The Sorry Family Expands

Hey ho! Sorry as a Service has a new family member! We were looking for a Gifting Manager and Maris proved to be the perfect match (and we didn’t even need to use Tinder! Seriously, unbelievable companies are actually doing it). Through our rigorous hiring procedure (involving multiple coffees and Napoleon cakes at our local Fabrik cafe) Maris proved she had what it takes to join us upwards and onwards!

Maris had barely set her feet back on Estonian soil after basking in the Spanish sun for 3 years when we first met for our inaugural Napoleon cake. After realising that a career at PwC brought more work than fun, she set off for Ibiza! Where else to go after spending months poring over financial audit accounts, than to work at a beach club! Her clients were definitely better tanned than the ones encountered discussing PowerPoints and spreadsheets. After Ibiza, Barcelona lured her with the diverse challenges of ensuring Nordic tourists went to the best attractions, and that a local start-up had their marketing strategy in order.

Maris’ tan and personality already shone up in the office. We are delighted that she is joining us as our new Gifting Manager, responsible for finding the best gifts and delights, and ensuring our thousands of monthly gifts arrive where they should. Unfortunately the Sorry as a Service office in Tallinn cannot compete with the sunny seaside views she has become accustomed to, but we are hoping our shining personalities will help her keep the sun ever close.

*(For the record, neither Maris nor Sorry as a Service are registered Tinder users.)

What is NPS and How to Improve NPS

What is Net Promoter Score (NPS) all about? Why is NPS important for your company, and how can you improve your NPS? The loyalty of your customer can be measured in this metric through one specific question: “How likely is it that you would recommend us to a colleague or friend?” The question is answered by the customer on a scale from 0 to 10. Depending on the score, the input of the customer is translated into one of three categories. A score of 9 to 10 means that your customer is a promoter. Promoters are viewed as loyal customers who will provide you with repeat business and talk about your company in a positive manner. In NPS terms, promoters are the ones who fuel your company with increased revenue and increased growth. As long as they are happy, they will promote your company free of charge. Scoring 7 to 8 means that your customer is a passive. Passives are viewed as content and satisfied customers, but will most likely not go out of their way to promote your company. The passives, in NPS theory, are prone to convert if your competitors provide a better offer. A score of 0 to 6 means your customer is a detractor. Detractors are most often unhappy customers who will not recommend your company, and probably talk about your company in a negative manner. The detractors are dangerous and harmful for your company if left unattended.

Think of NPS as a temperature gauge for your company, similarly to when you check your own temperature when you’re sick. The temperature shows you that something is wrong, but it does not specify the exact issue. When you get sick and the temperature shows that you’re having a fever, you go to the hospital. The doctor does not conduct every single test available to them in the hospital, as it would only provide them with massive amounts of data that would confuse them, the tests are expensive, and sometimes different tests will give you different diagnosis. When you go to the doctor, they systematically gather data from where the issue most likely exists. After identifying the issue, they prescribe you the correct medicine and you’re temperature goes down. They don’t spend resources unnecessarily. The same idea applies to your company’s NPS. The equation for the NPS value is very straightforward: % Promoters - % Detractors = Net Promoter Score

Now that you know the theory, how do you increase your NPS? Firstly, focus on your detractors. They contain the highest improvement potential, and they are the most urgent group to address as they actively harm your revenues, profits and growth. Actively seek feedback and identify exactly why they are not satisfied customers. Once you identify your weak points, address them immediately with the intention of permanently fixing them, and avoid temporary fixes. A detractor usually has had a bad experience dealing with your company. Perhaps your product needs to improve in quality, you ship your items late, they experience payment issues or they had a bad conversation with one of your customer service agents. Identify where you have to improve, and take the necessary steps to provide a better service to your customer. They don’t dislike you without reason.

Secondly, focus on your passives. Passives are your “meh” customers who didn’t have a bad experience, but they didn’t really have a good experience either. They got what they wanted, but it wasn’t anything special. Passives are prone to do their business at your competitor given a better offer. But if you manage to gather relevant feedback from this group, the steps you need to take to convert them into loyal promoters are very few. Identify which of your departments have the greatest improvement potential and focus on one department at a time, starting with where your feedback is pointing. Continuously gather feedback to track your NPS score. Focus on providing the best possible experience for your customer.

In order to gauge the temperature of your company, feedback is essential. Treating any illness without a proper diagnosis is expensive and time-consuming. Treat your customer feedback as gold and keep it organized. Continuously track your NPS and deal with any issues you uncover. Customer retention comes through providing excellent customer service and quality products. When issues arise, or you find yourself in a situation where you need to apologise, deal with it immediately and properly.

Customer Service Through Social Media — School Your Shareholders

The customer service industry has evolved immensely over the decades. The development has taken a turn from the personal exchange in stores, to the less personal phone call, the dry emails and now, automated responses found on many websites. One would think technology makes people increasingly connected, but we seem to be moving towards disconnected relationships between companies and their customers. The reason is usually the same for most companies, money. Why should they dig into their profits on something with a perceived low ROI? You cannot really blame them. The number one focus for most companies is quarterly statements and appeasing their shareholders. The thing is, this mindset will increase the distance between companies and customers. Companies always overrate their customer service departments, when in reality most customers are rarely impressed when communicating with them. Luckily, technology is seeking to bring us closer together through social media, and through social media companies have new opportunities to establish closer relationships with their customers.

A quick search on Google on how to use social media for you company will show you hundreds of guides, tips, and “top 10 Marketing Strategies on Social Media” etc. However, most fail to highlight the core value social media provides, feedback. Social media provides you with raw, unfiltered feedback directly from the fingertips of your customers. Even when it’s written with the middle finger, feedback is gold in the bank for any company, but your gold fades away if you fail to use it. When you see the same issues coming back to haunt you again and again, you need to act. Elon Musk is the prime example on how social media feedback should be handled:

Within a week he turned this specific feedback into reality. He put in place idle-fees so people wouldn’t park in the charging area. Not only did he resolve the issue, but the whole world saw that he cares for his customers. One tweet resulted in massive free marketing and exposure. Just imagine how valued Loic Le Meur felt!

Each question, issue or comment directed towards you will be for all to see. Your whole company is represented through social media, and everything is judged fiercely, especially by anyone looking for a reason to badmouth you. The public sphere of social media makes it the perfect platform to provide top-notch customer service. One well handled issue could translate into much more than a satisfied customer. Exceeding your customer’s expectations takes very little effort and provides you with valuable word-of-mouth marketing, and in turn, increased profits and growth.

Coming back to satisfying your shareholders, showing growth on your quarterlies, and ROI on everything you do; having a well trained and accessible customer service department, will provide you with increased revenues, increased growth, increase customer retention, improve your NPS, and a higher degree of brand awareness.

3 Ways to Increase Customer Retention

Acquiring new clients should be one of the top priorities of any business, and for obvious reasons. But one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your revenue is not to constantly give your new leads 100% of your time and effort, but to refocus on your existing customers. When a new customer makes that first purchase, it should be viewed as only the beginning. The customer has showed willingness to spend money on your product, and if handled correctly, that willingness will not disappear. Selling again to the same customer will require much less time, effort and marketing on your part, because the customer has already found you and proved that they are a relevant lead. Their first conversion opens the door for many more in the future. Here are 3 ways to increase your customer retention.

Firstly, increase your retention budget. There is more profit in keeping an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Also, most of your future revenue will come from your already loyal customers. Think of your current list of customers. 20% of those customers will be responsible for 80% of your future revenue. In order to increase repeat business, you need to invest time and money into your customers.

Secondly, acquire and familiarize yourself with a CRM platform. You need to be organized in order to keep track of your customers. Customer relationship management is more of a philosophy than a solution to a problem. It will help you gain the required insight into your customer’s needs and wants which is gold in the business world. Selling to a customer when you already know exactly all their needs and want`s are, is like taking an exam where you know all the questions in advance.

Thirdly, provide excellent customer service. Two thirds of customers who leave a company do so because they don’t feel valued by the company. If your customers think they mean nothing to you, they will leave. When issues arise, be easy to contact, be helpful and show empathy for whatever problem they have. When you mess something up, apologise and make it right. Resolve any conflicts immediately and repair broken relationships. We previously wrote a guide on how to apologise. Providing the best customer service isn’t only about apologising, but it’s also about thanking your customer, showing them that you value their business, or just congratulating them on their birthday. It`s not magic, just treat them like a person, not a number.

If you follow these three steps you will see your customer retention increasing in no time at all. It requires effort on your part, but the combination of: establishing a proper budget, reserving the required time, setting up your CRM platform and providing good and solid customer service is the best way to increase customer retention.

Sorry as a Service celebrates Paris office opening!

Bonjour! Sorry as a Service arrive en France

Due to popular demand and a warm greeting from the French government’s French Tech Ticket, Sorry as a Service has finally opened our office in Paris!

We started seriously considering France last year when we were featured in RelationClientmag.fr, the leading journal for customer service and contact center managers. Test your French by reading what they wrote: Sorry as a service : l’externalisation des mots d’excuse.

We were inundated with interest from French companies. The interest was so significant that we saw no other option than to send one of our best, Oskars Gauks, to Paris to head the operation and manage our grasp on the innovative-seeking and growing French market. Oskars is assimilating to the metropolitan culture of Paris, despite the language (thank you Google Translate). He is doing a superb job of representing Sorry as a Service to clients seeking to differentiate customer experience and service.

“I am loving the challenge of improving my French, whilst I get a boost of energy with the French breakfast of strong coffee and delicious croissants! We are on a mission to introduce a whole new approach to customer service in Franche.” — Oskars.

Our new office in Numa, Paris (Credit: seedrs.com)

Our French launch was enabled by being winning the French Tech Ticket. It is a brilliant government scheme that welcomes 70 international start-ups each year with a grant, 12 months free office space at a top French incubator, and direct access to the startup-ecosystem in France. We were selected to join Numa Paris, which is well connected with French corporates and located in the Parisien 2nd arrondissement. When in Paris, why not drop by and say: “Salut!”.

Hacking Customer Service

Hacking is often viewed with a negative connotation, and to combine the idea and principle of hacking to something as emotional as customer service sounds ridiculous. And this is the very thing that makes the hacking mindset so tailored for innovation. In short, the hacking mindset attacks every point of a problem from every possible angle to find the chink in the armor, essentially bombarding an issue with different solutions in order to see what gets through. This way of thinking is the theme of Josh Linker`s book “Hacking Innovation”.

Josh Linkner has founded, and been the CEO of four tech companies that has sold for the combined value of over $200 million. He is also the author of two New York Times bestsellers “Disciplined Dreaming” and “The Road to Reinvention”. He has been given the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award twice, and is a President Barack Obama Champion of Change award recipient.

Sorry as a Service was mentioned as one of the innovative companies in “Hacking Innovation” because of our attitude towards providing the best customer service, and because of the problem solving solutions we provide to our clients. We turn the customer complaint mentality from a rational-on-emotional mentality to a emotional-on-emotional mentality. The idea sounds very simple and straightforward, but the impact it has on people is immensely strong. A big partner of ours in the UK received a handwritten letter from one of their customers in Germany, explaining her excitement for the chocolate she received because of a long transaction period. She also explained that because of the gift she received, her husband now thinks she has a secret lover in the UK. This one example highlights the state of the customer service industry, and how cheap it is to completely exceed your customer’s expectations.

By attacking the strictly formalised,apathetic and rational approach of customer service, we created a completely new working model of how to deal with customers, and this has opened up too many doors to count for us. Our hacking mentality has served both us and our clients for the better, and we highly recommend Josh Linkner`s book: “Hacking Innovation”.

The Utility of an Apology — Apologies as Signals: with Evidence from a Trust Game

The academic research field of “I’m so sorry, I really messed up.” is one which is vastly unexplored. The social effects of an apology has barely been touched upon by researchers, but one of the pioneers in the field, Ben Ho, has delved deep into the fascinating effect an apology can have in both social- and business interactions. Through strict experimentation and tying together academic research from the most respected universities in the world, Ben Ho brings to life an entirely new field of study. The utility of his research is not limited to our everyday interaction with friends and co-workers, but flows into our business interactions with potential lucrative results. In the modern digital world we have isolated ourselves from the personal experience of face-to-face business-interaction, preferring online shopping over a visit to the local market, and whenever we get exposed to the rare social and personal touch, we find ourselves surprised and personally engaged. This is all well and interesting, but the million dollar question is: How can we benefit from it?

Ben Ho summarizes very well the effects and consequences of apologizing on interpersonal relationships in his study “Apologies as Signals”. By tying together credible academic research articles he paints a useful landscape on how the apology affects how we interact with each other, even in a customer/supplier relationship. Ben Ho emphasizes that empathy is the strongest factor in delivering an apology, which is true across most cultures. He found that an apology will reduce the chance of the person being wronged to punish the wrongdoer, and that an apology will, in almost all cases, be accepted. They keyword in his work is “empathy” as a generic apology would have a lesser effect than an apology which is considered personal, as he claimed that forgiveness occurs much more often in closer relationships.

The apology could be viewed as medicine administered in order to heal broken trust, but as with most medicines, it has reduced effect the more it is administered, as the recipient develops an immunity which increases the more the apology is administered. This is something many of us have experienced as friends or co-workers arrive late to planned meetings or activities. The more often they are late, the apology weakens in value. Imagine if you have planned session of golf with your friend, and your friend arrives 30 minutes late. Your friend will apologise and perhaps blame traffic or any other excuse as to why they are late, and you might accept this and forgive them. But if the same thing happens next time, or even the third time you schedule a session of golf, you might feel very inclined to terminate you weekly golf sessions with your friend, even if they apologise profusely for each late arrival. This means that the apology is not a miracle tool that will fix any broken system, but merely a tool for repairing broken trust.

The utility of apologising in a business environment is very similar to its use in our own everyday life. Time and time again, businesses lose clients and customers because they fail to take responsibility and deliver a genuine apology. A call-center agent may make an absolute fool of themselves (and the company), and then claiming that they are not at fault for any wrongdoing of the client, forgetting that they are representing the company they work for. The client will of course be furious and most likely go out of their way to tell people about their bad experience as a punishment. If the the agent had the training and tools available to apologise, the situation would develop very differently. If theory and execution overlaps, the sincere apology of the agent would have a positive effect on the client, as they are likely to forgive the company for their wrongdoing, and not wish to punish them.

More information about Ben Ho and his work can be found here: http://irving.vassar.edu/faculty/bh/bh.htm.

Kristoffer Østrem - Sorry as a Service

3 Steps You Need to Know When Apologising

Calling customer support always has the potential to irritate a client. A slip of the tongue, failure to resolve the issue or even the absence or an apology will quickly turn your customer into an unhappy one. Sorry as a Service works with close to a hundred different companies who all have different approaches to handling unsatisfied customers. Based on this experience, we’ve identified 3 essential steps for turning unhappy customers into happy customers, who won’t hesitate to boast about their excellent customer service experience to their friends.

Firstly, take responsibility and admit that you’re at fault. Of course you need to use your common sense, especially in a B2B situation where your customer might be trying to run you over with a bad idea, but in general, when dealing with your customers, take responsibility and put all the burden upon yourself. Research shows that people needs to feel that fairness is being maintained. Even if your customer is the definition of “user-error”, they’ll feel more fairly treated if you take full responsibility.

Secondly, be sincere! People can tell if they’re receiving a generic “sorry” from a customer service agent, and it only makes things worse . Have a genuine personal connection with your customer, be it over the phone or through their mailbox. Your sincerity, demonstrated through an empathetic response, builds a personal connection with the customer . Tell your customer not only that you are sorry, but WHY you are sorry. “I’m sorry we didn’t show up at the scheduled time. I would hate it if a company did that to me when I’d taken time off work to wait for my plumber. This is just unacceptable - I am truly sorry!” This works because the customer wants you to feel their frustration, and if they feel you reach this point of understanding, forgiveness is right around the corner!

Thirdly, make sure you don’t have to apologise for the same issue twice. There is no point in apologising for recurring issues, as this only makes things worse for your customer relationship. Demonstrate your seriousness as a company by fixing your issues instead of constantly pushing them into the future, shoving away potential loyal customers in the process. You can be the best apologiser in the world, but if you have to apologise all the time, you simply won’t be taken seriously.

At Sorry as a Service we obviously spend a lot of time thinking about how to apologise well. And some of our most valuable experiences come from when we’re the ones messing up (it’s only human to fail…). We once managed to bill a client prematurely: cue a long chain of angry emails. Lucky for us we’re experts in the field so after claiming responsibility, connecting with the client CEO on a personal level, showing our empathy and sending them flowers, chocolates and handwritten cards, we managed to secure them as one of our most loyal clients!

We humans have a natural tendency to only care about those we form some sort of personal connection with, and without it your customer won’t care what happens to you or your company. Turn the negative experience of an unsatisfied customer into an opportunity to engage them with your business through a personal, sincere and tailored apology. Not only will it help you retain customers and reduce churn, but those customers who fell in love with your company will tell their friends!

Creative Position Open — Gifting Manager Wanted!

Sorry as a Service is one-of-a-kind platform that allows companies to up their customer experience game and send personalized delights to their customers right through the good ol’ post. All of this at a touch of a button with the help of our technology. In turn, they can minimize any damage from a faux-pas, and express their human side by making their customers happy. Everybody wins!

To achieve this ambitious mission we are after, we need someone to help with our development team. And guess what? You’ll be supported by an experienced and rapidly growing team throughout your mission!

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn fast and grow faster in an exciting startup with an already impressive presence in Europe. Not to brag or anything (but really, we’re bragging), Sorry as a Service took part in one of the best accelerators in the world - Techstars London 2015. We’ve built up a team that’s excited to share their knowledge and always open to learning from you too.

Duties:

  • Prepare creative proposals that meets clients needs and budget
  • Constantly scout for new gift-producers to expand our catalog
  • Negotiate pricing and terms that makes happy everyone
  • Onboard suppliers on using our system
  • Put in place quality assurance processes to ensure all our delightful gifts are received to satisfy high expectations from our customers
  • Post and advertise the newest gift offerings through social media and newsletters
  • Engage with our customers followers in social media, and run creative campaigns online
  • We are a startup - so be prepared to pick up some duties outside these lines.

You can best describe yourself as:

  • Detail oriented, you can notice the smallest details
  • Good eye for design, and you love spending time on Pinterest
  • Excellent English in writing, some copywriting skills
  • Good communication and negotiation skills
  • Social media skills
  • Basic Adobe Photoshop / Illustrator skills would be useful

Please, send your resume to Sabine Pole, sabine@sorryasaservice.com!

Forbes "30 Under 30" — Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Hitting Word

The founders of the Estonian startup Sorry as a Service, Martin McGloin and Sabine Pole, have been recognized by the magazine Forbes. The “30 under 30” award is given annually to young entrepreneurs and individuals that are transforming whole industries with their groundbreaking ideas and innovative solutions. Previous winners have included well known names such as John & Patrick Collison, Maria Sharapova, and Adele. The award was announced on Monday evening (16/01) at an exclusive gathering in Camden, North London, where the nominees and winners of the award were mingling and celebrating until early morning. “I am very pleased with this acknowledgement! We will continue with this entrepreneurial idea that has brought us great success in Europe and expand into new and exciting markets!” - Martin McGloin .

Martin and Sabine were part of a founding team that met in the hackathon Garage 48 in Pärnu 2014, a competition they won. Since then, the company has expanded rapidly with offices in Tallinn, London, Riga, Paris, and clients across the world. They are already working with well known brands like Viasat, Credit24, BT (British Telecom), Autoglass (Carglass in Estonia), and Tele2. “Being listed as Forbes 30 under 30 talents is truly an honor, I am so excited to be part of this extraordinary list! This recognition is great boost to expand our new approach to customer service across Europe and beyond.” - Sabine Pole.

During this time the company has created a new approach for how business should approach customer services, with their service helping companies apologize to dissatisfied customers. Sorry as a Service has a global network of passionate product makers that create and send personalised gifts, for example flowers, chocolates, cookies and handwritten cards. In a world of impersonal relationships between customers and companies, Sorry as a Service is helping its clients re-establish the personal touch in customer relationships.