At the end of the day, customers want to interact with someone who has institutional knowledge but also someone who makes them feel comfortable and instills trust.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leroy Farrell.
Leroy is Vice President and General Manager of the Engineering Services & Solutions Sub-Group of Canon U.S.A.’s Business Information Communications Group. He is responsible for overseeing strategic direction and ensuring that the group continues to increase customer support value, meets future service transitions, supports revenue and market share growth and aligns its mission and objectives with Canon Americas. Mr. Farrell led the establishment of the Customer Solutions Center in 2017 and continues to ensure industry-leading customer experience with all BICG Canon device and software solutions. The award-winning Customer Solutions Center fosters collaboration with technical support, engineering, and development teams working together within one location to employ cutting-edge technologies that deliver outstanding service and support.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started with Canon as a Systems Analyst working in product development, technical training and support. I have now been working at Canon for 31+ years and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to experience many different areas within Canon, especially in the area of customer support. Currently, I am responsible for overseeing the Engineering Services and Solutions Division. Customer service is one of the most pivotal components of the business and I have always had an interest in service and building positive relationships.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I do have a funny story about an awkward situation I found myself in early in my career. I was so excited to be asked to serve as a technical consultant for a television commercial being shot in Hollywood. While ‘on set‘, we were having some technical difficulties with the printer aspect of the commercial. As frustrations began to mount, I suggested that the easiest solution was to just push the print button manually. In order to resolve the issue, I found myself hiding in a box behind the counter! The next time the director called ‘action’ I was able to push print and the commercial was ‘a wrap’. So much for the glamour of Hollywood!
That experience taught me to think outside “the box” and that it takes a team to resolve issues and work together toward a common goal. It also taught me to laugh along the way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am thankful to have worked with and alongside many talented, dedicated teammates and business partners. Every day, they continue to teach me something new, either about myself or the business. There have been so many people along the way who have inspired me and taught me the value of listening and learning from the people around you.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
We at Canon are aware that our success is built upon the customers and their satisfaction with our services, so we don’t want to disappoint. For one, customers expect brands to offer a seamless, painless experience — it is no longer viewed as a luxury, therefore it is up to the brand to deliver. Essentially, all these experiences help build the company’s reputation, solidify brand loyalty and in turn uphold customer retention. We want our customers to be happy with the solutions we offer because, at the end of the day, it’s these same customers that will advocate on our behalf through word-of-mouth, helping to potentially expand our customer base.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
As companies continue to evolve, customer service can often get glazed over, especially with today’s ongoing prioritization of digital transformation. On one hand, budget constraints may not allow for these tech integrations to be a reality and therefore, companies rely solely on the agent’s expertise to guide the solution — on the other hand, companies may oversaturate their centers with tech advancements and lose sight of the human experience that can take a customer experience from transactional to interactive. What some companies fail to realize is that customer service is a blend of both soft and hard skills. Despite organizational changes, companies need to remain culturally invested in offering a five-star experience, so that these values trickle down to every dedicated service agent.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Yes, absolutely. Competition helps to elevate the industry standard as a whole and, in turn, encourages companies to push boundaries in order to better meet service needs. Being at the forefront of these innovations has helped Canon remain an award-winning, industry-leading solutions center, as seen through the company’s 11 consecutive BenchmarkPortal “Center of Excellence” awards. We want to continue to be an example for the industry and will drive toward this year after year, honing in on areas of improvement and looking to better what’s already working. One of the main external pressures that keep us improving is that of customer demand. Identifying customer preferences allows us to better personalize service for our customers and seamlessly resolve any issues.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
With years of experience, I’ve been able to witness first-hand what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to excellent customer service. Being nimble and able to adapt to changing work climates is key, but below are specific elements a solutions center should look to prioritize:
Emerging tech can enhance the customer service experience for all parties involved. Through augmented intelligence assets such as virtual presence and predictive logic, our agents can witness what our customers are experiencing in real-time and tailor the solutions accordingly.
Canon also uses remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance solutions that can spot issues before the customer encounters an issue, so we can proactively get ahead of them to deliver device parts and necessary information before it becomes a full-fledged problem. We’ve also recently rolled out our Virtual Presence Tool which encompasses AR capabilities so that our support team can virtually assist customers via a real-time video link. Essentially, customers receive a text with a link to a video conference so they can share what they are looking at/operating on, and the agent is then able to use telestration to virtually point and signal to certain areas using their hands, in addition to drawing on the screen.
Collaborative In-House team
Offering a one-stop-shop solution center helps decrease call time and increases chances of resolving issues by tapping into the larger network’s expertise. With our collaborative team model at Canon’s Customer Solutions Center, we’re able to carry in-house support across hardware and software systems. A collaborative nature can foster an environment well-equipped to handle integrated platform support across software, devices, and workflow solutions.
Having specialized training ensures each customer will get matched up with the agent who is best suited for the job. Agents who are trained on specialized products can help support niche problems across a wide range of portfolio offerings. We’ve seen success by having dedicated agents who are well versed in specific product lines including production printers, large format printers, enterprise solutions, desktop solutions, and Image Capture devices.
At the end of the day, customers want to interact with someone who has institutional knowledge but also someone who makes them feel comfortable and instills trust. Aside from a rapid response rate, we pride ourselves in being efficient, yet effective enough to be able to take the necessary time to resolve issues within the very first call. This has contributed to our industry-leading satisfaction rate of 91.375% and an over 94% first call fix rate. To help see that everyone gets assisted — regardless of peak hours — we also have our scheduled call-back time system showing statuses and wait times, which everyone in the center has access to.
Centers should look to invest in built-in sets that resemble the equipment configurations of their products in order to allow engineers and specialists to efficiently reproduce customer’s issues within their lab. This enables agents to work directly with them to help facilitate repairs and/or create tailored customizations, further offering a white-glove experience.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
We always encourage our customers to submit their feedback through quick surveys or contact us directly to share how their experience went. It’s these insights that help shape their success stories and testimonials for others to see firsthand what an experience with us looks like — these testimonials are then packaged up and shared on our website.
We also encourage our dealer network to share these experiences with their contacts should they too need assistance, especially considering dealer feedback is highly positive.
Lastly, our accolades speak for themselves, with Canon achieving the BenchmarkPortal “Center of Excellence” Certification for the last 11 consecutive years. The recognition we receive is a testament to our team’s dedication in offering quality customer experiences and advanced, award-winning service which includes cutting-edge technology and fast response times.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Something that’s stuck with me since elementary school — We have 2 ears and 1 mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. That’s certainly helpful in the area of customer service, but I think we could all benefit from a little more listening. I think this would be a good thing in just about any situation.
How can our readers follow you on social media (if applicable)?
No personal link but you can follow and learn more about our center here.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!