In today’s competitive environment, customer service is often the differentiating factor for whether or not a customer will return to do business with you. Fortunately, I have found a simple way to always exceed your customers’ expectations. I call it RAFT (Respond And Follow Through).
RAFT is a mindset that focuses on making sure your customer always has a clear expectation when they will hear back from you.
Over the past 40 years, I have implemented RAFT in all of the service divisions I have led by implementing a process where every interaction has a “NUDGE” (Next Update Due for a Great Experience). At the end of every interaction (phone call, email, chat, etc), if any follow-up is necessary, the customer will always be given a NUDGE (date and time). Note that the NUDGE must be specific (i.e., “We will get back to you NO LATER THAN today at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time” not “We will get back to you by the end of the day”). Most importantly, we measure to make sure the team meets their NUDGEs 100 percent of the time!
RAFT + NUDGE
- RAFT (Respond And Follow Through) is a mindset that focuses on making sure your customer always has a clear expectation when they will hear back from you.
- NUDGE (Next Update Due for a Great Experience) means that, at the end of every interaction (phone call, email, chat, etc), if any follow-up is necessary, the customer will always be given a NUDGE (date and time) to expect the next communication.
NUDGE in Action
Here are a couple of real-world examples where NUDGE has improved service levels and the customer experience.
When I was at Emory Healthcare, whenever you called the Help Desk, you would either hear “All systems are operational. Please wait for the next available agent” or “It’s 1:45 p.m., we are currently experiencing networking issues and do not have an estimated time for service restoration. This message will be updated as soon as we have more information and NO LATER than 2:15 p.m.” If you called back at 2:15 p.m., you might hear “It’s 2:15 p.m., and we are still experiencing networking issues and hope to have the service restored within the hour. This message will be updated NO LATER than 2:40pm.”
The most important thing was to make sure that when customers called, the message was NEVER out of date, not even by a minute! By having this message be 100 percent accurate, our support agents could spend their time dealing with customers’ other issues instead of simply explaining the outage. This allowed us to maintain the same staffing levels even during crises.
One additional benefit of this process was a significant reduction in escalations to executives. Because both our customers and our executives trusted the accuracy of our messaging, we were able to minimize escalations and allow our teams to spend time resolving issues rather than responding to escalations.
Similarly, when I was at Gartner, we used a Follow The Sun Technical Support model. By using NUDGE (or “NCD (Next Contact Due)” as I called it back then), as tickets moved from one region’s technical support team to another, there were clear follow up expectations with the customer no matter who was dealing with the ticket. This resulted in our ability to provide continuous, 24/7 service, resulting in significantly faster time to resolution. This was especially important when we were dealing with employees who were traveling around the world as we could set NCD by local time zone.
Think About NUDGE
Here’s a hypothetical situation that virtually everyone can relate to: You’re going to have cable installed in your house, and the cable company said they will have someone there between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. the next day.
Scenario #1 (Company without RAFT mindset):
You stay at home all day waiting, and they finally show up at 3:45 p.m.
Scenario #2 (Company with RAFT mindset):
The company calls you at 7:30 a.m. to let you know that you are the sixth customer on the list, and they won’t be there until at least 2:00 p.m. They say they’ll call you with an update at 1:30 p.m. When they call at 1:30, they say they still have two more customers to go so they should be there between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. but will call at 3:15 p.m. with an update. At 3:15 p.m. they confirm they will be there at 3:45 p.m. and show up at that time as promised. The difference in this scenario is that you’d be able to spend most of their day doing other important errands rather than sitting around their house waiting for the cable guy to show up.
In all of the above scenarios, RAFTing had great benefits. When your customers trust that you haven’t forgotten about them and that you’re thinking about the impact of their situation, you build extreme customer loyalty and understanding. Although the customer might not be happy with the amount of time it took to resolve their issue (which could be out of the support team’s control), they would be very happy with the attentive care and respect they received.
RAFT + NUDGE = Customer Loyalty
The loyalty and trust gained from implementing RAFT and NUDGE allows you to manage your customers’ expectations as well as increase efficiencies by reducing interruptions. For example, in the Help Desk scenario, the Help Desk had to take two additional calls, requiring additional staff and support, rather than focusing their resources on solving their customers’ problems.
Companies with a RAFT mindset will consistently exceed their customers’ expectations and differentiate themselves by being known as an exceptional customer-first service-oriented business.