You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are! (How to Find Out)

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Many of you know my 7-step CatSight™ Process for Insight Development. The first step is to identify the category in which you are competing. I get so many questions about this step that I decided to dedicate a whole post to this important topic.

But before I start, I suggest you first read the post (“Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor, Insights its Foundation”) as background. You will also find the description of the seven steps of the CATSIGHT™ process included. In the article, I summarise the very first step of Insight development, that of category definition, like this:

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. This may seem obvious to you, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might think.

Identify the category by zooming inFor instance, suppose you are planning on launching a new fruit-flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks. But rather than just assuming the category in which you are competing, I highly recommend that you check; you may be very surprised.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink!

The reason was that this category is seen as being for lively, energetic, fun-loving people who need a boost. Whether this comes from the caffeine of an energy drink, or from the added vitamins and minerals which was my client’s offer, it didn’t seem to matter.
If we’d only looked at other fruit-flavoured soft drinks, we would have missed a whole – and much larger – segment of category consumers. By starting our analysis by looking at all beverages and then slowly zooming in as we learnt more, we were quickly able to discover this perhaps surprising positioning for the new drink.
This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment. 
The above example is a great start. But so many clients ask me to help them with their own category definitions, I decided to share the five most important steps so you can do it for yourself:

 

Step 1. What is the category definition you are currently using? 

In any process, we should always start by identifying where we are today. In the case of your category definition, it should be the one you think you are competing in at the moment. Depending upon whether you are offering a product or service, you might define it as:

All hot beverage consumers …….. or …….. users of a particular insurance service.

All consumers of coffee …….. or …….. people who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

All consumers of instant coffee powder …….. or …….. house owners in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

All consumers of instant coffee powder costing less than US$ 2.50 per 100 gms …….. or …….. owners of houses valued over US$2 million in Florida who have bought insurance for natural disasters.

As you can see from just these four examples, the bottom definitions are far more focused than the top ones. Hopefully you can appreciate why targeting such precise groups of customers is more likely to meet with greater success, than the wider, less specific first groups mentioned.

In any process, we should always start by identifying where we are today. #Process #Category #Business Click To Tweet

The Zoom tool you decide to use (in or out), will depend upon whether you are looking to grow your brand through your marketing activities or planning to develop a new product or service offer.

I call this zooming in and zooming out of the category. In general, understanding the category by zooming in is best for growth and precise targeting, whereas zooming out provides more opportunities for considering innovative new products and services.

Now take a look at your own current category definition. I bet it’s too broad for successful use isn’t it? This is the mistake that most businesses make, big and small. They want to attract the largest number of consumers or users of a category, but as is often quoted:

“If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one”

The more precise you are in defining the group of customers you are trying to attract, the more focused will be your actions and communications, and the more successful you will be. In addition, the tactics and strategies you use are more likely to resonate with your target audience.

The more precise you are in defining the group of customers you are trying to attract, the more focused your actions and communications will be. #Segment #Category #Marketing #CEX Click To Tweet

 

Step 2. How is this category changing?

Once you have identified the precise category in which you are playing, you next consider what is currently happening to it. Is it stable, growing or declining? And why?

Understanding how the category is changing and more importantly why, will help you to understand it better and will allow you to evaluate its attractiveness more precisely. For instance:

Is the category growing? If so, is it the leading brands which are increasing, or are there new brands that were recently launched, which explain the growth? Identifying which brands are growing and the reasons for this growth will enable you to take corrective action.

Is the category stable? Are category shares stable, or are some brands gaining and others losing? Again, why? What do the brands which are gaining have in common? What are the losing brands lacking? Are the changes making a difference to the category definition?

Is the category declining? Are all major brands in the category losing or are some gaining at the expense of others, but not maintaining overall category size? If so, What are the declining brands lacking? Where are customers who are leaving the category going to? Is there a new category which is better meeting their needs? If so, how? Should you be targeting this one instead?

Your answers to these questions will help you to understand whether the category in which you are currently competing is going to remain as attractive as it is today. 


Check out C3Centricity’s popular training course and speaking topics to help your team be more successful in their category definitions and target audience identification. Download the brochures.Download brochure of C3Centricity training


Step 3. How will this category change in the future?

In addition to current category trends, you also need to assess what is likely to happen in the marketplace in the coming years and how this may impact it.

Things are changing and changing fast these days. There is no more “business as usual” especially since the covid pandemic. Expecting the unexpected has become the norm, which is why I am such a big fan of scenario planning.

There is no more business as usual. Expecting the unexpected has become the norm, which is why I am such a big fan of scenario planning. #Scenarios #Business Click To Tweet

Industries are being disrupted and companies starting up and closing down at an ever-accelerating speed. According to a 2016  IMD article

“A recent study by McKinsey found that the average life-span of companies listed in Standard & Poor’s 500 was 61 years in 1958. Today, it is less than 18 years. McKinsey believes that, in 2027, 75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P 500 will have disappeared.”

Of course, these numbers are likely to have changed significantly thanks to covid-19 and most certainly not for the better in most industries!

Understanding who and what will impact your category is the first step to preparing for the changes which could come. Preparing for likely future opportunities and risks is the second step, and the reason scenario planning is so vital to ongoing busines success.

75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P 500 will have disappeared by 2027! @McKinsey #Business #Trends #Future Click To Tweet

 

Step 4. Which of the category users are you attracting?

This question surprises some people. They expect that once they have identified the category in which they are competing that they can just start trying to attract everyone in it. However as the infamous quote from John Lydgate mentions:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

You, therefore, need to identify which of the category users would be most interested in what you have to offer. One of the many tools I use with my clients to help them identify the best segment for their brand, is the attractiveness and ability to win matrix, sometimes referred to as the BCG Matrix.

You can find out more about it in the article “How to Sell Less to More People: The Essentials of Segmentation.” The post provides a detailed explanation of how to divide all category users into relevant sub-groups, which you can then plug into the BCG Matrix.

Understanding which sub-group of all the category users you are most likely to appeal to with your offer, is one further step in focusing on the very best target audience for your brand.

 

Step 5. How are your customers changing?

After identifying which category users would be / are the most attracted to your offer, you also need to consider how this sub-group is changing. Is it increasing or decreasing in size. And how and why it is changing.
 
As with the category changes mentioned above, it is important that you target a viable and hopefully expanding group of customers. This can either be a currently growing segment or one that you have serious reason to believe will grow in the future, thanks to positive trends and increasing customer sensitivities that you are following. If you find that the segment is growing or declining you may still consider developing a plan to attract customers who are switching out with a separate or new offer
There are many reasons why a segment may decline:
  • The introduction of a new category segment that is taking customers away from yours.
  • Natural decline because of customers’ ageing.
  • Behavioural changes that make the category less relevant than in the past.
Having identified how your customers are changing today, you then need to consider societal trends and their impact on your customers. That is the ultimate test to choosing the right group of category users to target.
 

Conclusion

Going through these five steps will give you the very best understanding of the category in which you are competing, as well as the customers who make up the sub-segment you decide to target.

Have you successfully mastered every suggested step? What have you forgotten?

Is there something I myself have forgotten or that you would add? If so, then please share your ideas in the comments below. Thanks

Are you struggling with your own category definition or the customers you should be targeting for your brand? Then let’s talk. Contact C3CentricityThis post is an update of the article first published on C3Centricity in 2017.

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The 7 Keys to Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Ever wonder how to get more people talking about your business? It’s simple.

Offer them incredible products and services that solve their problems and fulfil their needs and desires. Then when you have converted them into customers, continue to keep them satisfied and give them something to talk about by surprising them too.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But as you know it’s not. I realise that only too well in my own service offerings. Which is why I decided to write this article about the 7 key elements that will get people talking about us!

Every strategy comes with its own set of rules, and the same is true for word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM). Yes, this means that you can actually create a strategy to generate positive word-of-mouth for your business. In fact, this has become an essential part of marketing as people have started to lose trust in the reviews they read online – more on that later. Friends, family and trusted advisors are those they turn to for a valued opinion these days.

Ever wonder how to get more people talking about your business? It's simple. Offer them incredible products and services that solve their problems and fulfil their needs and desires. #Brand #Marketing #WOMM Click To Tweet

But first: why does Word-of-Mouth matter?

To start with, it is important to understand what cognitive dissonance is. According to Wikipedia’s definition, it occurs when

“a person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values; or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that. Coping with the nuances of contradictory ideas or experiences is mentally stressful. It requires energy and effort to sit with those seemingly opposite things that all seem true.”

In other words, people are always searching for ways to reduce their stress that is caused by cognitive dissonance when shopping and selecting brands. One of the ways they do this is by searching for confirmation that they have made the right choices. Receiving positive word-of-mouth opinions of products and services from friends or family members will reduce the dissonance, as it confirms people’s beliefs in what they have purchased.

Given that consumers need input to reduce the risks they take, especially when purchasing a brand for the first time, it is marketing’s job to provide a maximum amount of information to build trust. Whether this is through advertising or online customer reviews, it is important to show both transparency and popularity to enhance confidence.

Given that consumers need input to reduce the risks they take, especially when purchasing a brand for the first time, it is marketing's job to provide a maximum amount of information to build trust. #WOMM #Brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

This has become a challenge in recent years as a result of the exposure of significant fake reviews on many websites, including Amazon. There are now even services to highlight these paid or fake reviews, such as fakespot.com and reviewmeta.com. If you are interested in this topic, then I suggest the article on “10 secrets to uncovering which online reviews are fake.” by Catey Hill.

So how can we improve customers’ trust in what we offer? Here are seven ideas I came up with to include in your word-of-mouth marketing:

 

#1 Make Customers Delighted!

If you value your customers, offer them more than they expect! It’s not only the great product or service that generates loyalty but the implicit message that “you matter to us!” That’s what every customer wants to feel!

Building solid relationships depends on rewarding your customers with exceptional service and perhaps a creative surprise. This can be complimentary priority shipping, free samples, coupons or unexpected gifts. Anything you can do to show customers that you value their business, especially when it is unanticipated, will build loyalty.

While some may say it is important to do this on a regular, ongoing fashion, I disagree. If the surprises become expected, then they no longer amaze. And this also means that you should not rely on just one single way to delight your customers. Variety is the spice of life after all!

If you value your customers, offer them more than they expect! It’s not only the great product or service that generates loyalty but the implicit message that “you matter to us!” That’s what every customer wants to feel! #Brand #Marketing… Click To Tweet

#2 Focus on Brand Commitment

In the book Spreading the Word, Tom Brown defined brand commitment as:

“An enduring desire to maintain a relationship with a specific entity.”

Your Facebook brand page may offer you a unique opportunity to build and nurture a relationship with your fans. But, it takes more than just generating Likes, to get people to talk about you! Have a look online and see just how many Facebook pages have almost zero engagement!

So, ask yourself these three questions every day:

  1. “Do our customers have an enduring desire to maintain a relationship with our brand?”
  2. “What do we do to earn our fans’ trust each day?”
  3. “What more can we do to surprise and delight our customers?”

If you focus on maintaining your customers’ desire to continue a relationship with your brand, this will set up the ideal conditions for successful word-of-mouth marketing, which you never know may even go viral.

Brands with a strong and above all engaging fan base on Facebook can count on daily likes, but more importantly also shares and comments. This engagement will increase visibility and accelerate reach. This social proof will increase your brands’ attraction and generate an ever-growing number of fans. If you want to learn more on this, check out  Mari Smith, known by many as the queen of Facebook. She has some great tips and free resources that you will find extremely useful.

 

#3 Offer Distinctive Products and Services

When it comes to distinctive products, for many, one brand immediately comes to mind: Apple. Steve Jobs succeeded in building a strong brand that people associated with innovative products that rock! Every time Steve introduced a new product, like the iPod, iPhone or iPad, people just had to talk about it!

Many argue that Apple has lost some of its sparkle since his demise because his visionary approach has been replaced by more upgrades than innovations. But Apple remains successful and highly profitable – at least for the shareholders.

When you think about distinctive service, I’m sure Zappos resonates with you too. Not only does Zappos offer shoes online, but they also value their customer’s trust more than anything! This is why their core value is to WOW their customers.

WOW involves differentiation by doing more for your customers than they expect. Zappos is not your average company, and their customer service is anything but average or ordinary. They achieve this by expecting every employee to deliver WOW in everything they do.

Since Zappos talks so openly about their culture and also shows the value of it by becoming incredibly successful, many other companies have strived to follow their example. Today, these include Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, USAA and L.L. Bean. Sorry, these are all US examples; if you have great customer service examples from companies in Europe or Asia, then please add them in the comments below. I am sure there are many, but the US does seem to have an advantage over other regions when it comes to walking the talk of customer-centricity.

If you offer new distinctive products or services, people just want to talk about them. It’s up to you to generate viral-ability by offering them great content about your brands, so they can share it with friends and family. Think about blog posts, videos, podcasts, games, badges and other promotional material.

If you offer new distinctive products or services, people just want to talk about them. It’s up to you to generate viral-ability by offering them great content about your brands, so they can share it with friends and family. Think about… Click To Tweet

#4 Nurture Involvement

Offer solutions that connect to the mental relevancy of your customers. Think about how to trigger a big desire or confront significant pains or frustrations they may have with current offerings. Get into the middle section of your customer’s brain (limbic) to create somatic markers. These markers connect personal experience with your brand and will stimulate brand choice when purchase decisions are taken.

For example, Coca-Cola will generate feelings of happiness and friendship in a lot of people, thanks to its consistent core message. This is why it outsells Pepsi in most countries, despite regularly losing to Pepsi in blind taste tests.

Continue to nurture these feelings and your customers will want to share their experiences with their acquaintances.

 

#5 Connect with Market Mavens

Influencers or market mavens are individuals who have up-to-date information about many kinds of products, places to shop and other facets of the market. They are also people who are most likely to respond to information requests from friends, family, or social media followers.

Influencers love to educate others, and in doing so, they also increase their own status. Connect with these market mavens and make them your brand advocates. But watch out for fake recommendations they are asked to make. Customers today want to know when reviews are being paid for by the brand in question. If the person who makes the review is a trusted influencer, this shouldn’t be a problem. But trying to hide over-positive recommendations for your brands behind false identities and websites will eventually be found out.

 

#6 Identify your brand advocates

When it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, referrals by your greatest fans are your most effective type of marketing offline. If you want to include these influencers in your strategy, you first need to identify them. This is what the infamous NPS score supposedly does.

Satmetrix, Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld developed the Ultimate Question on which NPS depends: “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend?” From the answers, the Net Promoter Score is calculated. People that rate your brand as a 9 or 10 are considered to be “loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and also refer others, fuelling growth”.

The NPS score has suffered much criticism since it was first developed back in 2003. According to Satmetrix, NPS varies widely by industry so it is essential to benchmark your performance against the average, which generally is anywhere between 30 and 50.

The NPS score also appears to be more relevant for service companies than for consumer products. The chart below, confirming this, summarises the 2020 industry average for the US; click on the graph to go to the article.

 

#7 Join the Conversation at Your Peril

When companies see the great things their customers are saying about their brands online, they can be tempted to join in the conversation. Don’t! Adding comments to your customers’ opinions will make them look as if they have been developed by you. I know you want to thank them, but do this on your Facebook page and always in general, rather than personally to any person individually.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t mention your customers. Just do it as quotes from your customer services and care centres, rather than by adding a reply to already posted comments.

Customers prefer to talk amongst themselves, even though they know you will most certainly be watching. If you join in, then they feel as if they have lost control. And it won’t do anything in terms of building trust.

So watch, listen and learn rather than joining in.

Customers prefer to talk amongst themselves, even though they know you will most certainly be watching. If you join in, then they feel as if they have lost control. And it won't do anything in terms of building trust. #Engagement… Click To Tweet

Conclusions

Although no one can predict the viral-ability of customer experiences on the social web, word-of-mouth marketing matters more than ever. Understand these 7 key elements and create your own strategy to stimulate positive word-of-mouth.

Need one more recommendation on word-of-mouth marketing? Then it’s this. Buy the book called “Word-of-Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking”. It is written by Andy Sernovitz, with the foreword and afterword by none other than Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki!

I would love to hear your thoughts on word-of-mouth marketing. Please share your reaction in the comments box below. Thanks.

To learn more about connecting with your customers, please also check out our website here: https://c3centricity.com/

This post is a revised version of an article that was first published on C3Centricity in 2012 and regularly updated ever since.

Is the Future of Retail, Physical or Virtual? Is This Just a Reset or Do we Need a Full Reboot?

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Will the future of retail be without physical outlets?

I remember having a very interesting discussion with a new client a couple of years ago on exactly this topic. Like many CPG companies at the time, they were considering online retailing. They were already selling a little online but hadn’t seriously considered it until then.

However, with the move of most major supermarket chains to offer online stores too, plus a few successful online-only stores, such as Amazon in the US and Ocado in the U.K. they were reconsidering just how big they could or should grow their online business.

This discussion happened just a few years back in 2017. Today the question is no longer asked. The pandemic has forced most customers to buy online, at least during the various lockdowns. And many have found the experience both enjoyable and useful.

A recent article on CNBC showed that many major chains in the USA had recorded triple-digit growth in online sales in the first half of this year. But they rightly questioned whether the trend would continue into next year.

They concluded by saying that those retailers who had already invested in online sales would fare better than those forced into it by the pandemic. I agree, as the change in customer behaviour was so fast that it was difficult for those retailers who were not prepared, to catch up and move their sales effectively online.

Is the future of retail online sales growth

However, they argued that people would return to bricks and mortar stores once the lockdown eases and Adobe has found some data that may just confirm this. E-commerce growth appears to be slowing, as the below graph shows.

The future of retail shows slowing ecommerce trend

I remember participating in heated arguments in the past, between sales teams and retailers, about online stores. Retailers thought that it was unfair competition and threatened to delist a manufacturer’s products if they sold direct. No wonder my client at the time had been scared to develop this area, as in fact were most other CPG companies.

Just a few years ago, Amazon was said to be muddying the waters by testing their new Fresh delivery and Go bricks and mortar outlets. Walmart retaliated with a competitive online offer of fast service and free delivery. The battle had begun and today we see nothing more than an acceleration of the trend that started almost a decade ago. At least that’s my opinion; what do you think?

 

The case for bricks & mortar stores

An excellent article published mid-2017 in Forbes andentitled “Five Signs That Stores (Not E-Commerce) Are The Future Of Retail” concluded that physical stores are more valuable. Of course, that was three years ago, an eternity especially post-covid! However, it does highlight the importance of scenario planning for preparing an organisation for future opportunities and threats. For me, planning for the future is as simple as taking the consumers’ perspective and understanding what they (will) want.

For example, I’m happy to order my usual brands online and have them delivered, especially when they’re cumbersome, like pet food, drinks, tinned and paper products. However, for some items, particularly fresh produce, I like to be able to pick the leanest meat or the freshest fruits and vegetables. And you? Do you have sourcing preferences by category? I bet you do, just like other customers.

We will always need to see and try before we buy in numerous categories. Offering free returns may work for apparel but not for electronics. In several industries, consumers will want to see, compare and appreciate items before they purchase.

Several home improvement brands and stores are already offering apps which allow customers to see their potential purchases in their homes. Or their paint and fabric choices “in situ” but virtually. So are retail outlets really essential for every category?

Make sure the future of retail isn't a Kodak moment
Source: Brian Solis

Brian Solis wrote a great article also in early 2017 on the “11 Trends Shaping The Future Of Retail” based on a presentation he wrote back in 2015! However, despite their age, I feel that they remain as true today as when he wrote it.

He says that retail continues to suffer from what he calls the new “Kodak Moment.” This, he claims, is the moment when executives fail to see how customers and markets are shifting.

 

The new Kodak Moment is when executives fail to see how customers & markets are shifting #FutureofRetail #shopping #retail Click To Tweet

 

Here are the trends Brian mentions:

1. New (human) perspective is needed to see the actual future that is playing out.

2. Cater to “Accidental Narcissists” as I call them and compete in the on-demand economy.

3. Compete for customer experience…not CX…there’s a difference and one is customer-centered.

4. Become payments agnostic. Don’t impose false standards to compete against other systems to reduce fees. Be open.

5. Understand social commerce and design targeted initiatives that drive shared experiences, reviews and referrals online.

6. Invest in the trust economy, be transparent, and earn reciprocity through the facilitation of open engagement and commerce.

7. Balance web rooming and showrooming by investing in mutually-beneficial experiences and outcomes on both sides.

8. Explore new technologies to reimagine the in-store/online experience blurring the lines between digital/brick-and-mortar.

9. Study the digital and specifically the mobile customer journey to uncover friction, update ageing touch points and cater to mobile-first and mobile-only customers.

10. Invest in innovation teams or innovation centres to discover new competition and possibilities to test and learn in more rapid prototyping programs (outside of risk-averse culture).

11. Take a fresh look at space and consider it a blank slate. Ask yourself and your team, what if we could build a physical store that brought the digital and real-world together to deliver intuitive and indispensable experiences? That’s what Amazon is doing.

What I love about this list is that in the end it can be summed up very simply. It is essential to both know and understand your customers. And it is fundamental for businesses to treat their customer as they would want to be treated themselves. Isn’t that what business has always been about? And life too, come to think of it! So why should retail by any different?

 

The future of retail

What is sad, in my opinion, is that the vast majority of retailers – and CPG companies too – have been playing a “wait and see” game. And the pandemic has caught them napping. In so many areas, they thought that adding a few technical gadgets or an app or two would enable them to continue to attract customers. Things have gone far beyond payment options or mere personalisation of the shopping experience these days. Covid has changed what people want and how they want to purchase it.

I, therefore, decided to summarise some of the key changes which I believe have become essential to answer customers needs in this era of reset and reboot:

Convenience: customers have busy lives and prefer less and less to go for the large weekly shop in out-of-town shopping malls and hypermarkets. This is why smaller stores in strategic localities will develop faster in developed markets.

There will also be a clear differentiation by category. The customer will decide on their personal priorities between what they value most between their time, price and convenience. For some products, and not just the more expensive ones, they will make an effort in choosing, for others they will expend very little energy.

This has always been the case and is the reason why some manufacturers strive for 100% distribution. But in the future, distribution should be linked to convenience for the customer, not just mass presence. This is also where customers will weigh the convenience of a visit to a store against the risk of contracting the virus. Shopping times will also change as customers alter their behaviours, whenever possible, to avoid crowds.

Customers will weigh the convenience of a visit to a store against the risk of contracting the virus. Shopping times will also change as customers alter their behaviours, whenever possible, to avoid crowds. #Retail #Convenience #Shopping Click To Tweet

Experience: while some shopping malls are in decline, especially in the US, those that survive will shift the emphasis from purchasing to more varied experiences. By incorporating cinemas, bowling alleys, cafes, restaurants and even medical centres, malls are hoping to attract customers by differentiating themselves and driving more traffic to them. But just how different they can be from each other is becoming relatively limited.

However, the retailers themselves also need to start selling differently. Apple, Nike and a few others have already done this. But most outlets appear to be oblivious to the change in their customers’ desires for experiential connections with brands. As health and safety become top-of-mind for shoppers, they may avoid these in the short-term as they prioritise pre-visit decision-making, enabling quicker in-store visits.

As health and safety become top-of-mind for shoppers, they may avoid experiential brand experiences in the short-term as they prioritise pre-visit decision-making, enabling quicker in-store visits. #shopping #experiential #retail Click To Tweet

Delivery: Whether we buy online or in-store, one thing is clear; we want it NOW! Fast these days is next-day or same-day delivery – if ordered before a certain time. In the very near future, we will want our purchases to be waiting for us when we get home. Already a quarter of shoppers, according to recent L2 research said they would abandon their cart if same-day delivery was unavailable. And with many customers still in lockdown or working from home, the pressure on delivering fast becomes even stronger.

If you think about it, why should shopping be any different from transport today? We no longer stand on street corners in the hope of finding a taxi driving by. The success of Uber and Lyft lies partly in the fact that the customer can call a car and immediately know the waiting time based on a live map of their surroundings. They also know the plate number, driver’s name and what others think about the person. All this delivers trust in the experience, an essential part of going out these days when each excursion carries the additional risk of possible infection.

Another aspect of delivery that is changing is its timing. As Lin Grosman says in her article The Future Of Retail: How We’ll Be Shopping In 10 Years: “Of course, that’s just the beginning.  Two-hour drone delivery is coming in the foreseeable future, and Amazon is already talking about  30-minute drone delivery.” Talk about near-instantaneous gratification!

The other advantage of such methods is the lack of dealing with delivery people and the latent risk of contamination. Now I’m not sure that this is a great direction for humanity. We all know that we value things more if we have had to work or wait for them. Are we moving rapidly to a new type of consumerism where taking people out of the equation whenever possible will become an increasing preference for shoppers?

Are we moving rapidly to a new type of consumerism where taking people out of the equation whenever possible will become an increasing preference for shoppers? #shopper #consumer #value Click To Tweet

Choice: We now all know what is available around the world, thanks to the internet. Our desires are no longer limited by what is available in local stores or even in our own country. We want to have the choices that others have, wherever in the world we may live.

Customers are already ordering online from far and wide; pet care from Australia, fashion from France and technology from China. It is then up to the purchaser to compare not only the prices but delivery costs and timing as well when making their choice.

According to research conducted by Walker, it was forecast that by the year 2020  customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Amplexor recently confirmed that this has in fact already happened, at least in B2B. They claim that:

“Customer experience has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator for more than 80% of businesses.”

From that perspective, outlets have arguably an easier task to make the shopping experience more enjoyable and memorable. These days it’s certainly more memorable but probably not more enjoyable, which is why online shopping has increased so dramatically. However August saw a slight decline in the growth of online sales in both the US and UK, as people start returning to brick and mortar stores. But it is clear that covid has changed our purchasing behaviours far faster than the previous trend was showing.

Values: Both manufacturers and retailers are being held to higher standards that have far more to do with their values than their products and services. Millennials, in particular, are basing their choice of brands on things such as social responsibility, sustainability, transparency and authenticity.

Corporate reputation is being scrutinised and evaluated at each mention in the press or on social media. Organisations that don’t walk their talk will be rapidly found out and publically discredited. The pandemic has added one further criterion of importance, that of how organisations are treating their employees. Never before have businesses been scrutinised so closely for their behaviours in so many areas!

 

Conclusion

So what is the future of retail? Physical or virtual? Are we just in a reset or are we facing a reboot of much larger proportions? With some retailers banking on the first and others on the second, it’s going to be an interesting ride. The customer has everything to gain, at least in theory. Bigger choices in products, services and prices, for sure, but perhaps not always better. And safety has now joined trustworthiness, carbon footprints and sustainability of business practices as a way of evaluating companies and their brands.

I believe that this is why organisations are pulling back their finance departments and care centres from India. And why China is in a race to transform itself from the manufacturer of the world to a global innovation hub. Will the alleged source of the pandemic hurt their image? Most certainly, but for how long? Few countries can compete on price, speed and now even quality.

Retail has always been about making sure that “the right product, is in the right place, at the right time, at the right price.” The right place at the right time appears to be gaining ground over the other two. What do you think?

This post has been regularly updated to reflect current sensitivities in the market. The original post appeared on C3Centricity in 2017.

How to Map Your Customer Journey & Overlay their Emotions

With the travel and leisure industries in turmoil at the moment, now is a good time for them to review how they treat their customers. And mapping their customers’ journey is an important step in understanding and satisfying them better.

Through the example of an experience I had with the Hilton Group, I share some important lessons about getting customer service right! These will be invaluable as countries start to open up in the coming weeks and months.

 

Background

Each year around Christmas time, my family get together for a weekend of fun somewhere in Britain. This year we met up in Bristol. As a Hilton Honors member for more than twenty years I offered to book rooms for all of us in the local Doubletree. I expected to get a better rate with my membership, and especially cheaper than those offered by the booking sites. After all, why pay a booking site when I know the hotel I want to stay in, right? Well, I booked five rooms for the weekend, as well as a table for ten in their restaurant for dinner on the Saturday evening.

I booked directly by calling the hotel, as I always prefer to do. I expect to be recognised for my loyalty – and if possible rewarded too! On this occasion I was proven seriously wrong!

A couple of weeks after booking and pre-paying for all the rooms, I received Hilton’s weekly email offering me a significant discount for the exact same hotel and dates. Clearly their online pixels had identified me as being interested in this hotel, but they hadn’t connected this interest with my having booked directly. Already there, you can see that they have an incomplete customer journey mapping process.

As Hilton offer a “guaranteed lowest rate” I reached out to their call centre and was told that yes I was entitled not only to the lower rate, but to an additional 25% discount for having made the claim. I was told how to complete the claim form and I hung up ecstatic that I could save my family even more money – which we would no doubt anyway spend in the bar before and after our dinner!

Imagine my surprise when the next day I was told that my claim had been refused! I was informed that the guaranteed lowest rate only applied to third-party sites and not to Hilton’s own website!

Guaranteed lowest rates should mean just that! Otherwise you're just cheating the customer. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

I immediately responded and was again told that their guarantee didn’t apply to their own rates. In addition, as I had pre-paid I could not get the lower rate even if it was now being offered!

Not being one to take “no” for a final answer, I contacted their corporate customer service group again, as I felt my loyalty was not being recognized. I was once more given the same response, but this time was informed that my request would be forwarded directly to the hotel concerned – no doubt to get me off their (corporate) backs!

The hotel immediately responded saying that although it is corporate policy not to include direct bookings in their lowest rate guarantee, they would in this case give me the special offer. I was very pleased that they at least recognised the benefit of customer satisfaction and restored my faith in the Hilton group – somewhat.

That should have been the end of this story, but it’s not. Hilton have surpassed themselves this time in terms of customer service, or should I say a lack of it?

My brother called me the following week and informed me that the hotel’s website was showing that their restaurant was closed on the day I had booked it. I immediately rang them and spoke to the same person, who remembered me and assured me our table for ten people was booked. She said she would double check again just to be sure, so in the afternoon I called back not wanting any last minute problems with my family.

Surprise, surprise, I was told the restaurant was booked for a private party. What about my reservation made more than a month ago? Shouldn’t someone have contacted me? I demanded to speak to the manger, who apart from profuse apologies, said she would raise the issue in their operations meeting later that day.

She called me back that evening, to say that there was nothing she could do. It was their mistake and they would be happy to book me elsewhere in the city. I explained that my family had booked six rooms for two nights at their hotel so we could eat at their famous restaurant (my married sister had booked separately). No solution offered; an admission of fault but no compensation offered and no alternative other than to book at another restaurant! Their suggestion was their sister hotel down the road, a bland, modern affair, with no atmosphere.

This farcical situation continued during the whole weekend, but I won’t bore you with the details, as I would rather use this incident to demonstrate how Hilton (and you) can be better prepared.

 

Three Lessons Learned which Every Business Can Apply

So what lessons are to be learnt from this example, even if we work in a completely different industry? I came up with the following points, but would love to hear what other issue of customer journey mapping you would add; just leave me a comment below please.

 

1. The customer journey map needs to integrate all possible contact points.

Think about all touchpoints when developing your customer journey mapIn Hilton’s case this is clearly not done. I was personally offered a cheaper rate at the hotel at which I had already booked five rooms! Clearly they had identified that I had reviewed prices online and then offered my the cheaper rate.

Unfortunately without their email, I would never have known and would not have checked prices again since I had already booked. More importantly, I have now become dissatisfied with my booking, having been informed by Hilton that I could have paid less. Now I know that hotel prices can go up and down, but especially closer to the day of arrival. However if this is not true (any longer) then I for one will only book last minute in future!

Lesson: You must include all touchpoints in your customer journey map, to avoid such disappointment. By using an incomplete model, Hilton opened themselves up to angering a loyal customer rather than appealing to potential new ones.

Include all touchpoints in your customer journey map, otherwise it's a dangerously incomplete model. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

 

2. If you mess up admit it AND correct it

After calling to book the rooms, the hotel put me through to the restaurant to book a table for the Saturday night. Everything was confirmed and I would not have checked details until arriving at the hotel and checking in.

The excuse that the closure of the restaurant is on their website didn’t go down well with me when I called to check. After all, they themselves had taken the reservation in person, so why would I need to go to their website? It was anyway not possible to book the restaurant on their website!

Lesson: An apology for a mistake is not its resolution. Proposing to book another restaurant in their sister hotel was nothing more than I could have done myself. I didn’t feel that Hilton were interested in correcting the situation that they themselves had created. They did not go out of their way to make things right. And I have had their loyalty card for decades!

When your company makes a mistake, find a solution that is acceptable to your customer, not just the quick fix that suits you. Now is your chance to not just satisfy, but to surprise and delight them.

An apology for a mistake is not its resolution. Don't expect your job to be done until your customer's problem is solved and they are delighted! #CRM #CEX #CustomerService #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

3. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy

Don't just satisfy, surprise and delightI often speak about delighting the customer but your first aim is to ensure your customer is happy with the solution that you propose. Only after that can you look to see how you can go above and beyond what they expect, so they are both surprised and delighted with how they have been treated.

It takes a strong person to admit when they’re wrong, but a stronger one to want to go beyond just putting it right. Which are you doing? Can you do more?

Lesson: Replacing a faulty product or service is what our customers expect. Offering free samples, a further discount, express delivery or additional attention is not. These are the small touches that surprise and delight. They are also the things that your customers will share with friends and family, if not the whole world through social media. Suddenly you have gone from being the bad guy to the cool guy. 

Replacing a faulty product or service is what customers expect, but it's not enough! Doing more to surprise and delight are the things that they will share with friends and family. Click To Tweet

Customer journey mapping has become much more complex today, as the touchpoints our customers are using, before, during and after purchase, have expanded exponentially. However the process of identifying and understanding the complete journey remains essential to delighting each and every customer.

One further element which I suggest my clients add to their journey maps is the emotional state of their customers at each interaction with a touchpoint. This simple addition is a powerful addition in clearly showing where a brand needs to improve its customers’ interactions, It highlights those touchpoints where their customers’ emotional experience is sub-optimal and needs improving.

Do you need help developing or updating your own customer journey map?

C3Centricity offers several 1-Day Catalyst training sessions on the topic. We can also work with your team to review and revitalise your own customer journey map.

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Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

Insights are the pot of gold that many businesses dream of but rarely find. Why is that? Are you one of them? If so then I have some practical ideas on how you can get much, much better at insight development.

 

#1. Insights don’t come from a single market research study

Management often thinks that insight is “just another word for market research”. I remember one of my previous CEOs saying exactly that to me just before he addressed the whole market research and insight’s team at our annual conference. I am sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!

Insights are a challenge to develop and are rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information in order to answer one or more questions. Whilst it may enable a business to make a more informed decision based upon the objectives, insight development is quite a different process.

Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the data and information you have about a category or segment user. Then summarising it into knowledge and turning that knowledge into understanding. Only then are you ready to develop an insight.

All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and communications are built. What is yours? #Brand #Marketing #Communications #BrandBuilding Click To Tweet

All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and communications are built. For example

  • AXE (Lynx in UK): (young) men want to attract as many beautiful and sexy women as possible. This is one of their newer ads, where the seduction is a little less in your face and more subtle – but still there.

 

  • Haribo Starmix: There’s a child inside every adult. This “Kid’s Voices” campaign has been running for years and manages to surprise and delight with each new episode.

 

  • Dulux sample paint pots: I love to decorate my home, but I don’t want to look stupid by choosing the wrong colour. Although these are now a standard offer for many paint brands, Dulux were the first to understand the problem facing potential home decorators.

 

Dulux sample pot example of insight development

 

Insight development will provide the basis on which you will define the actions that are needed to change the behaviour of your target audience. It also provides a solid framework on which to build your communications’ strategy.

 

#2. Insight development is based upon a desired behavioural change

When your sales, marketing or management look to improve their business results, their real objective is to change the behaviour of your current or potential customers’ behaviour. For example:

  • From buying a competitive brand to purchasing yours.
  • From using your services once a month, to once a week.
  • Moving customers’ beliefs about your brand from a traditional or classic brand, to a more modern image.
  • Changing customers’ perceptions about the price of your brand from expensive to good value for money.

Because insights are based on a desired behavioural change, they usually contain an emotional element that is communicated through advertising. The emotion that is shown in your communications is more likely to resonate with customers if it does stimulate their emotions. They are then more likely to remember your brand and may be more motivated to take the desired action you have identified.

If you are looking to increase sales or improve your brand’s image or equity, look to connect emotionally with your (potential) customers. Identifying the behavioural change you need your customers to make is a foundational step of insight development.

Identifying the behavioural change you need your customers to make is a foundational step of insight development. #Brand #Marketing #BrandBuilding #Insight Click To Tweet

 

 

#3. Insight development needs more than Insight professionals

Although this may sound counter-productive, insights really do benefit from working from differing perspectives to get to that “ah-ha” moment, that many refer to. A deep understanding of customers and their reasons for behaving in a certain way, comes from looking at all aspects of their lives.

If you only review the actual moment when they choose or use a product or service, it is highly unlikely that you will develop that deep understanding you need. What happens before and afterwards also leads to their choice or that of their next purchase.

What happens before and afterwards your customer's choice or purchase, is as important to understand as are their reasons for purchasing. #Customer #Purchase #Buying Click To Tweet

This is why it is important to work as a team when developing insights. Depending upon the issue or opportunity identified, the team can be made up of people from marketing, sales, trade marketing, production, packaging, advertising, innovation, and / or distribution. And these people don’t even need to work on the category in question; sometimes it is by taking ideas from different categories that real insights are developed.

 

#4. Insights are usually based on a human truth

The insights that resonate best with people are those that are not only emotional, but are also based upon a human truth. As you can imagine, these two elements are closely connected.

A human truth is a statement that refers to human beings, irrespective of race, colour or creed. It is a powerful and compelling fact of attitudes and behaviour that is rooted in fundamental human values. It is something that is obvious when quoted, but is often ignored or forgotten in daily business.

Human truths are linked to human needs and although it’s validity has been questioned in the past, it is seeing a revival today. The covid-19 virus has moved all human being back to a search for the basic levels of safety and health.

Maslows hierarchy of needs is useful for insight development

Examples of human truths used by some brands include:

  • Parents want to protect their children.
  • Men and women want to find love.
  • People want to be better than others.

If you are struggling to find an insight, it can help to review which level of needs your target audience is on and see how your brand can respond to help answer it.

If you are struggling to find an insight, it can help to review which level of needs your target audience is on. #Brand #Marketing #BrandBuilding #Insight #CustomerNeeds Click To Tweet

 

#5. Insights aren’t always category specific

Following on from the above points, it is particularly interesting that once found, an insight can be adapted to be used by different brands. There are many examples of this, particularly amongst major FMCG / CPG companies.

So take a look at your competitors’ communications and see if you can identify the insight on which they are built. Do the same for other categories targeting a similar audience. Sometimes you can use the same insight for your brand as they are using. But I would only recommend this if you are really struggling to develop your own insight.

One very successful example of this is the advertising for Omo / Persil from Unilever and Nestle’s Nido. They are both based on the insight “I want my child to experience everything in life, even if it means getting dirty.” Take a look at the two ads below and see what I mean.

  • Unilever’s Omo: shows that a good mother lets her child experiment and learn – even if this means getting dirty. If you don’t know their advertising, then check out one example from this long-running campaign.

 

 

 

 

  • Nestlé’s Nido: illustrates this need as a mother providing the nourishment for healthy growth which allows her children to explore the outside world safely. If you would like to see a typical advertisement, check it out on YouTube here. Interestingly, Nestlé has used this same insight to develop advertising for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas too.

 

 

Another example of a shared insight is again from Unilever and the local Swiss supermarket Migros. The insight is “Young women want to be appreciated for who they are and not just their external looks.”

  • Unilever’s Dove was the first brand to recognise and benefit from this insight. Their famous Real Beauty campaign resonates so well with young women that many other brands copied it, especially their Evolution film. Here is one of their more recent ads that I’m sure will give you goosebumps.

 

 

  • The Swiss Supermarket chain Migros has a store brand “I am” which uses this same insight across all their health and beauty products. Somewhat unusually, the brand name itself is based upon the same insight, and its advertising repeats it several times: “I am – what I am”.

 

So there you have them, the five ideas that I came up with and numerous examples to help you to develop better insights more easily.

Although you probably already have your own process for creating them, I know from experience how hard it can be to find insights from all the information you gather.

I hope this short article has assisted you in your search for those “golden nuggets”. Do share your own ideas for making insight development easier, I would love to hear from you.

C³Centricity uses images from Pixabay.com.

 


Do you need help developing or updating your own Insight development process? C3Centricity offers several 1-Day Catalyst training sessions on the topic. We will work with your team to review and revitalise your own insight process, or will define a proprietary one that integrates into your other internal processes.

 

 

 

7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service

How can some companies get customer service so wrong?!

This week I have a longer post than usual, but one that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud.

It describes one recent personal example of disinterested client support, from which I have drawn seven learnings for everyone wanting to deliver awesome customer service.

I can’t understand why any organisation would still have trouble offering superior customer service when there are so many great examples they merely have to copy. (JetBlue, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Zappos) In fact, Mark Earls wrote a great book on exactly this topic, called “ Copy, Copy, Copy” which is highly recommended.

My story this week is just one example of how some companies still struggle to accept that the customer is right, even when they’re wrong! Not that I was wrong in this case (at least I don’t think so, but I’ll let you be the judge of that).

However, they certainly gave me the impression that they believed I might have been trying to cheat them in the information I provided in my emails. They were never satisfied with what I sent, even when it was what THEY had specifically requested!

Perhaps they were just dragging out the process in the hope of not having to “pay up”. You can see for yourself below, or just jump to the seven learnings at the end of the post, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself.

 

BACKGROUND:

Many years ago I bought a TomTom guidance system to help me navigate the streets of American cities. Although I love to drive  and feel just as much at home on a ten-lane LA highway as the two-lane Swiss autoroute system, I decided it was time to stop making so many impromptu visits to unplanned US destinations!

A few years on, I thought that it could also help me in Europe, even Switzerland, when trying to locate a new client or contact. (My car is almost fifteen years old  and isn’t equipped with a GPS!) I, therefore, added Europe to my online account, since my unit couldn’t keep both in memory at the same time!

Last May I replaced the European maps by my American ones as I was visiting Florida that month. When I tried to reinstall the European maps in September, they had somehow disappeared from my account. I contacted TomTom customer service to ask how I could get my maps back and this is how our conversation went over the pursuing three months – with their worst English mistakes removed or corrected for better comprehension, but their own font bolding left in. (!)

 

THE EXCHANGE WITH TOMTOM:

Me: Hi there, I contacted you in May about changing from European to US maps. I now want to change back and the maps are no longer on my account! Help please!!!”

TomTom“Dear Denyse, … As per your account details (…), I am sorry to inform you that, I could not see any map of Europe being active on the account in the past. Hence, I am unable to see any European map details. Hence, if the map had come pre-installed with the device, I request you to please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) so that I can activate it on your account. If you had purchased the map of Europe, then please provide me the scanned copy of the purchase receipt of the map so that I can activate it…” (We already exchanged a few months previously and anyway didn’t they READ my email?!)

Me: Here attached please find the invoice concerning my purchase.”

TomTom:Denyse, many apologies, but it seems the purchase invoice is not attached in the correct format since I am unable to open it. Hence, I request you to please send me the scanned copy of purchase receipt in PDF format so that I will be able to view it and help you accordingly.” (They can’t open an email with an image when they had originally asked for a picture of the box?! OK, well it’s true it wasn’t in pdf format!!!)

Me:Apologies for my delay in responding but I have been busy with trips – without my TomTom! As requested, I attach a PDF of the invoice.”

TomTom: Denyse, I would require the purchase receipt of the map of Europe that must have been provided to you after you purchased it. If you are unable to find the receipt of the map, please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) to check the device details.”

Me: Please find enclosed the invoice for the Europe maps that have disappeared from my account after replacing them with the US ones for a trip…”

TomTom: Denyse, we are unable to find the invoice of the map on the attached documents. I would request you to take a screen shot of the entire invoice or the part which has the order number and the date of purchase and the details of purchase.” (They can’t read the email that THEY sent to me when I made the purchase and now want a screen shot!)

MeThis is already what I attached to my previous email. Here it is again.”

TomTom: Denyse, the attachment that you are sending us is the screenshot of the email that you have received from TomTom. I would request you to send us the invoice which is sent as an attachment in PDF format with the email. Kindly download the invoice on your computer and while replying to this email, please attach the PDF file on your reply.” (Isn’t a screenshot what they asked for?!!)

Me: Is TomTom just trying to irritate a long-standing customer? I have replied to each email with the requested information  and each time you come back asking for a different format. You have the order number, the date, the item and the relevant item code of the maps I purchased directly from you online; what difference does the format of the document have? This is how the attachment appears on a Mac, which obviously you are not aware of, so I resend you the attachment as a pdf.”

This last exchange seemed to wake them up! Finally, they accepted that they had all the information they needed to confirm that I had indeed purchased the European maps, so they could once again reactivate them!

It took three months to get what I had requested, which could easily have been shortened to about three minutes if their customer services had had access to our previous email exchange – I am here assuming that they didn’t, because otherwise I would be extremely “disappointed”.

 

THE SEVEN LEARNINGS:

This is a great case study, as it shows numerous errors that so many organisations are still making in terms of customer care. These are the takeaways that you might want to consider in order to avoid similar long drawn-out – and resource-wasting – exchanges with your own customers.

 

1. The customer is right and has a valid request.  This should always be assumed until such time as it is proven otherwise. After all, this is the premise of the legal systems in many countries and for good reason.

However, an article in the Huffington Post last year questioned this well-known customer service quote, first coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges department store in London. In today’s fast-paced world, I believe that a customer’s satisfaction should always come first; comment below if you disagree.

 

2. Respond as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence in helping the customer to perceive the incident as positively as possible, especially after a negative experience with a product or service. According to Forrester Customers want companies to value their time.

Customers want companies to value their time. #CEX #CRM #Customers Click To Tweet

71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.

 

3. Take action just as soon as you have the minimum information that will enable you to do so. According to the 2002 Mobius Poll, 84% of customers are frustrated when a representative does not have immediate access to their account information.

If you need further details to complete your files, they can be gathered from your happy and satisfied customer once a solution has been found. They will also be in a better frame of mind to answer any other questions you might want to ask.

 

4. Use your customer’s language, not corporate speak. It is important to ensure that your care center personnel speak and write the language of the customer as fluently as possible. In the above case, it is clear that the responses are from an offshore country using standard scripts.

This does not make the customer feel important let alone cared for and in my case, frustrated that I was not being listened to or understood.

 

5. Authority to resolve issues. Give your customer services personnel permission to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation or verification with managers.

Give your customer services personnel authority to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation #CRM #CEX #CustomerService Click To Tweet

Working to “standard” procedures for every case, often delays the customer getting full satisfaction as quickly as possible.

 

6. Resolution doesn’t mean satisfaction. Even when the issue is resolved, the customer can still be left with a negative feeling about the whole experience, especially if it has taken considerable time and effort on their side.

Remember that it is likely that they will share their negative experiences with far more people than they would have done, had the incident been dealt with in a speedier fashion.

Therefore set guidelines on speed of resolution not just the number of cases solved. And always follow up to make sure the customer remains satisfied with your handling of the issue.

 

7. Aim to surprise and delight not just satisfy your customers. Although your customers may be looking for the resolution of their problem when they first reach out to you, there is an opportunity for you to surprise and delight them with much more.

If they complain about a damaged product, don’t just replace it, provide a complementary sample of another product or a discount coupon for them to purchase it.

If they are unhappy with your service, offer an immediate discount and not just a rebate on future services. The latter can be perceived by the customer as their being pressured into a further purchase, something they are unlikely to be ready to do at the time of the exchange.

According to McKinsey’s “ The moment of truth in customer service” 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Make them feel great!

 

 

So these are the seven learnings that I took away from this incident. Basic? Yes sure, but instead of just saying to yourself “I know this” ask yourself “Do we do this – always?”. It is surprising how many of the basic elements we forget to check as we advance in experience –  and years!

If you have other examples of frustratingly poor but easily resolved customer service mistakes, then please share them below. We all need a laugh from time to time, especially as more and more of us are in quarantine because of covid-19. And learnings from others are so useful in helping us avoid making the same mistakes ourselves.

 

Need help in upgrading your own customer services? Check out our website for inspiration and then contact me here: https://c3centricity.com/contact

 

Customer excellence roadmap in the book Winning customer centricityThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. 

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

 

 

Did you enjoy this post and all its tips, tools and ideas?

If so, then why not join like-minded marketers on our private Facebook page called Winning4Marketers? You can click the left button to find out more about it, or request to join by immediately clicking on the right-hand button.

You’ll be amongst fellow marketers who are there to support others as well as ask for help.

See you there.

Are You Still Using The Marketing 5Ps? Move To The Improved 7Qs.

Listen on Apple Podcasts“Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.”

Marketing is a great profession and the marketing 5Ps is the code by which we live. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career and I am passionate about brand building.

From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They always seem to be watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising!

For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun! I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on some occasions.

So does all that hard work pay off? Not often enough in my opinion. And why? Because marketers simply don’t always ask the right questions!

 

The 5 Questions Marketers Should Ask

If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with those is that when you find an issue with one of them, you know the “what” but not the “how”.

So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each of my seven questions explain not only what to check, but also the how and why you need to examine the area.

And if you can’t immediately answer more than just a couple of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

 

Q1. Who are your customers?

People is the first of the marketing 5PsThe first “P” stands for people and often this is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.

Instead, ask yourself who your customers really are. I don’t mean just their demographics, but what, where and how they use or consume your brand and the category in which you are competing. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble.

Knowing your customers takes more than demographics. It means understanding the what, where and how they use or consume your brand and the category in which you are competing. #brand #Marketing #Avatar #Persona Click To Tweet

For more on this topic, see  “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for details on better defining your customer persona. You will also find a link in the article to download a useful template you can use to store all your information as you gather it. 

 

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully, you answered Q1 without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? Did you also download our template and complete it? Many of my clients find it a useful way to store and rapidly access the information whenever they need it.

It’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change. Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinions, needs and desires?

Do you know the impact of the latest societal trends and new technologies on your customers’ behaviours? Do you know how these changes may alter your market in five, ten or even twenty years from now?

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Sony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumers’ demand for home delivery.

Don’t be another one on the list. The current coronavirus outbreak is clearly demonstrating that we can never be too prepared for the unthinkable, because it might just happen!

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios in advance.

How many possible future societal and customer changes have you already prepared for? If you would like help in this area, we and our partners offer both standard and ground-breaking new ways to develop scenarios using science-fiction writers. Contact us for more details. 

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing plausible future scenarios. #Trends #Scenarios #ScenarioPlanning Click To Tweet

 

Q3. What does your brand stand for?

Brand extensions need to be complementary to the parent brand to support the promotional element of your marketing 5PsI don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it?

Is it strong and consistent? Does it align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow the developments in its image regularly?

Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact your brand’s identity? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. 

Your brand's image should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. How well do your advertising and promotions support and enhance the desired positioning? #Brand #Marketing #BrandImage Click To Tweet

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • Hero Group’s mission is “to delight consumers by conserving the goodness of nature.”
  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family-oriented  and fun, casual dining.”
  • Bic disposable pens, lighters and razors offer “high-quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”
  • Dollar Shave Club: “Shave and grooming made simple.”

What you notice about all these examples is that they clearly define the benefit to the customer and what the brand is promising to provide.

There is a synergy between what the internal image of the brand is and what the customers would say about each. When that is achieved, you have a strong brand that your customers relate to and to which they are more likely to remain loyal.

How would you describe your brand in one short sentence? I’ll be happy to provide feedback in a short call if you’d like to share it. Just contact me to set up a time. 

 

Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I am not referring to just the totals, I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices?

Even if you work in marketing and not sales, understanding your brand’s weekly, monthly and annual sales trends, means you will gain an increased understanding of your customers and their differences.

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. #Brand #Marketing #Sales Click To Tweet

 

Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture and distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does your brand’s value compare to its current price? Incorrect pricing could mean that you are leaving money on the table!

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value of it, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they may not think you’re worth it. This results in your having to offer frequent promotions and price-offs just to keep your sales stable.

If this is your situation, it is certainly time to get a true evaluation of your offer by your customers. I can help if you’re not sure how to do this.

Whether you are over or under-priced, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. Don’t stay ignorant to your true customer value.

 

Q6. Are you using the right communication channels?

The marketing 5Ps include how to communicate consistently with customersMany marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions.

With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1 completely, then you know which ones they are currently using most often. In particular, it is important to understand their social media behaviour, as this can vary widely by customer segment.

In addition, if you are also able to answer Q2 you will know how usage is likely to change in the future. This will give you ample time to adjust your plans and move seamlessly from offline to online when necessary.

Wasting money with outdated media plans, based on channels your customers no longer use, is still one of the biggest errors of marketing, even in this data-rich environment in which we live today. Make sure it’s not yours.

For a fun piece on the topic, check out “ 10 Signs Your CEO Has an Outdated View of Marketing‘ on Hubspot.

 

Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary?

Answering Q3 means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon any desired changes you need to make.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your brand image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

If you want to better understand how to develop brand image in relation to brand personalities and archetypes, then “What you need to know about Brand Image, Personality & Archetypes” is a great place to start.

And for more details on brand building in general, or brand image analysis in particular, check out the relevant sections in my book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time.

It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’s marketeersby none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s former CEO! Why not follow many major Fortune 500 CPG companies and get your own copy, or buy copies for your whole team?

 

So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the traditional marketing 5Ps. What do you think?

Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not give the 7Qs a try? They will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth. Then leave a comment below on how useful you found this new way of looking at your brand.

 

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Is it time to review your own 5Ps?

Let C3Centricity support you with a fast-acting catalyst session or even better, a  1-Day training for your whole team.

Find out more and download the Training Summaries HERE.

 

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Did you enjoy this post and all its tips, tools and ideas?

If so, then why not join like-minded marketers on our private Facebook page called Winning4Marketers? You can click the left button to find out more about it, or request to join by immediately clicking on the right-hand button.

You’ll be amongst fellow marketers who are there to support others as well as ask for help.

See you there.

Brand Portfolio Secrets to Success (5 Things You Need to Know)

How do you know when you have too many variants in your brand portfolio? In my opinion, the answer is that it’s when you can’t answer that question! Can you?

One of the most popular evergreen posts on C3Centricity is “The Beginners Guide to Brand Portfolio Management.” It seems that we all suffer from a deep-rooted fear in managing and reducing our brand portfolio, especially when it includes many historic or regional variants.

That is why I decided to write about these best-kept secrets in portfolio management, which even large corporations are not always aware of!

 

MORE IS RARELY BETTER!

We live in an over-abundant world of consumer choice, but more is rarely better. The paradox of choice is a powerful concept  popularised by Barry Schwartz.

It states that people actually feel freer when they are given fewer choices. Have you never ended up walking out of a store without the purchase you had planned, because you had been faced with too many choices? I know I have – often!

It is said that the limited choice offered in hard discounters in one of the reasons for their success; it’s not only about lower prices.

They usually present just one or two brands for each item they stock and the branded products they do stock are almost always at the same price if not even higher than in normal supermarkets.

In this over-abundant world of consumer choice, more is rarely better. #consumer #brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

More than ten years after the first research on which Schwartz based his theory, new studies have given some alternative perspectives on choice, claiming that large assortments are not always a bad thing. In the study by Gao & Simonson, they propose that there are many factors which were forgotten in Schwartz’s original study.

You can read the full article on this latest work in Neuromarketing. What I found of particular interest, being the customer champion that I am, is that they conclude by saying that it all depends on understanding your customer – doesn’t everything?! Their summary findings state that:

“In certain situations (when the ‘whether to buy’ decision comes before the ‘which option is best’ decision) a large assortment CAN increase purchase likelihood. Especially in eCommerce, it is possible to reap the benefits of a large product assortment, while helping customers make choices?”

In other words, the online searches that we all now perform before purchasing many things, will benefit from a wide selection of offers. Once we have decided to buy, then a large choice can become a barrier to final purchase.

Although Schwartz’s original book was published in 2006, he recently commented on the current choices facing consumers in “The Paradox of Expanded Choices.” He concludes the article wistfully by saying:

“We can imagine a point at which the options would be so copious that even the world’s most ardent supporters of freedom of choice would begin to say, “enough already.” Unfortunately, that point of revulsion seems to recede endlessly into the future.”

I for one enjoy shopping because I am always on the lookout for the latest introductions and innovations. For the more ordinary shopper, it looks like we need to help their decision-making by reducing the complexity of the task.

One requirement to achieving success, is clearly a deep understanding of your customers so that you can offer the best selection of variants to consumers in each region, if not individual stores. As I have so often mentioned (and sorry if I am boring you with this) it all comes back to knowing and understanding the customer. Simple really!

 

CORPORATIONS ARE BRANDS TOO!

Brand management is essential to a healthy business, but marketing has one of the quickest promotion ladders of many professions. That’s great news for marketers, less so for brands. Why? Well because marketers want to make an impression and get that promotion as quickly as possible. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by launching a new brand or variant.

I believe this explains why we poor consumers often end up NOT buying something because we just can’t make up our minds between the vast choice of flavours, packs and sizes on display in some large hypermarkets. More is most definitely not always better when it comes to retailing as I’ve already mentioned!

Does any brand really need tens of flavours/aromas or hundreds of variants?

Does any brand really need tens of flavours/aromas or hundreds of variants? #Brand #Marketing #BrandPortfolio Click To Tweet

To answer this, I decided to take a look at the latest table of leading global brands. According to Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands of 2019.”

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. Amazon
  4. Microsoft
  5. Coca-Cola
  6. Samsung
  7. Toyota
  8. Mercedes
  9. McDonalds
  10. Disney
  11. BMW
  12. IBM
  13. Intel
  14. Facebook
  15. Cisco

Most of these brands certainly don’t have hundreds of variants from which to choose from and therefore the customer’s final selection is relatively easy.

However, interestingly only one of these companies is a CPG (consumer packaged goods) brand. Interbrand made a great summary chart (below) showing the value of the top 100 brands of 2019, which clearly shows the importance of the different sectors. You have to search to find the CPG brands – bottom right-hand corner!

Interbrand Top Brands 2019
Image source: Interbrand

 

I decided to take a closer look at the sub-category of consumer brands. (Note: Interbrand still separates alcohol and beverages from CPG!) Here are the top 10 CPG brands, including beverages:

  1. Coca-Cola (3)
  2. Pepsi (24)
  3. Pampers (34)
  4. Gillette (37)
  5. Nescafe (38)
  6. L’Oreal (51)
  7. Kellogg’s (57)
  8. Danone (59)
  9. Nestle (60)
  10. Colgate (66)

What immediately strikes me is that many of these brands are actually also the names of the corporations who make them. This might explain why few consumer goods companies appear in this list, because they just have too many brands and variants.

A few of the larger CPGs – like Unilever and Nestle – have started associating their company name more prominently with their brands. However, they have taken two quite different approaches.

Unilever places its corporate logo on the back face of their product’s packaging, leaving the brand logo as the hero on the front. Nestle, on the other hand, incorporates its logo into the front panel design of most of its brands. There are a few noticeable exceptions which include their waters and petcare brands. Both of these were run as stand-alone businesses, which might explain this.

I am assuming that both organisations chose to prominently display their company logo in addition to the brand, in order to increase corporate reputation and also consumer trust, especially for their lesser-known brands. Interestingly, Unilever is not amongst the top 100 brands of 2019, so perhaps the addition on the back panel is too discrete to have any real impact?

I am closely watching to see if this strategy results in increased loyalty in the long-term, because for now their performances are not demonstrating a positive return.

 

BUSINESSES ARE FOCUSING BETTER

An interesting trend in the past decade or so, is that some CPG leaders, such as P&G, Unilever and Nestle have significantly culled the number of their brands’ SKUs. In some cases, this has meant reducing them from thousands down to “mere” hundreds and they continue to do so on a regular basis.

Taking Pareto’s Principle as a guide, it should be relatively easy to cut the bottom 5%, 10% or even 20% of brand variants without losing any significant share. This is why these companies continue to do this frequently; it makes good business sense.

Brand management has become far more challenging, because consumers are changing faster than are the businesses looking to satisfy them. As the Interbrand report notes:

Today, the world’s best brands are not positioned; they evolve together with the business along trajectories that align perfectly the Human Truths they serve, the Experiences they provide, and the Economics that sustain them.

What is surprising is that most CPG giants still don’t evolve fast enough, which is why they are being challenged by the more flexible and agile startups! But they are going to have to change if they want to stay in the race. For now, it appears that they know theoretically that they should be better focusing their portfolio and making frequent adjustments in line with their consumers’ changes. But in the end, they don’t go far enough perhaps because they’re scared of losing share.

If you are struggling to make this difficult decision yourself, then perhaps I can provide a few reasons to convince you to make that much-needed portfolio pruning:

  • Those multiplications of flavours, aromas, packaging etc you are making are renovations, not innovations. Wake up marketers, you are not innovating! Renovations should be primarily replacements of less successful offers, not additions to your already over-extended brand.
  • Retailers can’t stock every variant, so the more you offer the less chance you have of getting wide distribution. Think back to your pre-launch market assumptions; I bet they included a wildly exaggerated level of distribution in order to get that precious launch approval!
  • Precise targeting and a deep understanding of your consumers are the most successful ways to limit SKU explosion. If you are suffering from too many variants, then perhaps you should go back and review what you know about your consumers and what they really need.

Arguably some categories need constant renovation (food and cosmetics to name just a couple) but even that’s no excuse for simply multiplying SKUs. Use the “one in, one out” rule I mentioned above, because if you don’t, the retailer probably will. And with little concern for your own plans and preferences.

 

THE SECRETS

In conclusion, to summarise the best strategies for brand portfolio management, which seem to be a well-guarded secret since many corporations still ignore them, are:

  • Remember, that if you offer a vast choice of variants for each brand, consumers could get analysis paralysis and end up walking out of the store without buying anything.
  • You need to manage the corporate brand just like your other brands, especially if it appears prominently on packaging and your other communications’ materials.
  • Make an annual review of all your brands and variants and ruthlessly cut the bottom 20%. If you want to keep any of them, then you must have a good reason – such as that it’s a recent launch – and a plan to actively support them.
  • Innovate less but better. Be more targeted with each of innovation and include your consumers in their development.
  • Be realistic in your distribution targets. Know what will sell where and why. Not only are you more likely to keep your share, but you’ll also make friends with your retailers.

 

Coming back to the leading consumer brands from the Interbrands’ list, all top ten excel in brand portfolio strategies that are precisely differentiated, clearly targeted and well communicated.

David Aaker wrote an article on L’Oreal a few years ago that explains the above theories very well. Even if it’s from December 2013, not much has changed and it still makes a great read; highly recommended.

I believe that most brands with tens or hundreds of variants in a market, are being managed by lazy marketers. People who don’t have the courage to manage their brands effectively by regularly trimming their poorest performers. They must face up to the lack of success of some of their “babies”.

Are you one of these marketers? What’s your excuse? I’d love to hear your reasons for keeping all your SKUs.


Need help in cleaning up your brand portfolio, so you can put your efforts where they will bring the most return?

Let us help; contact us here.


C3Centricity used images from the book “Winning Customer Centricity” in this post.

 

The Future of Brand Building is Customer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. But with the advent of digital in the early 80’s, companies began taking a serious look at their marketing strategies.

Many organisations realised that it was time for a major overhaul of their primarily outbound strategies. Consumers no longer appreciated being interrupted in their daily lives, if they ever did!

However, even today, with the creation of inbound marketing strategies, they are still irritating their customers with spammy emails, intrusive pop-ups and over-complicated cookies, that gather far more information than most organisations will ever need or use.

Despite these changes CMOs remain one of the leading c-suite members who struggle to keep their jobs for more than four or five years. The reasons are many, but the post “Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?” explains what you can do to ensure you only leave your position when you want to.

 

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies, such as P&G, Coca-Cola and Nestle, have changed the name of their Marketing departments in the past twenty years, to Brand Building. They hoped that it would revive sales and give new vitality to their communications to better engage their customers in the new social world. But most failed miserably, because they remained very much in a state of business as usual. They continued with the same processes and mind-sets. And with few exceptions, they prioritised thoughts about themselves and their brands, and rarely took their customers’ perspective.

Luckily a few other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to customer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight.

Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey with the aim to satisfy and delight. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

I think we have taught our customers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for the next price offs whenever they can.

They also realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now often have a portfolio of brands from which they choose in many categories. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be.

 

Switching economy harming loyalty and brand building
Source: Accenture

They have also come to expect constant innovation as they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “ Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago!

 

Customer Centricity

Brand building needs new skills for marketers
Source: Korn Ferry

In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change. In the  2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it confirmed that marketers need new skills and can no longer rely on creativity alone.

 

 


If you’re interested in upskilling your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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Are You Customer Centric?

Companies that place their customers at the heart of their business, are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and engaging games. Their contact pages provide many alternative ways for customers to reach out to them, rather than the less appealing reason menu and message box that disappears into hyperspace!  Their advertising is emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their customers in many aspects of their business.

If you would like to start involving your customers more in your business then the post “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” is a popular and highly recommended read.

And if you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website and then complete our free quiz C3C Evaluator™.

Moving Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are some ideas that you can use to help you quickly move forward on your journey to greater customer centricity:

1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.

2. Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” If they would disagree, then you should reconsider your options.

This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the customer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.

What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken? If they wouldn't like it, reconsider your options. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

3. Review the content of your website in detail. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do. And while you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.

Review the content of your website. If there are more we's than you's then you know what to do. Customer centric companies talk about their customers more than themselves. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona / avatar. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C3Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free HERE)

5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.

Review your current advertising campaign. Who is the hero? If it's not your customer, consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers. Click To Tweet

6. If you are lucky enough to have retail outlets, spend time with your front-line staff and your customers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know. Then add the information to your persona description and review your future promotions for any improvements you could make.

7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2 above.

 

These are your seven starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building, to a more customer centric approach. They all have your customer at the heart of them. Any others you’d like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can alone, so why not share them below and let your knowledge shine?

If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, please check out my book “Winning Customer Centricity“. You’ll see it’s like no other business book you have ever seen! Then you will understand why numerous major CPG / FMCG companies follow it annually. It’s fun, inspiring and a useful roadmap for your customer centric journey. 

If you’re interested in upskilling your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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How the Best Marketers are Getting More Actionable Insights

Are you as busy as I am, as we plan on how we’re going to deliver on all our objectives before year-end?

The last quarter of any year is a stressful time indeed, but this post on actionable insights is a must-read if you want to start 2020 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in their organisation.

Insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone. #MRX #Marketing #Insight Click To Tweet

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. Successful companies depend upon deep customer insights to grow their business. They understand the power of engagement built on insight, to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for. #MRX #Marketing #Insights Click To Tweet

Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

I was encouraged to see that marketing have finally understood the importance of insights. In some recent research by Gartner CMOs selected market research and insights as just as important as marketing analytics and digital commerce (see graph below).

Better late than never I suppose, but it always amazes me that marketing could put anything ahead of insights. After all, every action they decide to take should be based upon deep knowledge and understanding of the customers targeted.

 

actionable insights supporting marketing strategy

 

If you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, then I suggest you follow these eight tips that I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams last month.

 

 

Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation. This seems to be a trait of all successful companies, that they have a desire to improve and learn more. They never consider that they “know it all,” which is a reason I have often heard from businesses when I ask why they are not doing more to understand their customers!

1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first.

Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude, and you are likely to correctly identify the actions to be taken. When you think customer’ objectives rather than (just) your own, you are far more likely to meet with success.

2. Insight generation should start with customer connection. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers.

They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes. These days you don’t even have to leave your office. Market research interviews can be videos live and care centres are always answering calls from customers, so make a habit of listening in. For hints on how to observe your customers better, check out “Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success.”

Insight generation should start with customer connection. #MRX #Insight #Marketing. Click To Tweet

3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contacts with other groups are limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are seen as the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.

Meet for a coffee, or go to lunch with someone other than your usual group of colleagues. These impromptu meetings will deliver big on understanding and will provide invaluable information from the perspective of other departments.

4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight teams learn a host of new things about the business every day. So why not share them?

Every project and analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question in hand. However, make them a regular part of newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking across the organisation.

Every MR project & analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Make sure to share it. #MRX #Insight #Marketing #Brands Click To Tweet

5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. As already suggested, join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail.

These connections can quickly become addictive, as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.

6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage.

According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will both be better informed and also feel less overwhelmed.

7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.

 


If you’re interested in learning more, then we can provide fun training on many areas of insight development. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

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8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to always be building their relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

 

So these are the eight tips I shared with my Japanese client during our workshop. Are you doing all of them, or have they given you some ideas on how to improve your own process? I do hope so.

 

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with MRI. Do they involve you in insight development or do they only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation? Add a comment with your suggestions below.

 

For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here.

Let’s have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts and provide fun, actionable training to your team’s agenda. They can be delivered both online and in person.

 

 

Winning Customer Centricity

 

 

This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, on our website HERE. Of course, the book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

 

 

 

 

Today’s Toughest Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction!

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become in recent years. The offers of constant innovation and novelty have made us all more impatient and critical.

Today we want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Companies need to deliver more, a lot more!

I was recently in the US and as seems to be the norm these days, the hotel in which I stayed asked me to rate their performance afterwards. I completed their form, giving only four and five-star ratings, as I had been very satisfied with my stay, the hotel rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following email a day or so after submitting my review:

“Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.”

Shocking mail isn’t it? To think that a Hotel apologises for not exceeding my expectations! But I believe that is exactly why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

Shocking to think that a Hotel would apologise for not exceeding my expectations! #hotel #travel #leisure #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

How do you treat your own customers, consumers and clients? Do you do just enough to satisfy them, or do you consistently look to exceed their expectations?

If you are a regular reader here – and I’d love to know why if you’re not, so I can do better in the future – you will know that I often talk about “surprising” and “delighting” our customers. These are not hollow words; there’s a very real reason why I use them. The reason is that our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long.

Our customers may be satisfied, but they will never stay satisfied for long. #CRM #CEX #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

The above personal example I give is one way that the hotel staff ensure they have enough time to correct whatever is not a “superior experience” as they term their own desired service level, and to continue to offer total customer satisfaction.

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Here are a few examples of other companies who go above and beyond in terms of their own customer service. I hope they inspire you to do the same and to aspire to exceed customer satisfaction whenever and wherever you can.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logo
Image source: Amazon.com

I have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want

“to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Although they don’t specifically mention exceeding their customers’ expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn’t trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

One recent challenge for Amazon is the claimed increase in fake reviews. I myself was once asked to give a five-star rating in return for a total reimbursement of the cost of the product. Needless to say, I immediately returned the item and informed Amazon.

This practice seems to be particularly common for articles coming from China, although I am sure it is becoming a widespread behaviour as companies realise the importance of high customer ratings. In fact, there are now even platforms for checking the validity of reviews, so hopefully things will improve in the near term. If you would like to learn more on the topic, then I suggest you read this great article on cnet.

Zappos

Zappos powered customer satisfaction through service
Image source: Zappos.com

Just like Amazon, Zappos too has made customer centricity the heart of their business. Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their “WOW Philosophy,” is “To provide the best customer service possible.”

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that

“We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.”

That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is

“To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer’s expect today – the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. 

Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Apple

Apple targets customer satisfaction
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being “better.” While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook’s vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?

“For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.”

How many organisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

Did you make the best product, and did you enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of these, then you are having a good year. #quote @TimCook #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

Brompton Bikes

Brompton bikes offer exception customer satifaction
Image source: Brompton Bikes

The final example I want to share is from the UK and shows how even retail can become an essential part of delighting the customer. The brand is Brompton Bikes, a folding, city bike.

They understand that it is no longer sufficient to provide an excellent product and an easy way to buy them or to order online. Brompton have realised that their retail outlet needs to be an integral part of the brand experience, if they want to not only satisfy, but delight their customers.

Now while that may not in itself be that new, Nike and other trainer brands have been doing this for a while, it is the first time I have seen it done for durable goods.

What Brompton have done particularly well, is to understand their urban buyers’ lifestyle. They have been able to become an integral part of it, by not only providing transport, but also an easy way to buy accessories, get repairs done and even to park safely while their customers visit the adjacent shopping mall. In other words they have made their brand a solution for city dwellers.

 

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is becoming ever more difficult to do this these days, it is definitely worth the effort in order to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. Brompton have achieved this by deeply understanding the lifestyle of their customers. As Maya Angelou is famed for saying

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

  • Strive for better in everything you do, Never be satisfied with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee’s objectives to ensure your products and services not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.


Coming back to the title of this post, I hope you now agree that satisfaction is no longer sufficient to attract and keep your customers. It is time to step up your game, to aim for surprise and delight. This should be an ongoing objective too, since customers can quickly increase their demands as what once excited them becomes the norm. 

I am sure you have many examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you as their customer expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others would you add to the list?

Which companies excel at not only satisfying their customers, but surprising and delighting them too? #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerDelight #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Please share your suggestions below. Of course, you can also share your horror stories, as they provide useful information – and often amusing anecdotes too! Thanks. 

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The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect your Customers

More than one year after the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, I wondered what has changed. And more importantly, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship whilst also respecting it.

Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. A recent article on Business2Community by Owen Ray said that

The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”

If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.

Companies who are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Too many businesses ask too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes.

I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.

 

1. Ask Permission to Gather Information

This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t subscribe! You too?

Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for. Not only should you ask for consent; if you are not in direct personal contact, but connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.

Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers. It also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.

 

2. There Must be Mutual Benefit

When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them in return immediately. This can be as simple as offering coupons for your products, some valuable information not easily available elsewhere, a free guide or e-book on a relevant topic, or special privileges such as club membership or express shipping. Something that shows them that they were right to agree and that you value their information.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm them by asking everything in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, you can complete the information you require through several contacts with the same customer.

This also has the added advantage of keeping the conversation more frequent than it might otherwise have been. Ask just enough to be able to identify your priority metrics and then refine your understanding of them as you gather more information.

Your objective should be to build a long-term relationship with your customers, so don't gather more information than you can immediately use. #CEX #CRM #CustomerService #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

h3>3. Make them Feel Special

More and more CPG companies and brands now offer a loyalty program, especially to their higher-value consumers. These provide more targeted privileges and even give the opportunity to preview new communications or product concepts. In general customers love to give feedback and it has the benefit of building a closer tie to the brand as they feel ownership of those launched.

This is probably one of the more intimate and bigger win-win relationships that can be developed with your customer. But it does take a dedicated team within the company to manage such a club, as these customers are naturally the most demanding for services and constant information updates. So only set one up when you know you can satisfy their needs, as otherwise they can feel frustrated when they perceive they are not getting the attention they think they deserve.

Over the past couple of years, we have started to see new types of member offers. Sephora launched a members-only social platform, which encourages shoppers to share beauty tips and advice, and to comment about any new products bought, not just those from their stores.

Nike has taken things to the extreme by opening an entire members-only store concept, Nike Live, in Los Angeles.

Both of these provide exceptional recognition to their members, making them feel a part of an exclusive program, which is exactly what they are!

 

4. Keep the Relationship Fresh

Once you start building the relationship with your customers, you must continue to interest them by offering news, information, photos, videos or articles of interest. This can be quite a strain on internal resources, so you may want to (also) consider including user generated content (UGC) on your website.

Not only does this ensure continuously updated content, but also involves the customer in what is shown, so that it remains relevant and of interest to them. People love to post and comment, so include message boards, tip sharing platforms or photo albums, whatever is relevant to your targeted customers.

Beauty, fashion and petcare brands were amongst the first to make use of UGC, as they are in very visual industries. Who doesn’t want to share a photo of themselves when they are looking especially beautiful, or show how cute their cat or dog is?

One great example comes from L’Oreal. Their DermaBlendPro brand encouraged users to share photos or videos of how the brand had transformed their look, by hiding disfiguration or tattoos. They clearly understood that happy customers make the best brand ambassadors, and this was clearly proven by the thousands of entries and immense buzz the brand received on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

 

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5. Ask their Advice – Frequently

For your customers to appreciate how much you value them and their business, involve them in it, by asking for feedback on how you are doing. If you have new ideas or plans, share details with them or enable them to vote for new flavors, concepts or advertising ideas.

You can also enable them to preview the ads or products before everyone else, but do make sure you provide them with some great information about it too, so that they can share it with their friends and family members. This will make them feel like the special and valued customer they are, and also help you spread the word – for free!

 

6. Always Offer a Simple Way Out

Once you have made the connection with your customers, recognize that they might change their minds at any time and want to unsubscribe from your club or mailing list. Make this as quick, simple and pain free as possible. This shows respect for your customer and their time, and also enables them to leave with a positive opinion of you and the brand. You never know, they might change their minds and stay after all, or come back again in the near future.

From making the unsubscribe link in tiny font to pale and almost illegible, to using button colours to mislead, many brands think that this will stop people from unsubscribing. It may, but it is more likely just to irritate them and label your communications as spam.

Even large companies get this wrong. Apple may provide full details of all the different ways to connect on their contact page, but it is laid out in an overwhelming block of text that is so off putting I doubt anyone hunts to find the information they need.

Apple shows how not to respect your customers

Another example used by Swiss airlines and their parent company Lufthansa almost had me agreeing to give all my information, not just the necessary data to make my experience more comfortable. Their coloured button draws the eye and without reading you could end up making the same mistake I almost did.

No way to respect your customers


With so much choice available to customers today, it is our responsibility to build an engaging and respectful relationship with them. If there is no trust, there may soon be no sales!

What other ways do you show respect for your customers? Please share your best examples below. Of course, if you have come across a bad example that frustrated that, then please share it too. Let’s name and shame!

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