how wonderful and good they are when they’re in difficult situations, and they’re looking after them. Investment in staff has become a priority for good, well-run businesses. And so, ReMark offers six- and 14-weeklong courses to the same structure, to the same measurement delivered by experts in the field and professional educators. It’s all done online, so it’s COVID-friendly in how it’s executed, and it’s been done in a very visually rewarding way. It’s a great experience. Basically, that’s what ReMark gives to businesses and adds value to, and there are many businesses taking it up, and the timing for this given the current atmosphere is interesting to say the least, Paul shares.

How ReMark ensures long-term success at an affordable price

The investment of companies makes it sound like quite a holistic approach, and it requires almost the entire organization to go through it as opposed to only a few people within the organization. When it comes to pricing, the operative word is scale. There are not many products like theirs in the market. A certificate from ReMark is €500, and it equivalent to about 17 hours of learning over a six-week duration, and the diploma is about €2,800. These are not normal sums of money, and it’s a very sensitive and competitive topic. ReMark’s services are absolutely available to small to medium businesses at that kind of scale. It’s not outrageously expensive. It’s hundreds and small thousands of euros per person trained and executed, and there are even government incentives too for acquiring services like ReMark in terms of it being a skills upgrade. They have those available in Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. What Paul tells people is if they don’t think it’s worth the money, don’t go and look for the government subsidy. This is the value it’s worth, and that’s how you should really look at it.

Many programs or productivity initiatives within companies are developed but often fail to get implemented. In terms of the success rate and how they ensure the follow through once a company has completed their course, there are three levels to it. They hold continuous training programs after the formal training is finished which keeps the skill levels up. Secondly, they stitch this into an HR approach to make sure that the skill levels are maintained, meaning if other people join, they go through the same level of enablement to achieve the objective. Thirdly, there’s no point in doing this if it’s not taken seriously. It has to be incorporated into a fundamental strategy for the business. Otherwise, it just simply won’t work. 

Sometimes, they tell larger businesses that there’s no point in taking two or three people to do this and explaining the material to them. It requires a whole department or office to demonstrate it at work. Once it’s piloted with a degree of success, the retention rates go up very dramatically in terms of it as a strategy, so it depends on how serious the business is strategically about its customers and what sort of competitive edge they want to build. Though ReMark is a young business that has only been operating for close to two years, they do have statistics on that. There’s a lot of research on CX in terms of project failures and the like. There are numbers, and they’ve definitely seen more people complete than fail their course. In terms of ROI, clients will eventually notice reduced staff turnover or attrition. In other words, it increases staff retention. It decreases the cost to serve as people become more self-enabled and happier to deal with you. It can increase margin with people paying a little bit more money for easier access for the things they want. These key measures are all boardroom-level measures of what’s important to small, medium, and large businesses.

ReMark’s services work well for businesses that have a few people serving many people, or a lot of people serving very many people. That’s when it comes into a zone and things can be done at a scale that’s appropriate to the business. It’s meant for any business that has to serve a number of clients or customers at a fair count in commoditized areas, whether it’s airlines, restaurants, hotels, etc. Financial services, companies, telcos, utilities, transport, government, where service and the outcomes of making people happy and satisfying their needs are important, that’s the sweet spot for ReMark, and it comes down to smaller chains and restaurants. They’ve got customers who run hotels with 100-200 people. This is where they can really use this to make the personalization of their business world-class, so it typically goes down to that size of a business, from really big business to people dealing with a lot of people effectively.

Within the CX program, Paul’s team found the entire thing to be particularly effective for them, and he emphasized the importance of a good reputation. He believes it’s the strongest marketing tool in almost any business. Particularly for his business which is quite young, they’ve been utilizing social media and LinkedIn heavily, and that has helped get their profile up and get them into conversations they may not have been in a lot faster than perhaps some of the more traditional methods of marketing. So, word of mouth and well-run business business social has worked really quite well so far for them. They’ve also done a lot of webinars, which allows them to get together with partners and get into each other’s audiences. If you want to find out more about ReMark APAC, you can head on over to their website. The key takeaway is the importance of having great customer experiences, because as we know through Amplification, which is the A in our SPEAK|pr program, a happy customer will share and amplify the appreciation of our brand, and this is the best form of PR that’s available to us all. 

 

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Photos from ReMark APAC

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