What does it take to write a winning marketing plan? Every marketer writes a marketing or business plan each year don’t they, so how difficult can it be, right?
Well, writing a marketing plan isn’t hard at all, but writing a winning marketing plan is very difficult. And time-consuming. And getting it approved by your executive board is perhaps the most challenging part of all.
And it’s not only in the formal marketing plan presentation that you need your “A” game. Management is renowned in most organisations for “innocently” posing questions when passing marketers in the corridor or while socialising at a company event.
Answer the CEO’s questions to their satisfaction and you will stand out from the crowd. Provide an incomplete or, worse still, no answer at all, and they might just wonder if it isn’t time to restructure the marketing group!
So here are my 9 actionable tips on how to write a winning marketing plan, so you can answer any question your CEO or boss throws at you – EVERY time.
The simple rule is to NEVER say you don’t know, but also to never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither will win you brownie points. Make sure you have an answer like those proposed below and your name might just be on the next list of promotions. (Do I congratulate you now?!?)
1. WHO ARE OUR BRAND’S CUSTOMERS?
There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona or avatar) of a typical user, in the same way as you would describe a friend. See “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers” for further details on what you should already know about your customer.
Once you’ve checked out the above article, why not also download our 4W™ template? It will help you put everything in one place so it is always handy and more importantly makes it easy to update it whenever you learn something new about them.
GOOD ANSWER: “Our customers are middle-aged women, whose children are in their late teens or early twenties. She shops in local supermarkets and gets advice from friends on Facebook, about the best brands to buy and what’s on offer.”
If the CEO / your boss looks interested or asks for more, then continue with “She’s been buying our brand for over two years because it satisfies her children’s hunger when they get in from playing sports. That makes them happy and she then feels proud of being a good Mum. We call her Patty.”
With this answer, you will have given them a short summary of the most important elements of your persona. By adding the name you have given the avatar, you might get them to also refer to her in your next meeting. That’s when you know they listened to you and that you won an important step up in their estimation.
Besides having an average lifetime value of your customer in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your brand.
This information will come from certain attributes in your brand image study, such as “worth the price”, “more valuable than other brands” or “is worth paying more for.” The summary results of your brand image study should always be included in your winning marketing plan.
Just make sure that when you quote such statistics, that you compare them to the competition. Rather than saying “56% of category users think we offer great value for money”, say “more than a half of category users think we provide better value than the competition.” Your boss will always ask for more detailed information if needed.
GOOD ANSWERS: On average each customer spends about XXX (Dollars, Euros, Renminbi, Rupee, Real …) a year on our brand, which is about YYY over ten years (lifetime value is rarely calculated further out than this).
Our current average price in-store is ZZZ, but 70% of our customers thinks we’re actually worth more than that. This compares to AAA for the category leader / our main competitor.
3. WHAT RETURN ON OUR MARKETING BUDGET ARE WE GETTING?
Whilst ROI is not the best measure of marketing’s impact (see this Forbes article for more on that), you still need to answer the question. Your response to this could get very complex if you go into too much detail, so keep it simple.
Say what your total budget is, how much you spend on advertising and promotions and what impact that has had on sales, in total. I know it takes a lot more than these two actions to impact sales, but as I said, keep it simple.
If there has been a negative trend in share, then mention sales volume if that has gone up. If neither are trending upwards, then you will need to quote your changes in comparison to your competitors’.
GOOD ANSWER: Our total budget is AAA of which BBB goes on communications and promotions. With our current sales growth of SSS, that works out at approximately TT%.
4. HOW MUCH WILL WE SELL; WHAT MARKET SHARE ARE WE EXPECTING THIS YEAR?
Your boss will almost certainly remember your brand’s market share from your marketing plan. So when he asks this question he is probably looking for more than just a number.
You could of course just give him that number, but why not use the attention you’ve got by adding something more impactful to your story?
Comments about how your brand is growing in comparison to category growth or your main competitors put the numbers immediately into perspective. It also helps the boss to better understand the numbers.
GOOD ANSWER: We’re expecting an RR% growth this year to UUU unit sales. This will be the highest rate in the category, so our share will increase by PP points to MM% market share. These will be the best results we have achieved in over ten years – or some such comment to add value to the numbers.
You could answer this with a long list of all the new SKUs you will launch but again use your time wisely by adding some understanding too. Speak about the objectives behind the launches and any new theme or direction the brand is taking.
For instance, are you moving to more low fat, organic, or natural ingredients? Are you using more sustainable sources or reducing your carbon footprint or water usage? Sharing the objectives behind your plans for the brand will show the solid foundation you have for your launches and the decisions you have made.
If you can also add a comment about why you are doing that and your customers’ new sensitivities that again puts your information into the right perspective.
GOOD ANSWER: We will be launching CC new variants in our new organic range, which we expect to add MM% points to our total market share. We will also be eliminating FF units that are not delivering on expectations and contain too much sugar for today’s customer preferences.
Following on from the last point, questions around sustainability and sourcing tend to be raised in corporations that already have such targets. If this is the case in your own company, then measurements are almost certainly already being taken and shown in your marketing plan. Therefore you just need to reply with the latest numbers.
But you can again use this exchange with top management to add how your customers feel about the question and all the efforts being made by the company – you do have that information too don’t you?
However, if this is a new initiative for your business, then you will want to take the opportunity to show how you and your brand are playing their part in supporting this important company initiative.
The answer to this question could cover a lot of topics: sales, market share, new launches, advertising, promotions or pricing. After all, when you write your marketing plan you will add a lot of information about your brand and also its main competitors – or at least I hope you do!
Therefore respond with a simple summary of a few current metrics of your brand in comparison to two or three of your major competitors. The ones you are most proud of. The manager will then clarify if he was thinking of a specific topic and you can then answer with a little more precision.
Make use of this question to share any particularly tough market conditions you are facing of which your boss / CEO may not be intimately aware. This is a great opportunity to pre-warn them should your brand be struggling to meet the objectives laid out in the agreed marketing plan. But you must have a solid explanation and reasons for the shortfalls, possible pertaining to market changes or those of your target customer.
A simple summary of outlets in which we have gained or lost distribution is enough here, but why not add some detail about successful placement improvements too? That latest shelf redesign that has increased sales, or the fact that you have just been named category captain in a retail chain, is definitely news worth sharing.
If on the other hand, you are having difficult discussions with an important chain or outlet group, then that too deserves a mention. Perhaps your boss has some useful contacts or ideas to help. Marketers are nervous about sharing their challenges, but pre-warning management of market situations that are negatively impacting your brand are definitely worth mentioning before the situation becomes more serious.
9. PLANNING FOR MARKETING PLANNING
My last question is one that perhaps will surprise you; it is “Did you read Mark Ritson’s recent article about marketing planning?” The post is called “14 steps to an effective presentation” and complements well my own article.
I have been a fan of Mark’s cheeky wit and solid marketing suggestions for years. Even if I don’t always agree with everything he writes, every one of his articles makes me think and reconsider what I do for my own business and that of my clients. And that is the objective of my own blog postings, to make the reader reconsider what they’re doing, specifically in the area of how they treat their customers and adopting a customer-first strategy.
Here is the summary diagram on the right, of his structure of a 12-month marketing plan, which I am sure will make you click on the image or the link above to read the article. I would highly recommend you do so, if you missed it when it was first published.
So there you have them. Eight of the most common questions top management asks of marketers – and an extra ninth one from me. As you can see, the answers I’ve suggested to the eight are short and simple.
Especially when the question is posed outside the formal marketing plan presentation, the executive is probably looking not only for the information requested but also to check that you have an excellent understanding of your brand. He wants to be assured that his business is in good hands. Prove it to him and also show your respect for his time, by giving short, precise answers whenever possible.
Do you frequently get asked other questions not mentioned here? Then please add them in the comments below. Also, if you have a better way of responding to any of the above questions, I’d love to read those too. Thanks a lot.
If you’d like your team to be better prepared for “awkward” questions from management, why not ask for one of our short, sharp 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions (both virtual and in-person)? They are fun, informative, motivating and above all actionable.
This post is adapted from an article that first appeared on C3Centricity in 2014 and is regularly updated. See the original.
Why do companies still try to cheat their customers? Is it because they think we won’t notice? Or do they believe that there are enough people willing to buy their brand for the first time, that they don’t need to worry about getting that second purchase? Either way, they clearly haven’t heard that the most important attribute a brand needs to build is trust!
With so many purchases being made online these days, there is a growing number of articles exposing the behaviours of organisations who obviously haven’t adopted a customer-first strategy. Companies who still think it’s OK to try to attract customers and entice people to make that all-important first purchase, with less than honest promises.
I know that this has always been the case in some industries and companies. Brands try to convince people that what they have to offer is exactly what their potential customers need – even when it isn’t. However, in today’s socially connected world, it surprises me that many organisations continue to believe that they can “get away with it” whatever “it” might be!
Perhaps they are not aware of what they are doing. Perhaps they think no-one else will notice. Whatever the reasons for such practices, I thought that it is once again time to call them out with some new examples of the more common behaviours. Some of them are even from large global multinationals who should know what they are doing! Such a shame – but it does make for some fun reading!
In many cases, packaging is the first personal contact a customer has with a brand. Whether in advertising or on shelf, based upon what they see, people will quickly decide whether or not your brand is worth investigating further. If so, they will read on, or if in store they will pick it up and read the label, perhaps comparing it to competitive brands.
Here are some examples of the different tricks some brands play in the hope of attracting that first purchase. But these tricks will only lead to a disappointed purchaser and will rarely lead to repeat purchases.
I know we’re currently in Winter in the Northern hemisphere and most of us are in lockdown, but we are certainly already dreaming of the day we can get back out and enjoy family bar-b-qs.
And many of us will want a bright and happy design covering our table. This tablecloth looked perfect in the pack, but despite saying it is printed all over, the design is only on the border. It is packed so that only the design shows, so most would never even read the back of pack.
I’m a big fan of L’Oreal and regularly get drawn to their new products. Again I wouldn’t have checked the back of pack to understand the meaning of the word “new” printed on the front label, would you?
Obviously we need to pay more attention to what is written on packs as in this case it is the pack design not the contents that are new.
The fact that the word appears just above the “rich in care” claim makes it obvious that L’Oreal were not trying to avoid any misunderstanding by their purchasers. How would you feel when you got the bottle home and found it was exactly the same as your current pack? Disappointed, angry?
As with the previous example, a quick read on shelf of this cereal box and you would believe that the contents are high in protein. Its from Natures Path too, so you would probably think that it is all natural and therefore trustworthy (well I for one trust nature).
Look again. The protein claim is for a serving and is primarily coming from the milk you add! Remember, never believe what is printed on the front of pack!
The second cereal example, this time from General Mills, is wrong for several reasons!
Firstly they have made the pack bigger – but the contents smaller! No doubt they wanted more shelf impact, judging from the competitor packs you can just make out on the left of the photo, but they decided to get a price increase too by reducing the quantity of the contents.
In a time where consumers are asking manufacturers to be more responsible, such as making less waste in their packaging, General Mills is going in the opposite direction!
The next packaging example was one I found when opening my usual brand of crispbread.
At some point, they must have reduced the content without my even noticing, as I usually transfer them immediately into a hermetic box to keep them fresh once opened.
I know that cereal boxes do not appear to be filled when we first open them, but we have come to accept the explanation that the contents have settled during transport.
No such claim can be made for biscuits. This is just one example that I found, but unfortunately it seems to have become the norm in the industry in recent years.
The final packaging example comes from the beauty industry, where misleading packaging seems to be the norm, at least from my own experience.
From tiny bottles packed in large plastic holders and huge boxes, to bottles that contain minuscule amounts of product compared to the container size, that manufacturers seem to think is acceptable.
If everyone is doing it, the customer knows, right? Wrong! We may see the quantity printed on the box but most of us can’t assess how much that really is.
This example on the right is so ridiculous I can only suppose the manufacturer wanted to get more impact on-shelf for his tiny product. It’s still totally unacceptable.
We all love promotions and price-offs, don’t we? Well, it looks like we should be paying a little more attention to the shelf edge labels judging from the below examples.
I find this one on the left almost laughable because it is so clear!
I took the photo in a 99p store in the UK, where everything is 99p – dah!
So why bother to pretend this is a discount from the regular price of – 99p?
The Nike shoe “promotion” shown on the right is not much better, it’s plain cheating by the store (which is certainly not the brand’s store I must add).
The “NOW” price suggests that it was more expensive before. Well, it should at least in my opinion. In this case, it was indeed cheaper – by exactly one cent!
Not sure that qualifies for a “NOW” shout-out on the shelf edge label, unless you are trying to make buyers believe they’re getting a good deal.
It is true that this Colgate offer on the left doesn’t actually say the three packs are of the same size, but purchasers should be forgiven for understanding it in this way – and no doubt that was the intention!
As I mentioned at the start of this article, it is so, so sad that even large and usually trusted multinationals are stooping to such low levels to get more money out of their most loyal customers. Well, at least they probably were loyal until they bought their cheating promotions!
These have been in the news so much recently, especially for online. From restaurants and hotel reviews on TripAdvisor to product and delivery stars on Amazon, we all know to pay attention to just how many people voted to get the scores.
It is also a good idea to review the top and bottom scorers for the similarity of comments and believability. They could have been placed by the sellers or their competitors, so never base your purchase decision on just the overall rating; check the details.
Another area that has come under scrutiny in recent years for false ratings is the car industry. Many (most?) of them have been called out for false consumption claims which resulted in them getting a lower pollution score. Hopefully, most if not all these fake numbers have now been replaced by more honest ones.
The scandal started with Volkswagen AG admitting to engineering its diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions’ testing. Then Ford joined the list, with drivers in a U.S. lawsuit claiming that 500,000 Super Duty pickup trucks had also been rigged to beat the emissions tests.
And other European car makers are no better. German manufacturers have been accused of operating a 20-year “cartel” to impose a premium on consumers while stifling innovation, including pollution controls. Bloomberg has a good article explaining the topic if you want to learn more.
I believe that this is rampant in the food industry in particular, although I am not sure the outlandish promises (and packaging as shown above) of the beauty industry don’t warrant a mention here too!
From enticing images on (front of!) pack, to the disappointing contents, we are regularly shocked by just how far from reality the product photos are. Here are a few of the funniest ones I’ve come across.
The first example is from the Morrisons supermarket chain in the UK. I think by triple pepperoni they meant the three slices of meat! At least that is what you get on your pizza (no sorry there are four if you search for them!). What did you expect for one pound fifty?
The next one on the left is more subtle. It does say it’s solid chocolate and that’s true. It’s just that you only get half a cup, not the whole one I bet purchasers were expecting.
The third food example is also from a chocolate manufacturer, who takes cheating to a whole new level.
See the photo on the right; it must have been a manufacturing nightmare to position the cranberries precisely so that they are seen through the transparent section of the packaging!
Oh wait, I just saw it says it is “handmade” so the six cranberries were carefully placed on the tablet! Maybe that’s how they could use the claim, after manufacturing the chocolate tablet by machine.
The final example on the left makes me wonder how any marketer could accept to do such a thing to their customers?!!
Apart from the excessive cardboard used, it is clear that the intention was to cheat the purchaser into thinking he/she was getting far more than the actual contents of the pack.
The “promotion” for cheap parking on the right only becomes less of a bargain as you are probably driving into the carpark and see up close the “for 10 minutes” in tiny font at the bottom of the panel.
They will only get your business once, if at all and I bet you’d warn your friends and family not to park there.
Many of the dishonest promotions packagings mentioned above would also qualify as dishonest pricing. But one common practice on pricing that is beginning to irritate me, is to use of the words “up to” usually in small font compared to the large font used for the discount being offered.
We come across this and the BOGO (buy one get one) offers frequently. BOGO started its life as BOGOF (for free, making the two products 50% cheaper) and I believe that many people still interpret the message as such. I think buyers beware should be the new norm when being promised such discounts. I myself make a point of ignoring them, because I know I will always be disappointed with the actual offer, compared to my first interpretation of it.
I couldn’t finish this review of companies and brands that cheat the customer without mentioning some of the dishonest online practices too.
These include offering something for free and then charging “only for shipping and handling” which is usually more than the item is worth!
And asking for credit card details at the time of a free trial. This is no doubt in the hope that many people will forget to cancel before their trial runs out and that get locked into the purchase of a product or service they perhaps hadn’t intended to buy.
I am happy to see that some brands are now offering trials without requesting credit card details, or are sending out a reminder before the end of the trial to remind their (potential) customers that they will be charged if the service is not cancelled before a certain date. Well done to those customer-centric brands for their honesty.
Another habit that is becoming prevalent, even on Google, is the blurring between search results or newsletter topics, and advertising.
The example on the right comes from an email I received a while back from StumbleUpon (now called Mix).
I had been such a fan of theirs for years, as they had always suggested interesting articles I might not have found otherwise.
This new attempt of theirs to “hide” advertising amongst their list of suggestions irritated me immensely, because they made it an integral part of the list.
I cancelled my subscription as soon as I noticed it and wonder if others did too, as they have since changed names.
At least Google does add lines, albeit very light grey ones, in their search results.
One more example of cheating online is the usage of a bright colour to entice surfers to click a button, when it is not the option they would have chosen, had they had bothered to read the text (which we don’t do any more, we just skim read).
In the example on the left from Swiss (and also used by their parent company Lufthansa), readers would be drawn to click on the red button to approve the cookies. However, to accept only the required ones, you would need to click the word in light grey to the left of the red button.
Finally, and probably the most rampant of all cheating these days, are the online clothing scandals.
Many articles have been written which compare the article ordered and the rip-off Asian copy received. Here is just one example, but you can see many more at MailOnline.
Definitely worth a laugh, but I do feel sorry for the girl who ordered it, although as she posted her photos on Facbook, I think she saw the funny side too.
There is no way that this builds loyal customers, but perhaps in China (from where most of these sites seem to be doing business) the population is so huge that they believe that they can keep this going a few years until they can improve the quality of their copies!
And for those of us who have purchased such merchandise, the hassle and cost of returning such an article after waiting weeks to receive it, is just not worth the effort and we move our purchasing elsewhere.
None of the above examples would happen if organisations adopted the use of my “Magic” question. What is it? It is simply to ask yourself every time you take a decision:
“What would our customers think of the decision we’ve just taken?”
If the answer is that they wouldn’t like it, then the decision needs to be reconsidered.
I hear some people (Jeanne Bliss’s book for example) asking “would be mother, sister, girlfriend like it?”If you prefer that way of thinking, fine by me – just as long as you reconsider your decisions in light of these questions. If you wouldn’t do it to your friends and family, why do it to your customers? They are members of someone else’s family after all.
Another solution, of course, is just to be more honest.
So to end on a (relative) high, here are a few examples of businesses who “tell it like it is.”
One company who has benefited from telling the truth – and there aren’t that many! – is Avis.
Their “We try harder”campaign launched in 1962, turned into a strategy for the whole business – and took Avis from an 18% market share to 34% in a very short time.
More than fifty years on, it’s still their slogan. (That in itself is amazing: how many brand ideas last fifty years?)
Another example of an honest company, is, perhaps surprisingly, from a Swiss financial institution Hyposwiss. In their “honest campaign” they take a refreshing view of money – yours in particular.
The last couple of examples are exceptionally customer centric.
I just love it when companies clearly have put themselves in the shoes of their customers and found small but impactful ways for people to fall in love with their brands and the solutions they offer.
The first on the left is to help customers when they have to build the flatback furniture they bought. Ikea could learn a thing or two from this hardware store. I am sure many of us would pay extra for this added convenience.
Although I used to build my flatpacks myself when I was (much) younger, I am afraid with age I have given up. But making it this easy might just tempt me to have another go. You too?
I recently heard that Ikea will be offering spare parts, not just missing nails and screws, so their buyers don’t have to replace the whole article if something breaks or wears out. They say they are doing this for sustainability reasons, but I’m happy they are also showing that they listen to their customers.
On the right, is a photo of another simple idea, but one that would save every bed-maker both time and frustration. I always have to compare the two lengths of a fitted sheet to know where top is!
As I already said, putting yourself in your customers’ shoes will highlight many ways you can make their lives easier. This example is in reality a tiny advantage, but one that would tip the balance when buying fitted sheets for many people.
That is the key to customer-centricity; making your customers happy to pay more than the cost to you of adding a feature because they value your solution, as well as your attention and understanding of their needs.
I hope you enjoyed this post, but also got some useful “ah-ha” moments when you realised one of your brands did in the past, or is currently doing, something your customers won’t appreciate.
In today’s digital age there is no longer the opportunity for companies that cheat to hide for long. They will always get called out on social media, eventually. If not today, then tomorrow or next week. Be warned!
Do you have any other examples of a customer-centric idea, perhaps from your own brand? If so, then please share it below and let everyone know.
Would you be interested in an audit of your brands to make them more customer-centric? Then we should talk. Contact me today, you’ll be surprised how quickly and cheaply it can be done.
Traditionally C3Centricity publishes a list of the most popular customer-centricity posts on its blog in January and this year is no exception, despite covid’s extraordinary impact on businesses the world over.
Many people were working from home this year, were you? If so, then I’m sure that because you avoided commuting most days, you had the chance to discover some new blogs and podcasts. If you are new to C3Centricity then welcome, glad you could join us. Many others just like you, found C3Centricity for the first time this year. Perhaps that’s the reason why we recorded an over 15% increase in our readership in 2020. Or maybe it is because the quality of our posts is always improving and we share more regularly. Either way, we’d like to thank you all for your support this past year.
In appreciation of your loyalty, we have summarised the top twenty articles we published in 2020, so you can check that you didn’t miss any, or remind yourself of their usefulness:
This post has been amongst the top articles on C3Centricity for many years. It is regularly updated so it remains highly relevant in today’s marketplace. Its popularity clearly shows the need we all have to understand how to get up close and personal with our customers – the right way.
Starting from a personal experience in the hotel industry, this article shares the lessons learned that are applicable to all industries in how and why we all need to understand and follow our customers’ journey.
From thinking about buying the category to successfully turning purchasers into raving fans of our brands, this will improve your own customer journey mapping and guide you in correcting any weak spots in it.
Do you consider packaging to be (just) a means of protecting your product and providing on-shelf presence? If so, then you are missing out on other valuable benefits you have probably never thought about.
Once again, it is filled with great examples and learning which will guide you in connecting with your users before, during and after purchase, as well as how to keep them loyal to your brand.
Unless you only sell one brand with one product, you need to consider how everything you offer impacts your customers, both actual and potential.
In addition, your company name can play an important role if not the same as your brand name, when it appears on your packaging and promotional materials. Learn how to understand the relationship between the two names, something few have really thought about.
How come with all the talk about the importance of customer satisfaction, many companies still get it wrong? Customer eccentricity is vital in today’s connected world where people rely on each other for opinions and experiences with brands.
This article shares seven essential learnings that came out of another personal experience that will make you laugh out loud! But it will also make you reconsider some of your own practices, I’m sure.
A more in-depth look at brand image than most articles usually go into, it includes how to measure it and how to conduct an in-depth analysis of the data.
The post covers all aspects of image, including a brand’s personality that is portrayed in its communications. It also shows how to identify its archetype, something else that few marketers have thought about, and will put you ahead of your competitors. Do you know how your brand is seen by category users? If not, this article will guide you in learning more.
What’s your gut response to the title question about eliminating Market Research Departments? Yes? No? It depends? I am probably in the third camp.
No, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations. Yes, if it is the traditional market research department that merely provides simply analysed data from repetitive surveys shared in boring presentations. This post shares 10 steps to reinventing your market research department – so you never again have to ask this question.
The hospitality industry should be one of the most customer centric of any business, but it often isn’t. This may surprise you. After all, hospitality relies on satisfying its guests, doesn’t it? So what’s the problem?
This article shares six learnings from the consumer goods industry that can be applied to hospitality for the good of every customer. Of course, it is also a great read if you work in the CPG / FMCG industry.
We all know how extremely demanding customers have become. Businesses offer constant innovation and novelty, so this has 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 and this post includes some new and some not so new examples to inspire you.
Are you too hoping that technology and specifically artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will save your business? Well think again!
This article explains why technology will support but not replace good analysis and thinking. And of course even today, good decision-making starts by taking your customer’s perspective and asking the right questions of your data and information. How good are you at doing that?
We all know that customer-centricity is essential; even more so these days with the lockdown in most countries due to the pandemic. Now more than ever, businesses need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation.
I know that many struggle, even in more normal times, to be customer centric. They just don’t know where to start. Am I right? If you’re one of them, then this article is for you. It gives ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation’s path to an improved customer-first strategy and happier customers and employees.
As the saying goes “what gets measured gets managed.” So assessing your progress when you adopt a customer-first strategy is important, very important. But how do you do it?
This post explains how to measure customer centricity and shares results from around the world. It concludes with a useful 7-point summary of the analysis shared in the article. It also gives a link for you to measure your customer-centricity – for FREE! – so what are you waiting for?
This post is available as an article or a podcast, your choice to read or listen to it. I explain that a customer-first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind customer-centricity as a company-wide objective.
While it will make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits, it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee for you to succeed with the initiative.
Adopting a customer-first strategy will also involve skill upgrades of both marketing and market research departments, to translate data and information into actionable insights. And it will mean every employee getting close up and personal with customers, so they understand the role they each play in satisfying and delighting them.
Businesses often make the mistake of trying to sell to everyone. But in most cases, this is a mistake, because if you try to please everyone you end up delighting no-one. This is why best-in-class marketing departments work with best-practice segmentation.
But what do you do if you don’t have the budget to run a full-blown segmentation study? This post shares simple and cheap ways to start identifying the most profitable customers for your offer. And then when you are selling and making more, you will have the money to refine your selection.
This post has been regularly updated, as it remains both popular and an essential read for all marketers. It contains seven key questions to ask yourself, to ensure you have the best possible chance to achieve brand success.
From identifying the best customers for your offer to identifying the most profitable channels for distribution and communications, this article will enable you to prioritise the most impactful actions you can take to grow your brands more profitably.
We all run projects, some of us as a profession. So why do so many of them not achieve the promised results, or totally fail? There are many reasons for projects failing on their promises.
This post shares the main errors of project management and then identifies the seven essential steps that practically guarantee management support and your success of every project. Isn’t that what we all want and need?
Everyone talks about adopting a customer-first strategy but many fail to be successful. Do you know why? Through numerous examples from businesses large and small, this article covers the five main skills that leaders need to be effective in the digital age.
Research shows that being ruthlessly customer eccentric is the first by a long margin, but the other four skills all support it. These include being more data-driven, being more innovative, being more collaborative and agile.
The post concludes with a reminder of the seven main reasons for many company’s failure, which are covered in detail in the post mentioned in #9 above. Read both for guaranteed success in adopting a customer-first strategy.
So there you have them. Our twenty most popular customer-centricity posts of the last twelve months. Did you find your own favourites among them? They cover all aspects of customer-centricity as well as the skills you need to grow your brands faster and more profitably.
Looking to 2021, I would love to hear what topics you would like me to cover and which are of particular interest to you. You can also share what challenges you think you will need support in facing in the coming twelve months. If you’re in a hurry for you and your team to start working on a solution right away, why not give me a call? I can point you in the right direction towards a viable and fast solution to whatever you are facing – and provide ongoing support whenever you need some help.
In the meantime, we wish you a happy, and above all healthy, New Year and even more success in 2021.
I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a few years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer. You might be forgiven for thinking that they were speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and tech-savvy. But they weren’t. They were referring to the growing demand for marketers who could take successful local brands to global fortune.
After all, thanks to the internet, we live in a global market and the recent pandemic has highlighted this more than ever before, with online shopping booming. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.
In this networked world, more and more successful local brands are attempting global roll-outs. What does it take to repeat the success you’ve had at market level when you launch globally? Here are my five rules to fortune:
1. Understand the Market and How It’s Changing
This is the basis of any new product launch and applies just as well to global rollouts as it does to local brand developments. Today’s consumers are demanding, so find out as much as possible about them. Understand their rational needs but also their emotional desires, even if they don’t openly articulate them.
For global rollouts, additional information concerning the comparison of similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets must also be considered. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t (yet?) developed plausible future scenarios, as I recommend here.
Let’s look at some of the latest trends which are growing across regions today.
I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information – and their purchases too! – where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get near-instantaneous answers to all their questions, sometimes using visual search to identify and buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea’s Place App offers shoppers the possibility to snap an article they like and then see it in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings before you purchase it.
Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example in Japan which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.
Join the Club! Another use of personalised data is in providing privileged services – at a price. This idea is used for the regular delivery of razor blades and tampons, as well as for personalised exercise routines and menus. Consumers are happy to join a “club” to pass on mundane tasks to a (virtual) assistant to make their lives simpler. Some successful examples of these include Dollar Shave Club, and Freda. Amazon was arguably one of the first to trial this concept with its Amazon Dashbuttons. But they stopped offering these in early 2019, replaced by much more user-friendly smart home devices, although they will continue to honour orders placed in this way, at least for now. Read “Amazon stops selling Dash buttons, goofy forerunners of the connected home” for further details.
It is essential to understand why your local consumers purchased your product or service and then compare these sensitivities to those in your new target market. For example, if individualization and personalisation are important in your local market, are they important in your new market? If they aren’t, then you may risk a hard task to gain acceptance and interest in your new offer.
If you’re new to trend following on a global basis, then a great place to start is with the annual Euromonitor International’s Consumer Trends Report. Their early 2020 report highlights trends revolving around two key themes – convenience and personal control. As they mention “Consumers must strike a balance between the two, and that’s not always easy.” Find out more here.
What does the brand stand for in the eyes and minds of your customers? Will the consumers in the new target market perceive the same benefits in the same way as your current customers?
If not, is this really a potential market, or are you just rolling-out there due to geographic proximity? I am still amazed how many organisations base their roll-out strategy on geography rather than the customer! Big and usually very costly error! Even large multinationals get it wrong as the following examples show:
P&G’s Pampers was launched in Japan with the image of a stork which confused consumers. Whereas a stork is fabled to bring babies to parents in the west, this is not the case in Japan.
Mitsubishi (Pajero), Mazda (LaPuta) and Chevrolet (Nova) all had issues when rolling out their cars into Spanish speaking countries. Had they bothered to check the meaning of the model names in the local language, they would have avoided the negative connotations and the need to change the names of their vehicles after launch.
Ford (Pinto) had a similar issue with Portuguese in Brazil. The launch of the model was met with hilarity and mocking. Pinto is often used as slang for a man with tiny genitalia. Ford quickly changed the name from Pinto to “Corcel”, which translates to “stallion” clearly an attempt to (over?) compensate!
As already mentioned we are living in a global community today, so even if you don’t plan (for now) to launch in other markets, your image can still be impacted across the globe by a badly-chosen name.
The second issue concerning customer perceptions is the importance of particular traits in certain markets. For example, the actual price may be more important than quality in some markets. It may therefore make sense to offer a product in smaller sizes, such as individual sachets for shampoos or low count contents for dry products like stock cubes or confectionery. In some markets, value can be perceived as a consequence of packaging or after-sales service, in others not at all. It is therefore vital to understand the components of value in your current as well as the future markets.
The third area you will want to pay attention to is the image of both the brand and your corporation. Table stakes of categories can vary by country and what is important in one market can have no influence on purchase in another. In addition, the corporate image is at least partly based upon your company’s current category presence. If you have a reputation for cheap products, then you may struggle in launching a premium product. Understanding a brand’s image from both perspectives is important to successfully rolling it out in other markets.
So you see just how much information you need to gather about your brand’s image and even your organisation’s before thinking about launching in new markets. Not doing your homework could cost the business a lot in terms of both a damaged image, as the above examples show, or worse still a costly failed launch.
Every brand should have a positioning based upon an insight. And that insight should include a human truth. I write a lot of articles on insight development; just search on the blog homepage for a review of them all if you’re interested in learning more. One of the most complete posts is “How the Best Marketers are Getting More Actionable Insights” and I would highly recommend reading it if you’re not totally at ease with what an insight is and how to develop one. Now back to human truths.
One of the similarities that brings all consumers together is their basic human needs. Think parenting and wanting the best for your children, used by many, many brands, including Nestlé’s Nido and Unilever’s Omo / Persil.
Or what about women and their frustration with not being considered as beautiful as the retouched models they see in their magazines, which is very successfully used by Unilever’s Dove?
And how about men and their need to charm women, to affirm their appeal and attractiveness, that is used by Lynx / Axe from – you’ve guessed it – Unilever, again. (They really do know their consumers better than any other brand builder today and develop actionable insights for all their brands!)
Insights and human truths are used the world over in marketing and form the basis of many very successful roll-out communication strategies. Before you dream of taking your local brand’s success to global stardom, think about what human truth you are using to build it. If you can’t identify it, there is a far lesser chance of your repeating its local success in other markets.
Many countries and regions have strong, stereotyped images that can play to inherent qualities associated with certain product categories coming from them. Examples of these include French perfume, Swiss watches, Russian Vodka, Italian fashion, German or American cars and Japanese technology.
If your brand has a strong positive association with local tradition or nationality, then make use of it. Even if consumers in the new market may be less aware, authenticity and tradition will still be strong sensitivities on which you can build your brand in new markets. (Just make sure you check trend levels of them before choosing the new countries into which you want to launch!)
Ikea is one brand that has grown thanks to its Swedish heritage of clean, modern and uncluttered lifestyle that appeals to many around the world. It offers cheaper, flat-packed furniture and home accessories particularly popular for starter homes. They built their business on the global need of people for a secure and welcoming home.
By making their products in kit form, they could keep prices low and transport and storage were far less challenging than for traditional furniture. This also had the additional benefit of involving the customer in the construction of the furniture which made the article more appreciated than shop-bought articles, even if they were of higher quality.
Although Ikea is the best known Scandinavian furniture store, and a popular franchise that operates in over 25 countries, it’s not the only one. Jysk from Denmark was opened over 30 years after Ikea and today operates in across 27 countries. It has not been as successful and I believe there are several obvious reasons for this, starting with its name which many still struggle to pronounce.
Then there are the products which are bought not made by Jysk as Ikea does, so the quality tends to be lower and far more variable. Denmark’s image is not as strong as Sweden’s either, although it is riding on the Scandinavian wave started by Ikea. And lastly, there is the Ikea Family. Jysk hasn’t tried to build a relationship with its customers, so there are no memberships or clubs, no cafes or restaurants to keep customers coming back. It is just a store like any other, whereas Ikea is an experience – even if we do all hate the forced in-store path!
In order to successfully roll out products and services across regions, it is important to know what local image you are portraying and whether it will have the same appeal in new markets or whether it will need to be adapted.
5. Understand the Category
Many companies get their rollout strategy wrong because they look at geographical or linguistic proximity, rather than the closeness of the customers’ social sensitivities in them. Just because countries are geographically close, doesn’t mean their populations are similar when it comes to category image and usage.
One clear example of this is Kellogg’s Cornflakes launch into India. It failed because they ignored the Indian habit of having a boiled & sweetened milk rather than using cold milk for their cereals. Therefore the flakes went soggy and the consumers didn’t appreciate what had promised to be a crunchy breakfast cereal.
When planning product roll-outs, we also need to consider how alike the customers are in terms of behaviour, as well as the category trends, compared to the home market. This will help avoid disasters such as Kellogg’s Cornflakes in India. This could have so easily been avoided if marketers had taken the time to observe the Indian breakfast tradition. But they didn’t. They were a large brand and thought that consumer observation wasn’t needed; they paid heavily for this mistake.
In contrast, the Austrian brand Red Bull got its global campaign right – by not really having one, other than aiming, at first, for extreme sports and today moving more into elite sports! It adapts its advertising and promotions to fit each local market while still having the foundation of sports, adventure and risk-taking clearly integrated. In the beginning, most of their activities were focused around extreme sports, sponsoring flying, cliff diving, skiing and skateboarding.
Since those early days, Red Bull has expanded its activities well beyond sponsorship alone, starting its own events such as Soap Box Races and the record-breaking Red Bull Stratos programme, in which they funded the exploits of Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. It also has teams active in both Formula 1 racing and champion football with two teams in the first and three clubs in the latter.
One Final Consideration
I’d like to end with a final comment on global roll-outs. C3Centricity’s partner PhaseOne, wrote a guest post for us on the risks of implementing a global creative strategy. As communication experts, PhaseOne knows what it takes to succeed in engaging customers across the globe. The article makes a great complement to this post and you can read it here: “Why Implementing Global Creative is Risky”
Many companies have effectively rolled-out local brand successes to other countries in the region, if not the world. But many more have failed. What would you add to the list to increase the odds in favour of a regional or global roll-out? I would love to read your own thoughts in the comments below.
If you would like to know more about improving your branding and communications, then please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com.
One of the greatest changes that the current pandemic has prompted, is the increase in the use of technology. From smarter homes to an improved online experience, people have a lot to gain from the situation. This is why UX design is vital to satisfying our customers’ demands and needs
To be fair, the trends were already there, covid just speeded them up. Recent reports have shown that:
62% of consumers shop online more now than before the pandemic (Bazaarvoice)
BOPIS (Buy online pick-up in-store) surged 259% YoY in August 2020, as many shoppers are concerned about the safety of in-store shopping. This is a 59% increase in August over July! (roirevolution.com)
12% more time is being spent on digital this year. (Merkle)
Clearly, things have changed dramatically and businesses, both B2C and B2B are scrambling to catch up. Here are some thoughts about what is important to know when trying to meet our stay-at-home customers’ changing desires:
FROM TEXT TO VOICE
Most of us have grown up with text communication, but Gen Z, those born after 1996, are more comfortable with voice. They are less formal but far more impatient than previous generations.
They expect Alexa, Siri, Cortana and similar voice-activated personal assistants to be available whenever they have a question. With this type of search expansion into daily life, being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough. You have to be the number one answer to their questions!
Despite what digital marketers may have hoped, AI is not the solution to all our problems. It is simply a series of technologies addressing various current and future customer needs.
Unlike normal analytical processes, using AI needs developers and users to start with the end in sight. Knowing what we are looking for, rather than waiting to see what the analysis brings us, requires a very different thought process and skill set.
The questions asked become as important as the answers received, if not even more so. Therefore it is advisable to make them the best questions you can possibly ask. Your digital marketing has everything to gain and nothing to lose by better understanding these new customer’ demands and how technology can be used to meet them.
AI is still in its infancy, despite great leaps forward in some areas in the past few years. For example, language translation is still far from accurate today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Anything that moves us toward increased customer satisfaction from our digital marketing efforts is great. However, we must understand their limitations and not be fixated on perfection.
One of the biggest challenges is siloed data – still! It is easy to see that the more information sources we integrate, the more accurate our platforms are likely to become. But until we finally break down our internal silos AI will not be able to deliver to its full potential.
Robots are not new. Henry Ford was one of the first to realise the advantage of taking robots out of humans. In other words, gatting machines to do the boring, repetitive tasks done until then by people.
Today we need to consider the digital workforce as also an HR challenge and not (just) a technical one. Humans are not upskilling and progressing as fast as robots are. This is the real cause of any work losses that may happen as automation rolls out.
Now that I’ve touched on the elephant in the closet, that of job losses, let’s talk about employment. The future is not so much about replacing workers, as in expanding and amplifying their work through the use of AI. And again the trend will only be amplified as businesses look to make serving their customers safer.
The future will be a world of work plus AI, not work minus AI. When, not if, robots take on many of our current tasks, people will need to supplement their knowledge with soft skills, ones that AI can’t replicate, at least for now. This is why I, like many others, refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence.We are not replacing people but increasing their capacities in many areas.
One area that will certainly need a tremendous amount of human input is in speech analytics. You probably don’t realise it, unless you’ve learnt another language or two, but speech has enormous diversity in the ways to say the same thing. Just ask any owner of Alexa, Siri or Cortana! Sometimes their responses are hilarious, at least at first, but these quickly become irritating when you can’t make yourself understood.
For me, this is when I am trying to get my BMW to call someone. The proposed people are rarely the person I am wanting to speak to and more frustratingly, the list of names have nothing in common with either the spelling or pronunciation of their name. Perhaps it would be easier if I spoke German!
If robots are to understand humans, then the alternative expressions need to be programmed in, before being understood. Although machine learning may speed our progress, the foundations must be identified and created by humans.
AI AND CARE CENTERS
Most businesses have customer service departments and many are jumping on the bandwagon of requesting AI. However, most don’t really know why they need it! The case for AI has to be put into terms of its business impact and relevance in order to be valued beyond mere “modernisation.” Just ask anyone who has chatted with a bot or gone round in circles clicking numbers on a self-service phone line! So many corporations today have increased their technology but have not improved their customers’ satisfaction.
AI is already proving to be of great value in following and analysing customer service connections. A supervisor can’t listen in or read every exchange, but AI can. However, as previously mentioned, understanding speech is still in its infancy, especially when it comes to sentiment. An agent will quickly sense when something is wrong or an answer is unsatisfactory, even when the customer is saying everything is alright.
The sequence of events that led to the customer’s connection, is just as important as the call to customer services itself. This is where total integration of all touchpoints is vital. The customer already sees them as such, but most companies do not. This leads to irritation when a customer must repeat their details and experiences with each new customer service agent.
It could be so easily eliminated, by simply integrating multiple data sources and then assessing the customer’s “effort” in getting the answers they are looking for. The greater the effort has been, the quicker a solution should be found and ideally, it should be more than the customers expects. This would be when surprise and delight become absolutely essential.
I believe that not taking the customer’s perspective here is the root cause of this less than satisfactory situation today. Once again, adopting a customer-first strategy is the answer.
If you would like to know just how customer centric you are, complete our complimentary assessment and get a detailed report of the areas of greatest opportunity for you.
Customers in developed markets already have far more interaction with AI than they probably realise. However, when developing chatbots it is important to allow for far more variation in the words people use than we usually think of. The challenge is not only understanding the variations in vocabulary, but also the jargon, colloquialisms, spelling mistakes, acronyms and alternative expressions. This is one area where I believe we still have a long way to go in UX design.
Instead of aiming for perfection, by brainstorming all possible variants, our time would be better spent in identifying the 20% of variations that cover 80% of the cases. Ideally, we should first collect the information on the words people use and the way that most express themselves when speaking about a topic. Only then should we analyse what the company is most likely to receive and integrate the additional phrases. Perfection is once again the enemy in progressing the use of chatbots.
We also need to be transparent about when chatbots are being used. It may be a good idea to make them respond in a friendly way, but pretending to actually be a human is not a good idea. Customers will eventually understand that they are exchanging with a chatbot when the responses they are getting do not meet their expectations. That can only lead to frustration and perhaps even irritation that they have been cheated in some way.
AI TAKING DIGITAL MARKETING TO THE NEXT LEVEL
There are three main areas to consider where marketers are facing challenges that I believe can be helped through the use of AI:
Digital marketing has made our communications’ media choice even more challenging. There are far more channels than ever, many being used concurrently, especially by the under 35’s. For example, it is rare for people to watch TV these days without either their smartphone or the internet catching their attention too. They will frequently switch from screen to screen and not only when the ads come on.
The second challenge for marketing is that there are far more brands vying for attention online. The relative cheapness of advertising on the internet means that those brands that didn’t have sufficient budget to access traditional media because of their high costs, can now communicate directly with their current and potential clients online.
Customers are more demanding and expect real-time responses to their questions, and ever-shorter delivery times for purchased goods.
AI and ML can improve digital marketing through predictive intelligence, content curation / creation, dynamic pricing, and especially by improving the customers’ overall experiences. I think that digital marketing is best used as an amplifier of traditional media, and when connections need to be more individualised, relevant and timely. This is not always the case, so it is important to choose wisely, rather than diluting efforts.
It is indeed exciting times for marketing with all the opportunities that technology, AI and ML offer us, to connect with and engage our customers. However, we are still faced with many of the same challenges we’ve always had.
Essentials such as knowing and understanding our customers more deeply, and removing the siloed information hubs within an organisation, remain critical.
Without finding solutions to these, digital marketing will perhaps be cheaper in terms of investment but could become a more costly exercise and perhaps less effective. What do you think?
This post is an updated version of one first posted on C3Centricity in February 2019.
We need to better understand shoppers. Why? Because retail is in crisis.
Investment in brick-and-mortar stores has declined 30% in the US and a staggering 50% in Europe. In the UK 50,000 of the 500,000+, high street stores are empty, that’s a whopping 10%. But that level can even be higher, double or triple that in some parts of the country. The government in the UK upped its rescue fund to a billion pounds and slashed its rates in the hope of lowering rents last year.
And as if all that weren’t enough, the pandemic has been the final straw. With its lockdowns and restrictions, covid has pushed many shops over the brink and into bankruptcy. If retail as we know it is to return to “normal” – and many, including the HBR have already declared this to be near impossible – it is important to understand what is going on in our shoppers’ brains.
Shoppers, that’s you and me, are changing. We have an insatiable appetite for instant gratification and novelty. More clothes stores are shut down than any other category because sales have gone online. And eating at home is now the norm, other than cheap, fast food stores, so restaurants and bars are suffering too. Both of these trends have been further exacerbated by the pandemic of course.
So if bricks and mortar stores are in difficulty, are we helping our customers to buy online? I don’t even think so. It seems as if we are trying to benefit from their desire to do so. Something rather sinister has been happening. Let me show you.
Capturing Customer Data
Online, even more than offline depends upon capturing customer data. Retailers need it to deliver products of course, but we all seem to have become data mad! We collect masses of information from our (potential) customers and then probably do very little with it all. But in the process, we have surely alienated a few, if not many would-be shoppers, to the point of them abandoning their carts and buying elsewhere.
According to MarketingCharts.com, shoppers now believe that their data benefits companies and brands more than it does themselves.
In the Janrain report “Brand Trust Survey” 48% of US internet users try to buy exclusively from companies they trust to protect their personal data. But most don’t trust us with their data, and for good reason, it seems. As claimed by Thales, 75% of US retailers have experienced a data breach, 50% in the last year, up from 19% in 2017. Despite this high level and mistrust, one thing shoppers do agree on is that technology has made things better for them.
More than three out of five consumers say retail technologies have improved their shopping experiences, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Eight in 10 say that they’ve had better interactions as a result of these technology investments. This is further proof that retailers should be actively seeking out new, advanced retail technologies. And making better use of the data they collect from their customers.
The 7 Sins of the Dark Side of Online Shopping
As previously mentioned, we are collecting far more data then we are using and often doing so in an underhand way. Here are some examples of what I call the seven most prevalent sins of the dark side of online shopping today.
Credit card details for a free trial
This is probably one of the oldest scams on the internet. We are asked to provide our credit card details for the free trial of something online.
The excuse is it saves us going back to complete the form when we decide to buy.
The far more likely reason is the hope that we will forget that we tried the product or service in the previous weeks or months. This then allows the company to automatically bill us because we forget to cancel.
Making it impossible to say no
Even when we don’t have to give more than our name and email address, companies make it impossible to refuse their offer. The “Yes” button is usually large, the “No” often in a small font and light grey text.
In the example on the left, they make it even more difficult to refuse by getting you to admit that you already have what they are offering, in this case, enough traffic. Show me a website that thinks it already has enough! We always want more!
Getting more data than we intended to give
My next example is from Burger King, who make their customers work unnecessarily if they want to contact the company.
They invite you to complete a survey rather than just contacting them. OK, they are offering a free burger in return, which is generous, but I almost clicked on the “email us” button in the middle of the contact page on their website, when I was looking to contact them for a different reason than giving them feedback on their restaurants.
Now I have no problem providing feedback when I have the time, but I would prefer an organisation to do it openly, rather than trying to trick or force customers to respond in this way. Clearly, they are not receiving enough feedback and needed other ways to get the opinions of their customers.
I am surprised by this since fast-food restaurants almost always include an invitation on their bills, to provide feedback in return for a free item on the next visit.
Getting us to download something we didn’t want
This trick is used by many software sellers. A large download button is shown on the landing page of the software we intend to install. However, the larger button that attracts our attention is for a different service than the one we have previously selected.
I can only assume they are doing this to increase their revenue by showing several advertisements on their landing page. In this example of the left, both ads that I have highlighted in red, attract more attention than the smaller button in the top left-hand corner for their own product. I can only wonder if their poor three-star rating in the top right-hand corner has been influenced by these games.
Approving cookies without knowing it
I almost fell for this one, but was so disappointed, as it is from the website of my favourite airline, Swiss. This same “game” is played by their parent company Lufthansa, so I’ll blame it on them.
However, this is just one example of an organisation taking advantage of our reluctance to read things in detail these days. The red button attracts us and many will click it without reading that it in fact permits Swiss to use a person’s data for more than is strictly necessary.
Making it impossible to cancel
This last example shows what I consider to be a very worrying trend. Many organisations, including Stamps shown here and Apple, make cancelling services a marathon for its customers.
In the case of Stamps on the left, they invite you to go to the “manage account” section or to contact their customer services at specific times. Looks fine, except for one thing. They don’t provide a link! They do, however, provide links to many other pages on the bottom half of the page, mostly for changing services and making payments. It would save customers a lot of clicking through if they had just added the link in their explanation.
In the case of Apple cancellations, I noticed between 4 and 6 steps depending upon the type of cancellation you were looking to make! Talk about making your – soon to be ex-customers work to leave you, and making sure their last impression is less than positive.
Other websites give a “sorry to see you go, but we’d love to see you come back again in the future” message, which I think causes doubt in the minds of some of the people planning to leave. Making sure that people leave with a good perception gives you a chance of them coming back one day. Doesn’t that make more sense than making it so difficult to leave in the first place?
Those are examples of the seven sins of online shopping platforms today. I think we can all agree that these are not going to build trust or longterm loyalty. But then we have to ask ourselves if brick-and-mortar stores have been doing a better job. The answer is no, but you knew that already, didn’t you?
We have all become used to salespeople in-store saying that a piece of clothing looks wonderful on us when it doesn’t, or that we won’t find a lower price at another store, when perhaps not, but we definitely will online! This is when I became a fan of BestBuy, as every time I wanted to buy something, they would check Amazon and give me the lowest price. And I get the article immediately and without paying shipping costs. They at least have understood the priorities of their customers.
One of my favourite “discount” offers, is from a 99 pence store in the UK, equivalent to dollar stores in the US, Japan, Denmark and many other countries. It advertised this promotion as shown on the right. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it and had to take a photo.
I think we all consider ourselves to be savvy shoppers instore, but I think that this is because we have become aware of many of the sales tactics retailers use to get us to part with our hard-earned cash. And technology is helping in increasing shopper satisfaction.
According to a recent survey, more than three out of five consumers say retail technologies have improved their shopping experiences, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Eight in 10 say they’ve had better interactions as a result of these technology investments. This is further proof to proof that retailers should be actively seeking out new, advanced retail technologies.
A Dozen Shopper Desires
In conclusion, I thought it would be useful to end with a list of the things that shoppers today are looking for – in their own words of course:
That you take my perspective and constantly improve your understanding of my changing needs.
Worry more about the value you offer than the price you demand. Sometimes I’ll go for cheap, but not always and these days less often than before because I want excellent customer service.
Be honest and open with me. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Warn me if my order is likely to be delayed, or take longer than usual – as is happening these days thanks to the pandemic. I can understand if you communicate, not if you hide the facts from me.
Only collect the customer data you need when you need it. If I’m happy with your service, I will gladly share more information when you require it.
Don’t try to deceive me with misleading website design; button colours, text that is impossible to read, hidden additional charges or conditions. I won’t feel very proud of myself when I realise I’ve fallen for your “tricks.” But you’re the one who will miss out in the longterm.
And following on from the previous point, don’t wrangle sales from me by making use of my (bad) memory, misunderstanding of subscription or repurchase automation, my laziness in (not) reading the small print, my innate trust that you will do the right thing. You may get the sale but you won’t make a loyal advocate out of me.
Make it quick, simple and easy for me to do business with you, or to stop should I so desire. You never know, I might realise that the grass is no greener anywhere else and come back.
Show me you care and value my business. It doesn’t have to cost much if anything; a heartfelt “thanks for your business” already goes a long way. But occasional treats will get me talking about you too.
Make my life easier whenever you can. Collecting data for the pre-filling of forms is a great help; merely gathering my information for your own benefit alone is not.
Give me the confidence in my choices to remain loyal. I can forgive a mistake, but not a lie.
I care about your employees, your company culture and habits more than ever. If you’re claiming to be carbon neutral, sustainable, eco-friendly or ethical, be so in everything you do. You can’t be half right.
Shopping is no longer entertainment for me, at least not in the physical world. It’s just too risky and worrying. So make my online experience doubly enjoyable. Offer me improved choices, using your algorithms to predict better what I might like. Be honest, today I feel like I am being hounded and hammered by the continued advertising of things I might merely have glanced at! Know me better and your advice will be far superior to your competitors. Now that’s what I call a win-win.
As a customer centricity champion, just like you I hope, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want. And in this period of reset, understanding our customers has become more important than ever before.
Just a few short months ago, I didn’t think that it would have been possible for customer-centricity to become any more important. But things happen and now everyone is fighting to keep their businesses afloat. So the new and constantly changing desires of our customers have become a top priority for us all to follow.
I’m always trying to understand exactly what our customers’ preferences are, and where they may be going. My regular searches online include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!
A couple of years ago, I came across some surprising facts, which prompted this original post. But recent changes have made it important for me to update it once again. At the time, the analysis showed a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers. Today it is clear that any organisation that hasn’t spent the past few years putting things right, will most certainly be suffering in this post-pandemic business crisis. Read further and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.
Wikipedia, a faithful friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable isn’t it? Try it for yourself and see.
My other go-to online resource for understanding terms is businessdictionary.com, which defines customer centric as:
“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”
It then goes on to say:
“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”
Now although I find the definition somewhat limited since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer-centricity:
a positive customer experience
adds value to a company
This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric for any and every business:
1. Positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. As we all know, it costs ten times – if not even more – to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
However, with much of supermarket shopping going online – there was a 161.4% increase on March over February – loyalty takes on a whole new meaning. Customer experience is now far more to do with the online ease of ordering than that of store shopping. Unfortunately, most supermarkets didn’t prepare for such an onslaught.
2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing has been challenged to prove in recent years, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they can’t. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report called “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”
Of course, what customers are looking for in a company has changed dramatically in just a few months. They now expect organisations to provide more than just their products and services. They expect them to care for their employees and the communities in which they do business. Retailers will need to review their bricks-and-mortar strategy as customers continue to order more online than the pre-pandemic era. McKinsey’s article on this topic “Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus” makes a good complement to this post.
3. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you differentiate your brand? Through your customer service, that’s how. And knowing exactly what your customers want. It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. Yes MORE for exactly the same product or service, so why are you waiting? You can read a summary of the American Express research that was recently updated HERE.
In the post-covid reset, differentiation is going to move from products alone to increased service and care. As already mentioned, customers expect brands to support them in such hard times, but also their employees and communities. Companies who cut jobs and/or salaries while their board members take bonuses will be shunned.
What customers wanted until this year was a seamless experience from pre- to post-purchase, both on and offline. But with increased out-of-stock in physical stores and more purchases being made online, customers now want companies to support them and deliver an even better experience and service. This is definitely not the time to cut customer care departments when organisations are looking to reduce costs!
The Importance of Customer Satisfaction & Understanding
There is no denying that customer-centricity is important, no vital to growth and profitability. However some companies are (too?) hesitant to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:
1. Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer-friendly competitor. And this is why so many start-ups are stealing significant share from the major brands.
It’s also no longer (just) about product and service performance any more. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands have understood this better than anyone. And the pandemic has further accentuated the importance of emotions. Many of us have become over-sensitive, even depressed, after months of lockdown and trying to follow the ongoing, constantly changing regulations.
Customers have had to become more flexible in their response to constant out-of-stock situations for many categories and brands. However, there is a real danger that once they have accepted to buy a replacement brand, they may then question the need to return to the brand to which that had been previously loyal. I expect to see a lot of brand switching over the remainder of this year as a direct consequence of these forced behavioural changes.
And as if all this is not already difficult enough to cope with, the increased level of layoffs and furloughs, are forcing customers to reconsider their spending, and consider cheaper alternatives that they may never have previously considered.
2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes yet one more social media viral overnight sensation is essential today. Do it right and your complainers may even turn into advocates if they are delighted with the outcome.
Complaints are also wonderful (free) sources of innovation and renovation ideas. Find out what your customers are unhappy about and then propose a solution. You may even be able to charge more since the new offer will better meet their needs.
3. Customer service is still being confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but that is no longer enough – if it ever was!
All businesses should be looking to surprise and delight their customers! After months of lockdown, customers have a short fuse and react more strongly when dissatisfied with a company or brand. We need to respond faster and more completely to demands, comments and complaints. Find more inspiring ideas on how to respond to customers in this great article entitled “The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction.”
As mentioned above, the research that prompted this post was a Google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest to those searching online.
I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)
These trends suggest that companies search for how to improve their customer services and care centres, but not about how to understand their customers better or increase their satisfaction!
How can this be? Surely an interest in customer services should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Well apparently not, at least for most companies! They seem to be more worried about the technical side of the process of responding to their customers efficiently, rather than taking the customer’s perspective on what should be delivered.
This is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the cost of providing the service than in the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. Do you agree? Whether you do or don’t, please leave me a comment below. This is too important a topic not to continue the discussion.
To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into the trends for customer satisfaction levels around the world. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days, aren’t they? So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.
According to the most recent report from The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best-performing industries. This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised!
However, this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, and are now leading the pack. But most other industries continue to ignore what their customers want. You can see the full Infographic overview below; click on it to see the full-sized original.
Unfortunately, as would be expected, all the more recent statistics available are from surveys conducted pre-covid, so I decided not to include them until we have a better grip on the impact the pandemic has had on people.
I then went back to Google to search for any ways that were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found over 133 million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results of doing it. While this is certainly a significant increase on the measly two million I found five years ago and the less than one million articles available just a couple of years ago, it is still extremely worrying.
The increased interest in customer satisfaction is certainly coming from a steady decrease in satisfaction levels over the past couple of years – long before covid struck. The latest results of the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) report shows customer satisfaction has been declining since mid-2018 and is now at a level last seen almost a decade ago! With behaviours changing radically during the pandemic, I will be watching with interest how the increase in online ordering and the decline in retail outlet shopping will impact these levels.
It has been proven that changes in customer satisfaction are a predictor of future consumer spending. So it looks like we are not out of the woods yet, nor will be this year, if not next year as well.
David VanAmburg, who is Managing Director at ACSI once said:
“Customer satisfaction will need to increase for the economy to grow at a faster pace. It’s tough to pinpoint one cause of the stagnation, but unless it budges, the national ACSI score paints a dire picture for consumer spending growth.”
So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:
Businesses should always provide positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to not only satisfy but ideally delight their customers. With frustration and lockdowns impacting the emotional stability of many, people are likely to react extremely positively to the slightest thing that goes beyond their expectation at the moment. Take advantage of this opportunity to solidify your brand’s reputation and that of your company too.
Companies need to go beyond the mere technical process of customer-centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation. This means adopting a customer-first strategy of course, but also responding to the increase in contacts resulting from customers staying and purchasing at home. This is not the time to cut costs in the area of customer services, but to invest extensively to respond more quickly to requests for help from their house-bound customers. Read “What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)” for more on this topic.
Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer for every single business, whatever the industry, to adopt a customer-first strategy. And as previously mentioned, now that layoffs and furloughs have become the norm, it is vital that customer services remain at the heart of the business and are even expanded if customer connections increase – which they no doubt will in almost every consumer-facing industry.
Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most companies, especially when customers are becoming ever more demanding and verbose when dissatisfied. Frustrated customers stuck at home these days, are reacting even more quickly and negatively to being ignored or kept waiting at the end of the line when they call an organisation. After all, they have nothing much to do at home, so will concentrate on getting answers to their questions and complaints. This is confirmed by Matt Wujciak in his analysis “Global Contact Center Trends During COVID-19 Pandemonium.”
‘..the contact centre is experiencing an unprecedented increase in overall call volume, with a particular surge in aggressive (if not fanatic) customer inquiries.”
Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction. Responding to customers in a timely manner has become the table stakes for competing in most if not all B2C industries. And yet investment has not been increasing at the same level as the demand from customers. This has to change.
Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices. Perhaps now is not the moment to increase prices for your over-sensitive customers, but it is definitely the time to excel at providing the best possible service.
In summary, in this post-covid era, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, or even just for information, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver surprise and delight, will see their reputations improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy.
Customers also want companies to be more open, honest and transparent. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, the country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability.
One additional demand has surfaced this year, that for companies to protect their employees, to reduce layoffs, protect salaries and for management to show that they are adapting their own situations to match what their employees are going through. No bonuses or golden parachutes, when those below them are being furloughed or worse.
So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area, especially in the last six months? Please share your (success) stories below.
You know you can no longer wait; you’re getting left behind by those organisations – and competitors – who are taking action today! Take the FREE C3C Evaluator™ quiz and find out exactly where your greatest opportunities for improvement lie.
And for more ideas on how you can understand what your customers really want today, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of customer understanding and service, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures. And yes they can be run online as well as in person.
If you would rather talk through your specific needs first, so we can personalise our support for you and your team, then feel free to contact me. It would be a pleasure to help you in these daunting times.
This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2018.
“Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.”
I know, you probably don’t want to read yet another article about the post-pandemic era, especially when the infection numbers in many countries are once again headed in the wrong direction!
But with people having changed their purchasing habits and perspectives due to lockdown, this seems the perfect time to reconsider your customer-first strategy.
Up until the covid-19 virus hit across the globe, almost every single organisation, big or small, recognised the importance of satisfying their customers. But most of them were only giving lip service to customer-centricity and very few were actually going beyond voicing their opinions. This is no longer possible as customers are sharing their experiences of companies and brands far more than just six months ago.
After all, what else have they to do than surf the internet all day long! According to the latest global statistics, social media usage saw an increase of 21 per cent, and news consumption has risen by 36 per cent. You can see the individual country breakdowns at Statista.
A recent NYT article clearly confirms these significant changes in behaviour in the US. Another study summarised on Forbes and run across 30 markets globally, shows that engagement has increased 61% over normal social media usage rates. Companies can no longer hide like they once did; customers are out to highlight their dissatisfaction and point the finger when they are less than happy with a product or service.
A customer-first strategy is not so hard. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is that they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. What do you think?
But today’s world has accelerated the upward trend in the importance of a customer-first strategy and makes it one of the most, if not the most important one for all organisations. It is no longer the norm or even the new-norm, of successful businesses, it is becoming the make or break criteria in surviving the pandemic. And many companies are already failing fast, although it is said that for many retailers, the pandemic only sped up their likely appearance in bankruptcy courts. For more on this I suggest you read “As pandemic stretches on, retail bankruptcies approach highest number in a decade.”
While retail is clearly suffering as purchases in lockdown went online, it is not the only industry to have been hit hard. Another CNBC articlehighlights others including cruises, fitness, energy and airlines. Whether or not these too were headed downwards or not, customers hold the key to success more than ever before as their spending becomes less impulsive. The 20 biggest companies that have filed for bankruptcy because of the coronavirus pandemic are listed in this article on Forbes.
Reasons for having a customer-first strategy
There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer-first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I have found.
86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
Walker forecast that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers 2020 Report
A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co
94% of consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. Label Insight
These are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding them back from investing in their customers rather than (just) in the products and services they offer?
I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!
If you’re ready to put your customers first, then C3Centricity can help, inspiring your team, no matter where in the world you operate. Contact us today for more information on adopting a customer-first strategy.
With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.
However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that:
“Only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.”
According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)
It saddens me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:
“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”
Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and their communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?
Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 2.1% in 2018, once again confirming that there continues to be no “significant” growth recorded in the past seven years! Compare this to the more than 4-6% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.
But there is some hope. A recent report from OnBrand Magazine on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.
However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!
So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?
Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment
Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.
I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion, let alone make recommendations.
This was recently confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, the majority of researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.
It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed analytical skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer-first strategy in many organisations.
Customer services are seen as complaint handlers
When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!
I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this image at that time. And sadly I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which become my clients through a desire to make the much-needed changes.
You only have to take a look at the financial results of companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first: Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.
An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten Customer Service Tips for Customer Loyalty Month” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. Even if it is now quite old, I still believe the article is of immense value, which is why I mention it here. In the post, he mentions that
“According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”
The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:
In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%
Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
To answer the title of this article, a customer-first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind what must be a company-wide objective. Customer centricity can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and a true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights. But that is a small investment for the huge returns that have been proven.
And being customer centric will mean that every employee finally has the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.
Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out our website for more tips and answer our free assessment here: https://www.c3centricity.com. You will immediately see how to prioritise your actions.
The current pandemic has clearly highlighted those companies who care about their customers and who provide them with customer service excellence.
If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re truly walking the talk and not just talking about customer service excellence? Many companies are and the pandemic has brought them into the spotlight.
A few years ago I was prompted to question this of the local Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom.
Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom, on the other hand, had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.
Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.
It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response whereas contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in nothing.
Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Recent research shows that 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes or less! How good is your own customer service?
Most call centres today are a frustrating if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases, they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs – if you are lucky that is!
Usually, the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line at best, or to call back later most often.
We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then, of course, to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.
Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a callback or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.
Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most; for example:
Early morning or late at night for personal care products
Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products
Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help after being frustrated by long waits on their careline calls, or self-service selections that led nowhere.
What makes a great customer service representative (CSR)?
Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company. But perhaps we as customers, should also take the company’s perspective when reaching out to them? Or at least that of the poor customer service representative who is subjected to our frustration and anger at the end of our email or phone call?
Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a CSR should be, based upon my considerable years of working on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age (mid twenties)?
I have summarised below what I see as the most important skills of a customer services representative, which I call the 7Ps.
The new 7Ps of customer service excellence
Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person. This is a win-win for both the company and the customer. It made me feel important as he called me straight back, but it also enabled the company to take my complaints offline and away from the eyes of other current or potential customers.
2. Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question. Sometimes a good listener is all it takes to defuse a potential issue from escalating. The customer wants to be understood and in this case, I felt real empathy from Jimmy as I shared my negative experiences.
3. Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did! I admit I would not make a good CSR. I am generally calm, but when I get angry I really explode, especially when I feel I am being treated unfairly or being taken advantage of. Having reps who can remain calm even when the customer is accusing the company or even their call centre person of exaggerated shortcomings, is essential to defuse the emotional tension of the connection.
4. Perceptive: Jimmy empathised with me, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed. He ensured that I understood the information he was sharing and that I was comfortable with his comments and explanations.
5. Professional: He was an expert, knowing his topic and more importantly how to explain its complex details in simple terms. Have you ever called for help and found that you knew more about the topic than the company representative? I know I have on several occasions. As a result instead of feeling supported, I became more frustrated as I was forced to explain my problem in different terms of in more detail until it was understood.
6. Pragmatic: Jimmy worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both. Unlike many call centres where the clear objective is to get you to accept the least costly solution, this time I really felt that Jimmy was working for me not against me. I felt confident that the solution we found together would be the best result for me.
7. Perseverant: He continued to ask and answer questions until he was sure I was happy with everything. Many companies now add a question at the end of the discussion, asking if there is anything else that we need. However, in most cases, it sounds artificial, especially when we have thanked the CSR and said goodbye. I can understand why it is important to make sure the customer is fully satisfied before hanging up, but it would be better if the question is adapted to each individual situation.
Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” that you would add? If you have suggestions, then please add them in the comments below, especially you Jimmy if you read this!
Do you believe that your CSRs could do more for your customers? Then we would love to support you. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website for more information on our services: http://C3centricity.com/training
This article is an updated version of one that was first posted on C3Centricity in February 2013.
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.
Although I love quotes, especially about how to succeed, I love success even more. Do you?
One of my favourite quotes on the topic of success comes from Winston Churchill during his address to the Harrow School (UK) during WWII in 1941. It was one of his shortest speeches but probably one of his most quoted. He said:
“Never give in, never, never, never, never”
If you are interested, you can read his full speech – which is not a lot longer! – here.
Hearing this quote again recently, got me thinking about failure. Failure in our lives, our businesses, our jobs, our relationships. And you must admit that we are just at the beginning of the impact of covid on the world and I know we need to prepare for a lot of failures in the coming months and years. But I ask myself how often we fail merely because we give up too quickly?
Another of my favourite quotes on success and failure comes from Napolean Hill:
“Most great people have achieved their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
Now whereas I do advise people today on how to find more happiness in their lives (See my new website on intuitive coaching at Finding-Your-Happy.com), I want to address here the many current and possibly future failures in business.
Over almost a decade of blog posting, I have written many other articles which include my solutions to failing in countless areas of marketing. I, therefore, thought it would be useful to share four of the most popular ones here in a single post (Links to original full-length posts in titles). Let me know what you think.
For this first summary of a post, I’d like to share not a list of solutions but a selection of inspiring quotes on reacting to failure. I think it sets the stage beautifully for the other articles to come.
In the full post (which you can read by clicking the above link) you can also find suggested actions for each of them. They will make you realise that there are great opportunities in every failure! So don’t be afraid to fail. Just never give up!
1. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” Bill Gates, American Businessman
2. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be” John Wooden, American Coach Click to Tweet
3. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin, American Politician
4. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford, American Businessman Click to Tweet
5. “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure” John C. Maxwell, American Clergyman
6. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet” Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman
“Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet” Robert H. Schuller, American Clergyman Click to Tweet
7. “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success” Sir James Dyson, British Designer
8. “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something” Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman
“Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something” Frederick W. Smith, American Businessman Click to Tweet
9. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” Nelson Mandela, South African Statesman
10. “Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure” Jack Lemmon, American Actor
“Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure” Jack Lemmon, American Actor Click to Tweet
They say that pride comes before a fall; I say success follows failure! I wish you much success in failing fast, learning faster, so you can enjoy more success! And remember the full post linked in the above title contains suggested actions for each of these quotes. What are you waiting for?!
This post mentions the ten reasons innovation fails and then shares ideas on finding a solution to each of them. If you are struggling to fill your pipeline (and shame on you if you are still using a linear approach – see why below), or can’t seem to get the same number of successful launches you used to have, then this article is for you.
#1 The process: Introduce some creativity into the process. Use a virtuous circle (as shown above) rather than the usual linear or funnel approach. All innovation processes should start with a deep understanding of the potential customer segment you want to attract and then the insight developed about them.
#2 Meeting company quotas: Instead of company quotas on the number or proportion of new product launches, a better target is a percentage of sales. This should eliminate all but the very best ideas, which are expected to increasesales rather than merely replace current products or expand on-shelf display.
#3 Lack of customer understanding: The best way to innovate successfully is to start by looking at the target customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. Watching and listening to your customers with an open mind, rather than with a pre-prepared hypothesis in your head, will enable you to identify pain points the customer may even be unaware of.
#4 Lack of category understanding: Never assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified how your customers are choosing and using it. You might be surprised to learn that your competitors are not those you thought they were!
#5 Not living up to your promises: In today’s connected world, false or exaggerated promises are quickly identified and shared on social media. Nothing is every hidden for long these days, so if you make a mistake, admit it, own it, correct it and move on. It will be forgotten or forgiven quicker than if it becomes a scandal.
#6 Not being sufficiently differentiated: With such an abundance of information available to everyone, comparisons are easy to make. Solution-based offers will always be able to charge more than product-based ones. It’s up to you to decide which you want to be.
#7 Being too different: Identifying a sub-category of users with a precise need and then meeting that need better than anyone else, is the more successful way to differentiate.
#8 Pricing yourself out of the market: Understanding how much potential customersvalue your offer is essential to the success of any product or service. Neither cost nor price is relevant to your customers other than in helping them to decide to purchase when they see the value you offer. If they perceive greater value then they will buy, otherwise, they won’t. Pricing really is as simple as that.
#9 Inappropriate distribution: Appropriate distribution doesn’t mean being in stock everywhere at the lowest price. But it does mean being available in the retail outlets that your target customers visit more often, whenever they are ready to buy.
#10 Being too far ahead of the customer: If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product or service idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision. Keep the concept in your “back drawer” until customers are ready. You will then be the first to respond to these new needs and beat the competition to market with the correct solution. Launching too early and failing, gives the competition time to catch up and probably launch at a more appropriate time.
The full article goes into more detail on each of these solutions of course. So if any of them resonate with you, it is worth checking out the full post.
You must innovate to stay in the game, but that doesn’t mean launching anything just to meet the company’s innovation targets. Launch bigger, bolder and better, as one of my bosses used to say. And never give up!
This post summarises my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter the industry in which you work.
1. We should never stop learning. As we age and rise in the corporate world, we seem to forget that we don’t know it all! We even think that we should have all the answers, or worse still, think that we do!
2. We should accept help. Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish since we cannot be an expert in every area of business. In fact, if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should be good at managing people first.
3. Practice really does make perfect. It’s not only perfectionists that think they’re never good enough. We should always strive to be the best we can be. We should never compare ourselves to others, only to our previous selves.
4. That final check is worth it. When I was learning to fly, my instructor never stopped reminding me that the pre-flight checks were vital to do thoroughly. He reminded me that once you’re in the air, it’s too late!
The same goes for meetings, events and conferences once they’ve started. Make and use checklists, like pilots do, and complete that final check thoroughly and completely.
5. Accept defeat and mistakes. We all make mistakes sometimes and get defeated occasionally. We’re human after all.
However, those mistakes and defeats are great teachers. If we learn and grow from them, then the pain involved should be short-lived, as we move on to bigger and better things.
6. Honesty is always the best policy. Somehow honesty is rarely discussed these days and yet we all know that trust is one of the main reasons people do business with companies. Trust built over the long term will enable companies to be forgiven for any occasional mishaps that may occur.
7. Business isn’t only about Millenials. Everyone is speaking about the Millenials these days. While Millenials may be trendy, there are other groups which are arguably just as important if not more so, to consider for a successful business. For example, there are now more Baby Boomers that Millenials in the US; and guess which has the money?!
Great leaders are aware of these seven points; are you? If not, then read the full article for further details. Leaders don’t know it all but they do know how to learn, and especially from failure. Never give up on your plans, just adapt them when needed, which these days is almost monthly!
Be honest! Everyone struggles to develop true insights about their customers. Most times we accept summary information or facts about the marketplace and call them insights.
But we all know that insight development is difficult. So hard to get to that “aha” moment when what we have said about our customers is so obvious we can’t understand how we – or anyone else for that matter – never realised it before.
If you are struggling to develop insights that truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these 8 tips.
#1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. Identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitudes. This way you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.
#2. Insight generation should start with customer connections. When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week or two, you’re not getting out enough!
#3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations. Make a habit of taking a coffee or lunch with people from other spheres of the company and exchange your latest ideas and learnings. You will both discover a lot about the organisation and its customers!
#4. Get MRI (Market Research & Insight) to share their nuggets of information regularly. Market research and insight teams learn new things about the business every day, so why not ask them to share more? Don’t wait for a formal presentation of the results of the latest piece of research. Get them to share findings and analyses with you on a regular, (at least) monthly basis.
#5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to 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 (but always ask the permission of the store owner).
#6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can integrate multiple data sets from all available sources. Ask them to manage more information and you will both be happier.
#7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. It usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight.
#8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments.
Following these 8 ideas will make your business one of the most successful in insight development. How would that feel? Read the full article HERE. Insight development may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Never give up.
And if you want to improve even faster in any areas of learning from failure, you can invite us to give a 1-Day training that will catalyse your team in record time. Download the summary brochure of all our current training courses HERE.
These are some ideas and processes for avoiding failure or even more importantly, learning (a lot) from them. Whether it is in business management, innovation or customer understanding, you can learn from the best, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. I hope you appreciate it!
“Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.”
What makes a great website?
What makes a website great for your customers?
What makes a website great for your potential customers?
The answers to these questions will help you to publish a successful website. One that encourages current and potential customers to both see and engage with your content. And hopefully buy your products and services too!
One of the major changes since then, is that today, with mobile more likely to be the screen of reference, we have gone from a “no scroll” to a “must-scroll” format. Words have given way to more images and now also to videos. We have gone from information to entertainment, from push to pull, and from “ours” to “theirs.”
Still, I do have a couple of criticisms about the post – sorry Craig. It starts with technology and also includes company rather than customer priorities. But you, fellow customer centricity champions, know that everything should start with the customer! So I’d like to build on both his post and my earlier one, to lay out what it takes to win online these days.
9 Essentials of a Customer Centric Website
Checking a website is often the first step a customer makes when they are interested in a brand or manufacturer. Therefore we should ensure that ours responds to their needs, whatever the reason for their visit. I have chosen the nine essential elements of a customer centric website below.
Please let me know what you think, by adding a comment below.
1. It’s for the customer, not (just) you
Although your website is about you and your company and/or brands, it is your customers, both current and potential, that need to like it.
Therefore, start by thinking about for whom you are developing the site and what their desires and needs are. Use our 4W™ template to ensure you go as deep as possible in your understanding of them. I also suggest you read “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more on what you should know in order to understand them and be able to describe them in depth.
We don’t have time to read, let alone learn how to navigate a website. Customers will leave if they can’t immediately find what they are looking for. This explains why many – dare I say most? – businesses have a 50% plus bounce rate. (See the RocketFuel analysis for more on this)
It may still be necessary to have a sitemap for those visitors who need help in navigating or are less logical. However, it no longer needs the prominence it once did. Put it at the bottom of the page and don’t waste valuable real estate by placing it at the top.
If you make it easy for people to find what they are looking for, they will never need to revert to a sitemap, and even less to leave for a competitor’s website.
Contact links or your full details must appear on the home page, including telephone numbers, email, postal and street addresses, and social media accounts. With the global nature of the internet, a customer has the right to know where you are based.
Do away with impersonal forms and drop-down menus, which force customers to use your classification. Instead, make them feel special, valued and appreciated. Make them feel like you are waiting to hear from them, and that you want to know what they have to share or ask. Above all, customers want to be treated as individuals, not as just one insignificant member of a mass.
4. Full details of your products, brands and services
Today’s customers demand information. They want details about ingredients, sourcing, limitations of usage, distribution and availability.
They want reassurance about your practices. Are they sustainable? Is your vision acceptable and your practices ethical? The more information you provide, the less need people will have to contact you with such requests for more information.
One more recent addition to this already long list, is company purpose. There is a lot of debate about whether or not customers care about companies and brands, but the covid pandemic has brought company support to the forefront. The best have been able to demonstrate their purpose through their actions. McKinsey wrote a great article on the topic that I highly recommend. It’s called “Demonstrating corporate purpose in the time of coronavirus.”
5. Details about your company
Anonymous websites are no longer tolerated. Customers demand to know with whom they are engaging. So you can no longer hide who you are, as mentioned above. But customers need far more than just your contact details.
A detailed “About” section must also be provided, with clear information about all aspects of the company. Topics to include are your management structure, operational areas, mission statement, values, strategy, culture, and if you have one, your company societal purpose too. You also need to add the latest company news, both for investors and customers.
With the continued rise in the interest of visual content, incorporate a media section too. In it, you can provide images and films of your products and advertising. This will ensure that your brands are correctly presented online, as everyone will have access to professional, quality photos and videos.
This visual section also has one further advantage. That of making it easy for customers to both comment on and share their favourite ones. Advertising, in particular, is popular for sharing on social media, so make sure you have the best possible selection of both the latest and historical but popular material available.
6. Valuable content
Regularly updated content is good for your SEO rankings as well as for appealing to customers. Think about the topics of most interest to them. Perhaps you could answer common questions they have through a FAQ section or blog. Or provide useful recipes, styling tips or other relevant information that your customers will find appealing. Frequently added new content will also have people coming back to visit your site more often.
As mentioned above, visual content is vital today as people read less. If you struggle to create sufficient new content, or just want to get your customers more involved with your brands, then inviting them to provide it is a win-win for both of you.
User-generated content (UGC) as it is called, enables customers to share their real-life experiences with your brands, products and services. You can take advantage of this by offering space for them to add photos, videos and comments. Their stories help convey your brand’s values to other people and build trust.
Purina has been doing this successfully for many years, as owners love to show off their pets. They have even turned user-generated content into advertising. And many other brands have been inspired by what their customers share with them. For an insightful overview of some of the best campaigns, I highly recommend “14 Inspiring User Generated Content Campaigns.”
7. A responsive design
We are all multi-screen users today, moving seamlessly from smartphone to tablet, and from a laptop to TV. We expect the same quality of experience no matter what screen we are using. So a great website needs to be optimised for this.
I am always amazed when I view a website that is not optimised for mobile; it really does negatively impact the customers’ experience and will certainly damage the brand’s image in the medium term.
A further reason for having a responsive design is that in the last year or so Google has started to penalise those which are not optimised. Your potential customers may never learn about you because you won’t appear on the first pages of search results.
8. Engaging content and entertainment
Even if your customers come to your website looking for information, they are often also expecting some form of entertainment. Whether through useful tips and guides, or quizzes, games and competitions, customers demand to be surprised and delighted by their experiences online.
I bet you just clicked or plan to click on one of those links, didn’t you?! See how powerful quizzes can be?
And don’t forget our very own C3C Evaluator™ for assessing how customer centric you are.
9. High level of security
Companies record more and more information about their customers than ever before. At least we now have the possibility to define what we are willing to share and what we are not. However I, like many of you too I am sure, never bother going into the details of the cookies we are asked to approve.
But in return, we all expect their details to be kept safe. While it remains your responsibility to ensure a secure environment, you can also help, by only asking for details that you will immediately use for business purposes.
Do you really need telephone numbers if you will never call or text? Do you need postal addresses, occupation or other details that may be possible to collect? By only requesting the information that you will use, you will not only reduce the chance of being hacked, due to the lower value of your database, but you also risk losing fewer customers than you would if you require detailed information, especially at the beginning of the relationship before trust has been built. You can always build up your information on your customers over time and they are happier to provide it to you.
Of course, no matter how much information you collect from your customers, you need to protect your database from cyber attacks, whether the risk is high or low.
When I wrote the original post on customer centric websites, I mentioned Reckitt Benckiser as a best-in-class example. Today, when I look at the leading CPG / FMCG websites, I find many that deserve a mention. I, therefore, decided to ask you, the reader, to vote for your favourite customer centric website and why you consider it to be a great example? Please share your ideas below in the comments.
And if your own website doesn’t pass the above nine essentials test, perhaps it’s time to make some changes? We can help with a detailed website audit which will pinpoint how to optimise it for your customers’ experience.
We all know that customer centricity is essential; even more so these days with the lockdown in most countries due to the pandemic.
Now more than ever, businesses need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation. But I know that many struggle, even in more normal times, to be customer centric. They just don’t know where to start. Am I right? If you’re one of them, then this article is for you.
This week I give you ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to an improved customer-first strategy.
#1 Review & Revise the Description of your Target Audience
Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to speak about personas or avatars.
Is it as complete as it should be? If not, then regular readers will know about and probably use the C3Centricity 4W™ template for storing all this information. You can download it and get the accompanying workbook here.
Include not only your customers’ demographics and consumption / purchasing habits but also information about where they do these things, what values they have that you can tap into and what emotions motivate them to purchase and use your brand.
#2 Assess the Optimum Way of Connecting with Your Customers
Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect?
Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it one-way or two? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?
Obviously the second is what it should be. You can learn far more about your customers when they are ready to share their information with you.
Do you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?
They certainly have more than one need, but you must identify and address only one.
If you attempt to address more than one and especially if they are not sequential, your customer may be confused.
Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for them will leave your customers perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can meet their needs and objectives.
Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has one additional benefit. It can increase the success of regional and global launches by identifying cultures with similar levels of a specific need.
Is customer care only on the objectives of one or two departments in your organisation? Perhaps it’s only for the care centre employees or merchandisers to do.
It should, in fact, be on everyone’s annual objectives, to watch, listen and engage with your customers regularly. This will help them to understand how their work fits into the company’s objective to satisfy and delight them.
Every employee has a role to play in customer centricity and connecting with the customers on a frequent basis and sharing experiences with colleagues will ensure that everyone understands this.
Do you know where your business is going? Do you know what might happen in the future and what you would do in each situation? How would you react to new laws, new customer demands, and their new sensitivities such as ecology, sustainability, sourcing or ingredients?
It is better to plan for such events before they happen, so that you can quickly react to challenges as well as opportunities.
I am in favour of developing plausible future scenarios, rather than merely following trends. Why? Because everyone follows trends so they provide no competitive advantage. However, by developing scenarios, they will be unique to your organisation and provide a clear path to answer all possible future opportunities and threats.
#6 Review Your Business Plans for Customer Centricity
Are your customers clearly identified and described in your plans, as well as the customers of your major competitors?
Review your plans by considering how your customers will react to each of your scheduled actions. Not just the outcomes you are hoping for, but a true detailed analysis based upon your understanding of them and their desires.
Have you planned any actions to surprise and delight them, or are you only relying on the “same old” activities, repeated from year to year?
People get bored quickly and you can also “train” your customers to expect your promotions. They then wait for them before purchasing, often in quantity, and will also eventually become of less interest, and perceived value, to them. Plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year.
Are you blocked in an innovation box, relying on your internal technical and expert skills? If you know your customer well you can offer them more successful innovations, perhaps through additional sensorial experiences.
Consider adding sound to taste, colour to services, touch to packaging, aromas to retail displays. Give your customers more reasons to stay with you and they will become more loyal.
I can feel your shock as you read this, but why not review your process for developing your advertising?
If you spent more time and resources reviewing how to connect with your customer, and then reviewed early-stage work up-stream with them, you would be more likely to develop winners.
It would also reduce or totally replace your usual tests just before airing, when in most cases it is too late to change anything.
#9 Define Your Image
Your brand has an image but it might not be what you think it is. Make sure you are measuring it regularly and not only on the attributes that you ideally want to perform well on. You need to include attributes important to your competitors, as well as the category in general.
I so often see biassed attribute lists which, while providing exaggerated, over-positive images, lull companies into a false sense of security. When you are not measuring what is important for your competitors, you will always come out on top.
Another advantage is that the coverage of the total category will be more complete and you may even find a new or adapted positioning that no-one else is currently occupying.
You know that what gets measured gets managed, well are you measuring what needs managing or only the easy metrics to gather?
If you know your customers well, who they are, what they do, what they think of you and your competitors, and then compare these to where you want to take your brand, the metrics you need to be measuring become evident.
Too many organisations rely on financial KPIs alone. Make sure you are not one of them, by adding metrics to cover customer awareness, satisfaction and perception.
I hope this list has helped you to identify a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Actioning even just one of them will improve your customer centricity and your profitability too (according to research).
Of course completing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the center of your business, as well as in the hearts of your employees.
If you would like to know just how customer centric you are, complete the C3C Evaluator™ assessment. It’s free! The Evaluator™ will help you to identify where you are today as well as how to prioritise any needed changes in your organisation.
For further inspiration on making your organisation more customer centric, check out our other articles on C3Centricity, or contact us here:
Create Your First BRAND AVATAR in 5 Minutes or Less!
Learn how you can quickly and easily generate a visual brand persona (avatar). Download a complete, interactive workbook including worksheets, that is designed to help you gather all the customer wisdom you have and store it clearly in one detailed page, ready to refer to whenever you need it.