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What Consumer Goods Companies Can Learn From Healthcare. 7 Lessons of Customer Service Excellence

If you work in consumer goods you probably think you have nothing to learn from healthcare, right? After all, you have consumers in your industry name and well healthcare’s reputation is not that great.

But think again. I was recently in a clinic for surgery and was surprised by how customer (patient) centric they are.

I remind my clients that exceptional customer service examples can come from anywhere! So they keep their eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. Do you? If not, then these lessons will come as your wake-up call so you start opening your eyes to new possibilities. Do this every day and your business will only get better.

 

Background

Before I give you the lessons I learned, I think I owe you a little background to what led up to this list.

I had been suffering from a bad back for a while. Unfortunately, not so unusual for those of us who spend too many hours at our desks. However, one morning I tried to get out of bed and fainted as an explosive pain shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!

Now living alone I realised that this was serious as I couldn’t move. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. I ended up spending a night in a local University Hospital for the first time in my adult life.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs because my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.

All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily have never been a patient, at least until now.

As you probably know, actually becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective, is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand them. How often do you do it? Ever?!! You really should, because you’re missing out on a valuable – and free – experience.

Perhaps surprisingly, this incident showed me that many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.

So here are my seven learnings about customer service excellence:

 

1. Introduce yourself

Customer service excellenceEvery time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. Over the course of the days I spent at the hospital and then the clinic, I saw many different doctors, nurses. cleaners, waiters etc. I appreciated that they themselves always started by introducing themselves and stating what their responsibility was in caring for me.

How you can apply this idea: In business, we often forget to introduce people in meetings and when we do, we forget to explain their responsibilities, why they are there.

Perhaps if we did this, there would be far fewer people in meetings, as only those with a real reason to be involved would attend! That already is a time and money-saving idea. But there are even more applications of this idea when it comes to our customers.

Direct contacts with customers, whether by phone, email, chat, social media or in person, deserve the same detailed introduction. This moves the connection from a somewhat cold, professional exchange, to something far more friendly and personal, if not actually personalised.

I often wonder how we so easily forget that customer service is after all just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit. Is that how your own customer care centre exchanges feel? If not, how about making them friendlier?

How do we so easily forget that customer service is just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit? #CEX #CRM #CustomerService Click To Tweet

 

2. Confirm that you know me

Although I myself saw many different specialists in the university hospital, it made no difference to how I was treated. I felt comfortable that my details had been transferred between the staff members, so they didn’t have to ask me to repeatedly explain what had happened. They also always started by checking my name, to make sure they were speaking with the right person.

How you can apply this idea: While I accept that checking names and wearing wristbands are essential in a medical environment, most businesses could benefit from confirming who their customers are too.

Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company needs to immediately recognise a (returning) customer.

Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company must immediately recognise a (returning) customer. #Customer #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

Have you ever been frustrated when calling back a company only to be asked to explain who you are and why you’re calling? I know I have. It always makes me feel that the organisation doesn’t really care about me. And with automation systems easily available today, there is no excuse for this sort of lack of knowledge.

Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. In fact, this is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future.

Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. This is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future. #BigData #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

 

3. Ask if I am happy/comfortable

Whatever the reason was for the medical practitioner to see me, they always asked if I was comfortable. They openly encouraged me to share any negative thoughts, feelings or sensations I was experiencing.

How you can apply this idea: Do you encourage critique of your ideas from your colleagues? It takes a strong and confident person to constantly put themselves up for criticism. Too many people look (only) for positive support when asking for opinions, rather than a truly constructive assessment.

Customer service excellence should involve every employeeMany years ago, one of my first bosses mentioned that when he asked for opinions in a meeting, it was me he listened to the most. Why? Well, not because I knew more than my colleagues. No; it was because I said what I really thought, not what I believed he wanted to hear. Although he didn’t always agree with what I said, he knew that what I said was what I was truly feeling.

Over the years, I came to realise that he was one of a dying breed of true leaders. Many organisations today are political hothouses, where supporting the boss is the only way to keep one’s job!

I hope you are not in this situation because according to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you are in such a situation at the moment, my advice to you is to GET OUT NOW! You will more than likely end up leaving one way or the other, so why waste your time with a boss who lacks this essential leadership skill? You’ll get the support you deserve and more importantly need, to grow, elsewhere.

According to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you're in such a situation today, my advice is to GET OUT NOW! #Leadership #EmployeeSatisfaction Click To Tweet

And what about your customers? Do you encourage them to share complaints and ideas? If not, why not? It’s much better to know what’s wrong and put it right quickly, than to continue in blissful ignorance until your customers leave because of it.

Customer experience is negative

According to“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, you are unlikely to hear from more than just a fraction of dissatisfied customers. And most of those dissatisfied customers will never come back to you. Therefore it makes sense to not only pay attention to complaints but actively search them out – before they damage your business.

 

4. Ask if you can do more

You can always do more to improve customer experience

As anyone who has been to the emergency room of a hospital knows, patience is important. You don’t get seen by order of arrival, but by the importance of your ailment. In other words, if your problem is not life-threatening, you will pass after the road accident, whose victim is more seriously injured. I know this and was happy to actually be left to “float” in a drug-induced relaxation between staff visits.

Whenever they woke me up to “check my vitals” or to inform me of the next tests or treatment planned, they always finished by asking if I had any questions or needed anything else. I was made to feel that nothing was too small or unimportant to them, if it made me feel more relaxed and comfortable.

 

How you can apply this idea: According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs  “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.”

It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Click To Tweet

Business, therefore, can no longer afford to merely satisfy their customers, they need to delight them. Do you ask both yourself and your customers what more you can do for them? If you do, you might just find a new product or service concept that answers their desires and gets you ahead of the competition.

 

5. Don’t stop before the end

When I was admitted for surgery, I was told that the average stay was between 6 and 12 days in hospital. Having thought I was there for just a day or two, this came as quite a shock.

As my progress after the operation was good, I expected to leave the clinic within five days. (I always want to be better than average!) However, with the added complication of the torn ligaments in my ankle, the professor had other ideas. I ended up spending ten days there and was then on a month of complete bed rest before starting physio!

How you can apply this idea: As the well-known Napolean Hill quote goes

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you’re one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming.

Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you're one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming. So get active today! #Innovation #Ideation #Action Click To Tweet

Therefore don’t think your job is done when you’ve come up with an idea or two. You need to follow up to turn the ideas into actions.

Customer service excellence means involving customers everywhere you canEntrepreneurship is very popular today for both individuals and even within large corporations. However so many entrepreneurs try an idea and when it doesn’t immediately work, they give it up for a different one.

Yes, there have been many huge successes recently, but most “overnight” triumphs have come from years of just plain hard work and dedication.

Therefore, as they say “plan the work and work the plan.”  Did you know that the origin of this quote is unsure, although it has been used by many people? These include Vince Lombardi, Margaret Thatcher, and even Victor Hugo. With such illustrious support, perhaps you could work your own plan a little better, no?

Plan the work and work the plan. #Plan #Action #Learning Click To Tweet

But remember, today’s world is one of constant change, so even if you do plan, remember to also stay flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances of the market or your brand. And never totally give up your plan at the first sign of failure either. Just because one part of the plan didn’t work doesn’t warrant throwing out the whole thing.

 

6. Don’t wait until it’s urgent

As I tried to wean myself off the painkillers, I found myself alternating between extreme pain and none whatsoever. The carers told me that while it’s a good objective to reduce drug usage as quickly as possible, it is counter productive to not take painkillers when they’re needed.

By my deciding to “wait and see” if the pain got worse before asking for medication, I found that the drugs became less effective.

Small, slow steps work better than giant leaps in so many areas because they are sustainable. Think New Year’s resolutions, like crash diets, new fitness regimes, or changes in lifestyle habits. It’s the small, almost imperceptible changes that tend to last and lead to success.

How you can apply this idea: So many adjustments in business involve making significant changes, whether cultural or process-wise. As the well-known saying goes:

“The best way to eat an elephant is one slice at a time.” 

Therefore when introducing large changes within your organisation, break them down into more “humanly” manageable steps. Want to make a radical change in one of your processes? It is often more effective to start by modifying the beginning and the end of the process. The middle steps then adapt automatically as new needs are identified.

For example, in updating your innovation process, start with better identifying the target customers and their needs. Then look how the launch will be rolled out and monitored amongst them. You will quickly realise that brainstorming in a vacuum or testing multiple concepts just before launch is no longer effective – if it ever was! These parts of the process will then be adapted to the new demands.

Time to revamp your own processes? Find out more about our I3: Improved Ideation and Innovation and other 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions HERE.

 

7. It all starts and ends with the customer

During my hospital and clinic stays I realised that the staff were there for me, not vice versa. I am extremely independent and had to learn to accept the help of others, even for some of the most intimate actions. It was “normal” for them, but not for me.

They recognised that and did everything they could to make me feel at ease. From being there just when I needed them, to eclipsing to leave me alone when I needed space. The staff knew and demonstrated that it was I who was important.

How you can apply this idea: Take a look at your website, your communications, your plans; do they all start and end with the customer?

Do you publish content your customers want to read, or just what you want to tell them? Does your contact information include every possible way a customer can connect with you or just a static form and drop-down menu?

Are your communications relevant and emotionally validating for your customers?

Do your plans mention the customer as often as the brand? Remember:

“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.”

Do they also show images of customers and include extensive knowledge and understanding about them?

If not, then perhaps you found inspiration for change in the above examples. Take one small step and make one of the changes mentioned; the benefits will be quick to appear.

For more ideas about improving your customer understanding, why not watch the FREE Customer Centricity Champions Webinar? It shares many tips, tools and templates to catalyse your business and improve your customer understanding immediately.

How Can You Provide Better Service For Your Clients?

How Can You Provide Better Services For Your Client? This is a great question isn’t it? It was asked recently on Quora and I answered it, as I do many that are posed on topics such as brand building and customer understanding.

But this question is I believe very different from most of those asked on Quora. That’s because it is one that every company, product, service and brand should be asking!

The answer is actually in the question itself if you look closely.

 

Provide Better Service

Firstly what is better service? Is your clients’ perspective the same as yours? And better than what or whom? Whenever a comparison is made it is vital to understand with what it is being compared.

To answer that, we need to understand what is important for customers. What is essential and can’t be forgotten, and what else would delight them and make them not just satisfied, but delighted and maybe even surprised. That’s a lot to ask I know, but even that is not enough!

We also need to ensure that we are better than our competitors, assuming that they are to what we are being compared. You’d be amazed how many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they are. We need to understand the exact category in which we are competing so that we can also identify the major competitors. Let me give you some examples.

Are dried packet soups competing with other dried packet soups? Or also with canned soups, or boxed soups, or homemade soups, or even sauce mixes? Depending upon the answer to each of those questions, the competitive set is going to be vastly different.

Depending upon the category you identify as being the one in which you are competing, your competitive set is going to be vastly different. Are you sure about yours? #Brand #Marketing #Competition Click To Tweet

Once you know with which other brands you are competing, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. You should be able to identify one thing at which you excel in order to have a reason for customers to buy your offer rather than a competitors.

Now it is obviously difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than every other competitor in the category in at least one area. That should be our USP or unique selling point. It should be what we are known for and hopefully also the reason people buy what we have to offer.

It is difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than our competitors in at least one area; that's our USP or unique selling point. #Brand #Marketing #USP Click To Tweet

To identify this, we need to know our competitors very well and understand why their customers buy them rather than us. Is there anything about these customers that we could satisfy better than they are? Is there anything about our competitors that their customers are still dissatisfied about? Is there something we can offer that our competitors can’t? Then when we have found it (them), all we have to do is to make sure our current and potential customers know.

Here are some great examples:

TOMS: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One®

Target: Expect More. Pay Less.

Avis: (We’re number two.) We try harder.

Southwest Airlines: We are the low-fare airline.

FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

M&Ms: The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

Domino’s Pizza: You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.

In most of these cases the USP has also become the brand and communication slogan. What others can you think of? Add them in the comments please.

 

Deep Customer Understanding

The second part of the question is answered by not just knowing but also deeply understanding our customers. By that I mean not just knowing their demographics – they are men 18 to 24, or housewives with young children at home, but a much deeper intimacy with them. I use what I call the 4Ws when learning about Group of customers. WHO they are;WHAT they buy, consumer, read, watch, surf etc,; WHERE they buy, consume, read, watch, surf etc; and most importantly of all WHY? Why do they choose the category, the brand, the  pack size, the shop, the time, the location, their hobbies, etc?

Once you know who your customer is (and potential customers too) and why they are buying your brand, you will know exactly what better service means for the. Then all you have to do is deliver – beyond their expectations. That is what makes better service great service.

Hopefully this short yet still detailed answer inspires you to now go out and do it for your brand. Enjoy the journey!

Do You Know Your Customer Journey Map & the Emotions Overlay?

A recent post by John Ollila on Loyalty Lobby  about customer journey maps and touchpoints in the leisure industry prompted me to share with you, an experience I had recently with the Hilton Group. And more importantly the lessons we can all learn from such disasters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Lessons Learned which Every Business Can Apply

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

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

In Hilton’s case this is clearly not done. I was personally offered a cheaper rate at the hotel at which I had already booked five rooms! Clearly they had identified that I had reviewed prices online and then offered my the cheaper rate.

Unfortunately without their email, I would never had known and would not have checked prices again since I had already booked. And more importantly have become dissatisfied with my booking. Also, hotel prices usually go up not down closer to the day of arrival, at least so I have been led to believe. If this is not true (any longer) then I fr one will only book last minute in future!

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

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

2. If you mess up admit it AND correct it

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

The excuse that the closure of the restaurant is on their website didn’t go down well with me. After all, they themselves had transferred me and taken the reservation in person, so why would I need to go to their website?

Lesson: An apology for a mistake is not its resolution. Proposing to book another restaurant in their sister hotel was nothing more than I could have done myself. I didn’t feel that Hilton were interested in correcting the situation that they themselves had created. They did not go out of their way to make things right. When your company makes a mistake, find a solution that is acceptable to your customer, not just the quick fix that suits you.

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

3. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy

I often speak about delighting the customer but your first aim is to ensure your customer is happy with the solution that you propose. Only after that can you look to see how you can go above and beyond what they expect, so they are both surprised and delighted with how they have been treated.

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

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

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

 

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

 

One further element which I suggest my clients add to their map is the emotional state of the customer at each interaction with a touchpoint. This simple addition will clearly show where a brand needs to improve its customers’ interactions because their emotional experience is sub-optimal.

If you would like to learn more about customer journey mapping and engagement in general, then check out our 1-Day Catalyst training offers and contact us HERE for a free, no obligation advisory session. 

Looking forward to speaking to you soon!

Denyse

 

 

 

What a Short Hospital Stay Taught me About Customer Experience

Examples of exceptional customer experience can come from anywhere! You know that. You keep your eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. So do I.

But last week, I had the fright of my life. I returned from visiting my family over the festive season, with an ever-increasing pain in my lower back.

OK, so sitting all day is not good for my posture. I suppose I deserve to finally pay for all the hours I spend in front of a screen every day.

Anyway, it got so bad that I visited the doctor on Wednesday, who gave me painkillers, anti-inflammatories and a muscle relaxant. I took them all that evening, but when I got up the following morning, I fainted from a sudden intense pain. A half hour later I managed to crawl out of bed to take my pills, then hobbled back again to wait until they took effect.

A couple of hours later when I tried to get up, I again fainted with the pain, but now also had the new sensation of an explosive flame which shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!

I was in agony, so all I could do was to return to my bed. However, the mattress no longer offered any relief and I whimpered like a tortured animal as I suffered continuously from these now double injuries.

Living alone I realised that this was serious. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. All this to say that I ended up spending a night in a hospital for only the second time in my life.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs as my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.

All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily never became a patient, until now.

As you probably know, becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand your customers. How often do you do it? Ever?!!

I learnt a lot about how to excel at customer experience from all my visits. Surprisingly, many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.

So here are my seven learnings about excellence in customer experience:

 

1. Introduce yourself

Every time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. As the first establishment, I stayed in was a University Hospital, there were tens if not hundreds of staff on duty, so I rarely saw the same person twice over the 24 hour period I was there. I appreciated that they themselves always started by introducing themselves and stating what their responsibility was in caring for me.

How you can apply this idea: In business, we often forget to introduce people in meetings and when we do, we forget to explain their responsibilities, why they are there.

Perhaps if we did this, there would be far fewer people in meetings, as only those with a real reason to be there would attend! That already is a money-saver.

Direct contacts with customers, whether by phone, email, chat, social media or in person, deserve the same detailed introduction. This moves the connection from a somewhat cold, professional exchange, to something far more friendly and personal, if not actually personalised.

How do we so easily forget that customer service is after all just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit? (>>Tweet this<<)

 

2. Confirm that you know me

Customer experience includes a deep understanding of the customerAlthough I myself saw many different specialists in the first hospital, it made no difference to how I was treated. I felt comfortable that my details had been transferred between the staff members, so they didn’t have to ask me to repeatedly explain what had happened. They also always started by checking my name, to make sure they were speaking with the right person.

How you can apply this idea: While I accept that checking names and wearing wristbands are essential in a medical environment, most businesses could benefit from confirming who their customers are.

Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company needs to immediately recognise a (returning) customer. (>>Tweet this<<)

Have you never been frustrated to call a company only to be asked to explain who you are and why you’re calling? I know I have. It always makes me feel that the organisation doesn’t really care about me. And with automation systems easily available today, there is no excuse for this sort of lack of knowledge.

Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. In fact, this is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future.

 

3. Ask if I am happy/comfortable

Whatever the reason was for the medical practitioner to see me, they always asked if I was comfortable. They openly encouraged me to share any negative thoughts, feelings or sensations I was experiencing.

How you can apply this idea: Do you encourage critique of your ideas from your colleagues? It takes a strong and confident person to constantly put themselves up for criticism. Too many people look (only) for positive support when asking for opinions, rather than a truly constructive assessment.

Many years ago, one of my first bosses mentioned that when he asked for opinions in a meeting, it was me he listened to the most. Why? Well, not because I knew more than my colleagues. No; it was because I said what I really thought, not what I believed he wanted to hear. Although he didn’t always agree with what I said, he knew that what I said was what I was truly feeling.

Over the years, I came to realise that he was one of a dying breed of true leaders. Many organisations today are political hothouses, where supporting the boss is the only way to keep one’s job!

According to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. (>>Tweet this<<) If you’re in such a situation today my advice is to GET OUT NOW! You will more than likely end up leaving one way or the other, so why waste your time with a boss who lacks leadership skills? You’ll get the support you deserve and also need to grow, elsewhere.

And what about your customers? Do you encourage them to share complaints and ideas? Why not? It’s much better to know what’s wrong and put it right quickly than to continue in blissful ignorance until your customers leave.

Customer experience is negative

According to“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, you are unlikely to hear from more than just a fraction of dissatisfied customers. Therefore it makes sense to not only pay attention to complaints but actively search them out – before they damage your business.

 

4. Ask if you can do more

You can always do more to improve customer experienceAs anyone who has been to the emergency room of a hospital knows, patience is important. You don’t get seen by order of arrival, but by the importance of ailment. In other words, if your problem is not life-threatening, you will pass after the road accident, whose victim is more seriously injured. I know this and was happy to actually be left to “float” in a drug-induced relaxation between staff visits.

Whenever they woke me up to “check my vitals” or to inform me of the next tests or treatment planned, they always finished by asking if I had any questions or needed anything else. I was made to feel that nothing was too small or unimportant to them if it made me feel more relaxed and comfortable.

How you can apply this idea: According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Business, therefore, can no longer afford to merely satisfy their customers, they need to delight them. Do you ask both yourself and your customers what more you can do for them? If you do, you might just find a new product or service concept that answers their desires and get ahead of the competition.

 

5. Don’t stop before the end

When I was admitted for surgery, I was told that the average stay was between 6 and 12 days in a hospital. Having thought I was there for just a day or two, this came as quite a shock.

As my progress after the operation was good, I expected to leave the clinic within five days. (I always want to be better than average!) However, with the added complication of the torn ligaments in my ankle, the professor had other ideas. I ended up spending ten days there and am now on a month of complete rest before starting physio!

How you can apply this idea: As the well-known Napolean Hill quote goes

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you’re one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming. (>>Tweet this<<) Therefore don’t think your job is done when you’ve come up with an idea or two. You need to follow up to turn the ideas into action.

Entrepreneurship is very popular today for both individuals and even within large corporations. However so many entrepreneurs try an idea and when it doesn’t immediately work, they give it up for a different one.

Yes, there have been many huge successes recently, but most “overnight” success have come from years of just plain hard work and dedication.

Therefore “plan the work and work the plan.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Today’s world is one of constant change, so don’t forget to be flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances of the market or your brand. But don’t give up either. Just because one part of the plan didn’t work doesn’t warrant throwing out the whole thing.

 

6. Don’t wait until it’s urgent

As I tried to wean myself off the painkillers, I found myself alternating between extreme pain and none whatsoever. The carers told me that while it’s a good objective to reduce drug usage as quickly as possible, it is counter productive to not take painkillers when they’re needed.

By my deciding to “wait and see” if the pain got worse before asking for medication, I found that the drugs became less effective.

Small, slow steps work better than giant leaps in so many areas because they are sustainable. Think New Year’s resolutions, like crash diets, new fitness regimes, or changes in lifestyle habits. It’s the small, almost imperceptible changes that tend to last and lead to success.

How you can apply this idea: So many adjustments in business involve making significant changes, whether cultural or process-wise. As the well-known saying goes:

“The best way to eat an elephant is one slice at a time.” 

Therefore when introducing large changes within your organisation, break them down into more “humanly” manageable steps.

Want to become more customer centric? Then start with one small step like building your brand personas. (You can download the C3Centricity template for doing thisHERE)

Want to make a radical change in one of your processes? Then it is often more effective to start by modifying the beginning and the end of the process. The middle steps then adapt automatically as new needs are identified.

For example, in updating your innovation process, start with better identifying the target customers and their needs. Then look how the launch will be rolled out and monitored. You will then realise that brainstorming in a vacuum or testing multiple concepts just before launch is no longer effective. These parts of the process will then be adapted to the new demands.


Find out more about our I3: Improved Ideation & Innovation 1-Day Catalyst Training HERE.


 

7. It all starts and ends with the customer

During my hospital and clinic stays I realised that they were there for me, not vice versa. I am extremely independent and had to learn to accept the help of others even for some of the most intimate actions. It was “normal” for them, but not for me. They recognised that and did everything they could to make me feel at ease. From being there just when I needed them, to eclipsing to leave me alone when I needed space, the staff knew that it was I who was important.

How you can apply this idea: Take a look at your website, your communications, your plans; do they all start and end with the customer?

Do you publish content your customers want to read, or just what you want to tell them? Does your contact information include every possible way a customer can connect with you or just a static form and drop-down menu?

Are your communications relevant and emotionally validating for your customers?

Do your plans mention the customer as often as the brand? Remember:

“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.”

Do they also show images of customers and include extensive knowledge and understanding about them?


For more ideas about improving your customer understanding, why not join the FREE Customer Centricity Champions Webinar? It shares many tips, tools and templates to catalyse your business and improve your customer understanding immediately.

11 Bad Customer Service Examples
Source: JitBit.com

Afterthought

Forgotten Facts & Fantasies of Customer Delight

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve just returned from a three-week visit to Peru. I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at IIEX-Latam in Lima and decided to take time off to visit the country after the conference. How glad I was that I took that decision, because I discovered that Peruvians are experts in customer delight!

PeruPeru is an understated yet remarkable country that deserves a more amazing reputation than I believe it has today. While its image is dominated by Machu Picchu, this wonderful l and has so much more to offer visitors. From the sprawling cities of Lima and Arequipa to the rugged desolation of the high altitude desert plains and the humid cloud forests, I quickly fell in love with the country and its people.

Of course, my mind is never far from work and I realised that I was so enamoured by this country because it’s people have customer centricity down to a fine art. They are happiest when they are delighting their visitors. Let me share a few of the surprising experiences I had on my trip –  I’m not referring to the amazing l andscapes – and which I hope will inspire your own customer centricity!

 

You’re welcome

Nowhere is this truer than in Peru. The North Americans may be quicker to wish you a good day, or to ask how your trip was, but they don’t really expect nor hear your answer.

It is the opposite in Peru. They go out of their way to ensure you are happy, even when you can’t speak their language.

A warm welcome is something you show your customers, consumers, and clients. (>>Tweet this<<) It is not a simple phrase repeated without depth or substance. It is caring about how you can deliver customer delight. So how do you show your customers that they are truly welcome?

If you have a digital presence and have an opt-in form, then this is by sending back a welcome email immediately, introducing yourself and thanking your customer for signing up. You’d by amazed in this day of simplified automation, that not all websites have this welcome programmed within their sales funnel!

GoldfishAccording to research conducted last year by Microsoft human beings have an 8-second attention span these days. And yes that’s shorter than a goldfish! But more than 70% of consumers expect a welcome email when they subscribe to your offer, according to BlueHornet. So why disappoint a third of your customers before you’ve even started your relationship with them, by not thanking them? Another reason to respond rapidly is that real-time welcome emails see more than 10x the transaction rates and revenue per email over batched welcome mailings according to Experian.

Another way of welcoming your customers’ business is by providing additional value. We all know how Amazon remain the first and best at this with their recommendation engine. But there are many other organisations working with recommender systems, including Netflix, social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and retail giant Ikea

Do you have something similar to offer your customers? Whether it’s an additional free offer, or a paid product or service, your customers are connected, so make use of their engagement to provide even greater value. And speaking of value:

 

We value your business

The evidence of just how much Peruvians appreciate their visitors again comes down to the warmth of their welcome. But they go even further; I felt that I was treated with real respect. Nothing was ever too much trouble and apologies abounded for even the slightest mishap. The hotel front desk couldn’t immediately answer my question? Profuse apologies, not a canned “sorry to have kept you waiting.” The restaurant waiter had to make me wait thirty seconds to provide something? Profuse apologies and perhaps even a small extra such as a drink or special treat.

QueueOn my first day, I spent the morning getting a local SIM card and changing money. Now I agree that back home these two tasks would have taken me about thirty minutes, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed them nearly as much. They would have been chores to accomplish as quickly as possible. I would have tolerated the queues and been irritated by the time lost waiting to be served.

Not in Peru. In the bank, I was treated to a comfortable sofa, coffee and a TV channel to watch, as my name moved quickly up the waiting list on the large central screen. In the phone company’s retail outlet, I was shown to the front of the line as a “valued new customer.” And then, of course, I got the traditional apology for being kept waiting. None of the tiring, st and-up queues we find in most cities.

How do you show your customers that you value their business? (>>Tweet this<<) I hope not merely by saying that you do – if so, reread the previous point again! Don’t you get irritated when calling a company to hear those automated “your call is important to us” messages before being put on hold for ten, twenty, thirty or more minutes? So why would you think that your customers accept such “lies”? You’re certainly not proving that they are important to you. Find ways to make their wait more comfortable, if not enjoyable. Read ” Changing perception: Simple ways to improve your customers’ waiting experience” on Business.com for some great suggestions from Sarah Pike.

 

We want you to be delighted

There is still a lot of talk about customer delight and satisfaction, but there really is a huge difference. Satisfaction is meeting the minimum st andard of service. Delight happens when people are both satisfied and surprised by the level of service or quality you provide. If you can’t provide an alternative solution such as automatic call back, chat or email response, then at least give the caller an idea of how much time they need to wait. It would be even better if you could suggest a better time for them to call back when lines would be less busy if they prefer, rather than making them merely wait. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated is not a hollow rule for businesses to think about customer delight and service. (>>Tweet this<<)

In Peru, after every interaction with someone, I was always asked if there was anything else I needed. Again not the automatic response upon the completion of a job, but a real desire to provide more than just satisfactory service.

So what are you offering your customers? The lowest acceptable service level at the highest price possible? Do you even know what would delight your customers? When did you last check how their dem ands have changed? We are all excited by novelty, but it makes customer delight difficult to maintain if we don’t have our finger on the pulse of the market. As one of the young digital marketers I follow says “you can never go wrong by offering true value.” (I’m speaking about Neil Patel of course) (>>Tweet this<<) So don’t target anything less than surprise and delight; satisfaction is no longer enough. (See ” The new challenge of marketing: Customer satisfaction is not enough!” for more on this topic)

 

Enjoy the ride, not just the destination

Belmond Group LogoI am sitting on the Andean Explorer as I write the first draft of this post. It is part of what used to be known as the Orient Express Group, which recently changed its name to the Belmond Group because it offers more than just train services. I mention this group because they have customer delight in their blood. You could say it’s old-fashioned in today’s world and I, unfortunately, would agree.

According to Wikipedia, “slow” lifestyles first emerged in the slow food movement. It emerged in Italy in the ’80s and ’90s  as a reaction to fast food, emphasizing more “traditional” food production processes. Too often today we race from one action or experience to another. Think about all the photos you take which mean you never really see the places you visit until you get home and review the slides. What a waste!

I recently experienced just such a regret myself after a flight over the Nazca Lines. I have a few blurry images taken through the scratched windows of the small plane on which I flew. A fellow traveller told me that his pilot told him not to take any photos but to admire the view. I so wish I had done that. What I had expected to be the highlight of my whole trip, turned out to be just an uncomfortable scramble to see all the figures as the plane banked steeply, first in one direction and then the other. The photos on Internet are far better than any I could have taken!

This train ride is another example of luxuriating in a “slow” experience. You could take the luxury coach service from Puno to Cusco and arrive four hours earlier. But you would miss the experience I am having. I actually don’t want the ride to end! Do your customers feel the same about your product or service?

 

We want you to feel comfortable

Cruz del surOne of the many surprises in Peru was their transport system. They rely primarily on coach services between the major cities, but they are unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else around the world.

The value for money is outst anding. Your luggage is taken from you when you arrive, similar to airport check-in; no hauling your bags on and off the train or coach. Meal service is a three-star affair, not the snacks that most airlines offer today. Cozy blankets and pillows are provided, together with headphones and a personal entertainment system. And the seats, oh the seats! They would put every airline business class to shame! They recline to a comfortable sleeping position with plenty of space for personal belongings.

Starbucks LogoSo how do you make your own customers feel more comfortable? Today’s customers will pay for experience, not for commodities. Which are you offering? With the similarities of products and services today, customers remember how you make them feel, far less than the price they paid. This is why we happily pay five dollars for a cup of coffee at Starbucks or five to ten times the economy price to fly Business or First. Improve your customers’ experience and they will happily pay more. (>>and%20they%20will%20happily%20pay%20more%20[tweetlink]%20%23CEX%20%23Customer” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>Tweet this<<) According to Oracle, 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience, but 82% of customers have left a company because of a bad customer service experience. These are HUGE numbers to be ignored at your peril! 

 

We know we can do better

Almost every tour I went on, every guide I had to show me around and every hotel or restaurant I went to, asked me to complete a short survey if I could spare the time. And when I say short I mean short. They rarely if ever went over one page. Just a few, essential questions and a request to comment on what they could have done better to make my visit even more enjoyable.

How many of your own customer satisfaction surveys ask only the essential, actionable questions? Even if you collect answers, do you make regular use of their analysis to improve your customers’ experience? Every business could benefit from following what their customers think of them and I don’t mean by simply tracking your NPS! (Net promoter score) Apart from its now questioned validity, are you even sure that this metric is relevant to your industry? If you’ve never compared your results to sales trends, do so; you are likely in for a shock!

Of course, not everything is perfect in Peru. There’s a lot of rubbish along the side of the roads in the countryside. But there are also a lot of recycling bins everywhere. They are trying hard to educate the locals that the country depends on tourism and as such they must value and protect their own country, as much as the visitors do.

My trip in Peru was truly a “once in a lifetime” experience. Hopefully, the ideas from my experiences have inspired you to make some changes in how you treat your own customers, whatever industry you are in. 

I’d love to hear about any “ah-ha” moments you had while reading this post. If you have further thoughts on how we could all increase customer delight in our businesses then please share them with the thous ands of readers here. Thanks a lot.

And finally, if you know you could be doing better in terms of customer delight, take a look at our and-evaluation” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>1-Day Catalyst training sessions and contact us for a quick chat about how we might support you.

 

The 7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service

How can some companies get customer service so wrong?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BACKGROUND:

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

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

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

 

THE EXCHANGE WITH TOMTOM:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE SEVEN LEARNINGS:

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

  1. The customer is right and has a valid request.  This should always be assumed until such time as it is proven otherwise. After all, this is the premise of the legal systems in many countries and for good reason. However, an article in the Huffington Post last year questioned this well-known customer service quote, first coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London. In today’s fast-paced world, I believe that a customer’s satisfaction should always come first; comment below if you disagree.
  1. Respond as quickly as possible; time is of the essence in helping the customer to perceive the incident as positively as possible, especially after a negative experience with a product or service. According to Forrester Customers want companies to value their time. Customers want companies to value their time. #CEX #CRM #Customers Click To Tweet 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
  2. Take action just as soon as you have the minimum information that will enable you to do this. According to the 2002 Mobius Poll, 84% of customers are frustrated when a representative does not have immediate access to their account information. If you need further details to complete your files, they can be gathered from your happy and satisfied customer once a solution has been found. They will also be in a better frame of mind to answer any other questions you might want to ask.
  3. It is important to ensure that your care center personnel speak and write the language of the customer as fluently as possible. In the above case, it is clear that the responses are from an offshore country using standard scripts. This does not make the customer feel important let alone cared for and in my case, frustrated that I was not being listened to or understood.
  4. Give your customer services personnel authority to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation or verification with managers. Give your customer services personnel authority to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation #CRM #CEX #CustomerService Click To Tweet Working to “standard” procedures for every case, often delays the customer getting full satisfaction as quickly as possible.
  5. Even when the issue is resolved, the customer can still be left with a negative feeling about the whole experience, especially if it has taken considerable time and effort on their side. And remember that it is likely that they will share their negative experiences with far more people than they would have done, had the incident been dealt with in a speedier fashion. (See James Digbys original post and the updated statistics on customer satisfaction online)
  6. Aim to surprise and delight not just satisfy your customers. Although your customers may be looking for the resolution of a problem when they first reach out to you, there is an opportunity for you to surprise and delight them with much more. If they complain about a damaged product, don’t just replace it, provide a complementary sample of another product or a discount coupon for them to purchase it. If they are unhappy with your service, offer an immediate discount and not just a rebate on future services. The latter can be perceived by the customer as their being pressurised into a further purchase, something they are unlikely to be ready to do at the time of the exchange. According to McKinsey’s “ The moment of truth in customer service” 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Make them feel great!

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

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

If you would be interested in joining a webinar on any of the topics listed then please add a comment below. We will be sending out invitations shortly.

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

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private  FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?

How to Stop Customer Satisfaction Drip, Dripping Away

I recently spent a few days in a condo that I have rented before in Miami Beach. It is a wonderful penthouse suite with panoramic views of the sea to the east and Miami city and port to the west. I rent it because I am always delighted to spend a few days of vacation in such a perfect place.

However, this last time I wasn’t happy. What has changed? Very little really but enough to make me feel disappointed. That made me reflect on how quickly our customers can move from delighted to dissatisfied because of some small detail we might have overlooked or which we ourselves see as irrelevant. Let me explain.

  1. I arrived at the condo building, but the usual doorman with whom I had built a good relationship has been replaced by a new person. Just as efficient but not “my” doorman; he didn’t know me so he came across as less welcoming and friendly. In the business world our customers like to be recognized for their loyalty.
  2. The condo was as perfect as ever, but had obviously been cleaned in a rush in time for my arrival. It smelt wonderful of course, but I didn’t notice the high-sheen tiled floor was this time wet and I went skidding onto my backside as soon as I entered. Customers notice when things are wrong more than when everything is right.
  3. The usual paper products were supplied, but only four sheets of kitchen roll and not many more of toilet paper! No big deal but it meant I had to immediately go out and buy them first thing the following morning instead of lazing at the beach. Customers will sometimes buy a competitive product rather than go searching when yours is out-of-stock.
  4. I went to bed early upon arrival because I was tired from the sixteen hour trip and the six hour time difference. I had never noticed before but neither the blinds nor the (too short) curtains cut out the daylight, so I tossed and turned for hours before sleep finally took over. Small issues with your product or service may go unnoticed – at least until there are many more “small issues.”

I am explaining these details to demonstrate how little things can build upon one another to create dissatisfaction. The same can happen to your customers. So ask yourself, what little changes have you been making that your customers haven’t (yet) noticed?

  • Reducing pack content just a little
  • Reducing the cardboard quality of packaging
  • Making the flavouring just a little more cheaply
  • Increasing the price just a few cents
  • Shipping just a few days later than usual
  • Call centres being not quite as friendly as they used to be
  • Response time to queries and requests a little slower than before

These adaptations are unlikely to be noticed by your customers at the time they are implemented, unless they are already unhappy with your product or service. The minor changes you have been making over the past months or years will have gone by without any impact on sales. Therefore you decide to make a few more. Each will save you a little more money, which adds up to big savings for you.

However, one day your customers will notice and question their original choice (>>Tweet this>>). To avoid this slow drain on your customers’ satisfaction and delight, here are a few ways to avoid this situation arising in the first place:

  1. When you run product tests, compare not only to the current product and your major competitors but also to the previous product. (or its ratings if the product is no longer available)
  2. Run a PSM (price sensitivity meter) or similar test to check levels of price perceptions and acceptable ranges.
  3. Measure br and image on a regular basis and review trends not only the current levels.
  4. Check that call centres are judged on customer satisfaction and not (just) on the number of calls answered per hour.
  5. Offer occasional surprise gifts or premium services to thank your customers for buying.
  6. Aim to make continuous improvements in response times both online and in call centres.

Perhaps surprisingly, in many categories, customer satisfaction, loyalty and delight come from the small differences and not the big basics (>>Tweet this<<). For example:

  • Consumers are delighted by the perfume of a shampoo more than by the fact that it cleans their hair.
  • Amazon surprises and delights its customers by occasionally offering premium delivery for the price of st andard.
  • Kids will choose one fastfood restaurant over another because of the “free” gifts offered.
  • Women love to buy their underwear from Victoria’s Secrets because they walk out with a pretty pink carrier bag overflowing with delicate pink tissue paper.
  • Men buy their girlfriends, wives and mistresses jewellery from Tiffany because they know that the little aqua box they present to their loved one already says it all, even before it is opened.
  • A car is judged on its quality and safety by the “clunk” of the door closing, more than its safety rating.

In today’s world of dwindling product / service differentiation and an overload of choice, which I already spoke about in the last post entitled “Do your Shoppers face a purchasing dilemma? How to give the right customer choice every time”, your customers want to be made to feel cared-for, not cheated. Find new ways to surprise and delight them and they will remain loyal, even if you have to increase your prices. As L’Oreal continues to remind its consumers every time they buy one of their products, “They’re worth it”.

If you would like to review your br and building and learn new ways to catalyse your own customers to greater loyalty and delight, then contact us for an informal discussion of your needs. I know we can help.

Winning Customer Centricity Book

Don’t forget to check out my latest book Winning Customer Centricity. It’s available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes & Nobles, as well as in all good bookstores. And if you haven’t yet joined, sign up for free to become a C³Centricity Member  and get a DISCOUNT CODE as well as many free downloads, templates, case studies and much more.

C³Centricity used an image from Miami andBeaches in this post.

 

No Trust without Respect: 7 Rules to Winning Customers

I got an email this week that was just so wrong I almost replied to it offering my help to the sender, as he clearly needed it.

The email started, “Hello Deny, I will keep my introduction brief. I’m Scott XXX, CEO for YYY.” He was informing me about his company’s training offers, which he then went on to explain in excruciating detail! What was wrong with this email? Well a lot, for which I thank him, as it gives me a perfect example of what we need to do when looking to connect with our own current or potential customers:

  • My name is Denyse not Deny. If you are going to write to someone, get their name correct. This is the second time I have received a letter that was not correctly addressed this week! This attention to detail is absolutely essential, otherwise customers are likely to feel that you don’t care enough to get their name right, so why bother reading any more!
  • Scott started by saying he would keep the introduction short, but I could see from the length of the email that he hadn’t done this for the contents. I’ve noticed that when someone takes space to say he’s going to be short then it’s certain he won’t be! People are less patient today so delivering the goods as quickly as possible is the second business essential.
  • He is offering marketing training; I’m a customer centricity champion and know a lot about marketing. Clearly he didn’t segment his list and select the most relevant group to whom he offered the training. Relevance is the only way to be of benefit to customers.
  • The letter mentioned that “We proud to be partnering with …” No, that’s not an error on my part, it’s taken directly from the mail. I don’t know if Scott is non-mother-tongue English but if you’re selling professional services, you have to be professional. (>>Tweet this<<) I know I make mistakes too from time to time, but in a mailing going to hundreds or even thous ands of people, it’s definitely worth getting a spelling and grammar check made.
  • Highlighted in the text is a bold claim that “Quite simply, our e-Learning curriculum will be the cost-effective way to build … skills, knowledge and capabilities.” My question is why? No mention of prices is given so why has he made such a claim? Today’s customers want proof not just thin claims and promises. (>>Tweet this<<) 
  • Towards the end of the email I am told that “This information is being shared with the underst anding it will not be shared with others outside our consortium partnership team.” What? I’m not a partner and you’ve just shared it all with me! Is it supposed to make me feel special or threatened? Either way I’m not buying, sorry. We need to give something to our customers, be of value to them before asking for their collaboration and respect. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • The last sentence sums up all of these errors beautifully; “Deny, I look forward to further discussion and to underst and your interest as a consortium partner.” As far as I know we haven’t had a discussion yet; YOU Scott have been talking AT me. We haven’t had any sort of engagement  and I will definitely not be responding, as I have absolutely no interest in what you are trying to sell me.

To conclude, I’d like to thank Scott for this week’s Blog post topic and for these valuable lessons that I can now share with all my followers and readers. 

What should Scott have done?

To sum up the above seven learnings, when looking to engage potential customers and convince them to buy what you have to offer:

  1. Pay attention to details. We all like to think we’re different so treat your customer as an individual, not just a number or name on a list. And get the name right please!
  2. Fast is never fast enough, so if you promise fast or easy service then you have to deliver. Adding an example or proof of what you have already done in the past, will also help customers believe you can give it to them too.
  3. You can only attract customers by being relevant to their needs or desires. This means it is essential to segment your mailing list when identifying your target customers. If you try to attract everyone, you end up being too general and appealing to no-one.
  4.  You want to build a great reputation with your customers so decide on your personality and then fully support it. Fun, serious, professional or creative, choose how you want to be perceived and then live it and demonstrate it in everything you do.
  5. St and by your claims and deliver on your promises. It’s a waste of money to make advertising claims that will not be met in the customer’s experience. You may get the first sell but there will be no repeat purchases, no loyalty. And you might also damage the company image too!
  6. To be valued you need to first give value. Respect and trust are built over time, not through one connection. Be patient and consistent and they will follow.
  7. Customers want connection and engagement. Whether it is online, on your website, your advertising or your CRM activities, share information the customer wants to hear, not (just) what you want to share. Listen more than you talk; that is the start of a discussion and relationship building.

Thanks to Scott, I was reminded of some of the essential rules of customer engagement. Hopefully I live them every day; at least I try really hard to do so.

Do you have examples where a br and has not respected you or one in which you lost trust because of their behaviour? If so, then I would love you to share them here.

If you are struggling to gain the respect and trust of your own customers then contact us for a short discussion on how we might help; I’m sure we can.

C³Centricity used an image in this post from Denyse’s forthcoming book Winning Customer Centricity out next month.

Are you Jeopardising your Customers’ Loyalty? Or is it Going to Disappear Anyway?

As you have no doubt already noticed, my Blog posts and those of many other Bloggers too, are often prompted by real-world experiences. This week is no exception.

I want to share with you some examples of how companies jeopardise the loyalty of their customers and also seriously limit their chances of getting repeat purchases. But manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party; there have been some interesting comments on retail loyalty as well these past few weeks, so I will touch upon that too.

Promising More than the Customer Gets

This week I bought a new br and of bacon; I fancied a real English breakfast for once. When I opened the pack up, I was shocked to see that under the first three or four deliciously lean slices, was a pack of rather fatty, poor quality meat. Now why would a company do this? To make the sale of course. Seeing such great quality you would rightly expect the pack to contain similar meats to the front slices.

Another example which uses a similar ploy involves packaging. How often have you been enticed into buying a new product because of the picture on the pack? Or perhaps it was in an advertisement showing a delicious-looking meal or an amazing improvement to the skin or hair? Sometimes the pack content or product result may be acceptable, but when it’s not, you’re disappointed rather than delighted, aren’t you? (I previously wrote about one such experience in a post on br and honesty here) Again, why would a manufacturer set themselves up to deceive the customer into buying – once?!

Are such behaviours customer-centric? Certainly not! They are deceitful tricks used to sell customers less than they were led to expect. Yes you may get the sale, but you won’t get repurchase and certainly not loyalty. Which do you want? One, several or long-term purchases?

Raising Prices without Saying so

Most major markets have seen low rises in their CPIs (consumer price index) in 2014 with Switzerl and actually in the current situation of a deflation! However that hasn’t stopped several manufacturers from increasing their prices. Or should I say decreasing the content of their packs, as that seems to be the more usual response of many of them? This is not a very customer-centric approach to pricing.

The shopper is buying the same br and at the same price, but the contents, which the consumer rarely verifies, have decreased. If the reduction is significant, consumers may notice that the pack is significantly larger than the contents inside, which may then prompt them to check the actual weight they have bought.

A recent article in the UKs “The Telegraph” talked about some of the most noticeable offenders, including Birds Eye (Pirmira’s Iglo Group) and Twix (Mars) c andy bars. However many categories were using the same method of hidden price rises.

A survey of 1,257 UK’s Which? members found that over half (58%) said they would rather prices rose than packs got smaller. A further 37% would rather the pack shrank, but only if they were told. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

M andatory Sign-ups for Free Products

There are hundreds of new offers on the internet every day, trying to entice new customers to “try before you buy”. However some sites dem and m andatory sign-up to the paid program before allowing their customers to test their service. Credit card details and other personal information is requested, supposedly to “help the customer to subscribe more easily” should they decide to buy after the trial period.

However there is also most likely an automated transfer included from the free to a paid service should the customer forget to cancel in time. They then find themselves in the situation of buying a paid suscription without full knowledge of it. Is this customer centric? Of course not. If a customer decides to buy, he would be much happier to provide the necessary information to do so at the time of purchase. Again, you may have sold one more membership, but are extremely unlikely to get a happy or loyal customer.

 

Cheap isn’t Always Less Expensive

More and more airlines and hotels are selling their services “on the cheap” or at least that’s what it looks like. However, when you start adding on the extras, those attractive prices don’t seem quite so cheap anymore.

Take a low-cost flight for instance; in Europe that would probably be with Ryanair or EasyJet, and in the US with SouthWest Airlines or JetBlue. In addition to the cost of the flight, you will often pay for hold luggage and sometimes  carry-on items too, as well as food on board, priority boarding, seat reservation, pillows, blankets, headphones and even entertainment.

Hotels will add on charges to guarantee bed type, taxes, WiFi, breakfast, gym use, bag storage, resort fees and even m andatory gratuities.

IMG_0217Retail advertising and promotions are other areas where shoppers need to have their wits about them and a calculator on h and. The old adage that bigger is better no longer seems to apply. If several sizes are offered purchasers really need to check prices per 4 ozs or 100 gms. The BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) and BOGO promotions can also sometimes work out more expensive than buying one pack at the usual price charged.

One of my favourite promotional ads of all time is one I photographed in the UK at the local Pound Store, the equivalent of the Dollar Store in the US. See the photo above. Now that really is a bargain!

Consumers are Getting Wiser

The above are just a few examples of “tricks” that manufacturers and retailers play on their customers. It’s almost as if they are trying to see just how far they can go before their clients notice. Well, I think we have noticed, and this is confirmed in an article on CMO.com that caught my eye last week. It mentioned a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. Faisal Masud, Staples’ chief digital officer and EVP of e-commerce, who was part of a panel discussion at the event, made the following comment:

“Consumers are agnostic to where they shop. The days of window shopping and just paying the price you think is fair are gone. A lot of folks don’t even want to interact with people or companies. They just want their goods fast and at the lowest possible price. For that reason, a lot of the retail loyalty programs are a little bit doomed.”

I would add that a lot of br and loyalty will go the same way if practices such as those mentioned in this article continue. I believe these behaviours are short-terms acts of desperation of a losing br and. In fact I spoke in detail about using pricing in another post calledAre you on the way to br and heaven or hell?

Winners treat their customers as important people who have a choice and to whom they offer the best product or service they can, to satisfy, delight and why not also surprise them? If you are still thinking of such trickery as a way out of your current br and decline think again. It’s just not customer centric.

Do you have other examples you have seen of behaviour that is not customer centric? If so, I would love to hear about them.

And if you would like help in finding a solution to your own current business issue I would love to help. Just contact me for a chat and let’s see where it takes us.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

Five Essentials of Customer Service Excellence

Recently, I took a very early flight with British Airways (BA) out of Geneva airport and once again, BA staff demonstrated their excellent customer service.

That morning Lionel was on duty and I appreciated the fact that he allowed me to have a quick coffee in the club lounge even though he had already called the flight. The rule in such circumstances is not to admit lounge access to passengers once the flight has been called. It was refreshing to be treated as an individual and not as just a part of the mass of passengers taking that early morning flight. Allowing me to have a quick coffee before dashing to the gate certainly made my morning and my own speed in doing so enabled him to empty the lounge as he was required to do without too much delay. What has this got to do with your own customer service excellence? You’re not in the airline business? Well in my opinion, quite a lot; let me explain.

All over the world people are moving from rural to urban areas, and they are challenged with living a crowded life, with little chance to be alone let alone to be treated as an individual. This has created an increase in the perceived value of space and individualised service. (>>Tweet this<<) People today desire and actively seek out that little bit of extra service and recognition that means so much to them. In the case of Lionel, he apparently saw me as a low risk and that he could trust me to have the quick coffee I so desperately needed. I am sure such behaviour wasn’t specified in his customer service manual; he took the initiative himself. Isn’t it time you let your own customer service people free to best serve your customers?

Call Centre Scripts

In most companies interactions with  customers are carefully scripted. The call centre metrics are designed for operational efficiency rather than customer satisfaction. Time per call is targeted down and calls per advisor are constantly being targeted up. Last year I shared the story of a CEO who had decided to throw away the scripts for his customer service personnel and to trust them to satisfy the customers in the best way possible – for the client! I am sure you can see how satisfaction went up, for both the advisors and the customers.

In an excellent post by Dave Paulding of Interactive Intelligence on the dos and don’ts of call scripting, he summarised the results of some research he conducted amongst a panel of experts as follows:

  1. Use scripting sparingly on inbound contacts, whether by phone of email
  2. Pre-written statements for online use. It can be useful to have a bank of pre-written statements with pertinent information in them, to insert into text, This particularly important when health, safety or legal issues are discussed.
  3. Don’t read out scripts for outbound use, to avoid mechanical and impersonal responses. However many find it useful to have key words and phrases written down as bullet points to act as an aide-memoire when speaking with customers.

 

Employee satisfaction

Time and again research has shown that employee satisfaction is closely linked to customer satisfaction. If customer service personnel are valued and respected, then they will respect and do the best they can for the customer. In an excellent article by Iwona Tokc-Wilde in Raconteur, she gives several new examples of organisations where everyone from the CEO down is involved in satisfying the customer. They are given the freedom to do whatever it takes and this responsibility makes for happier employees. No matter which level you are at within your own company, when did you last talk to customer service personnel? When did you last engage with customers directly through your call centre, online or through email? Everyone should do it. Regular connection keeps your finger on the pulse of customer change and provides an amazing amount of information and ideas.

In another article, this time on Entrepreneur, entitled “30 Ways to Show your Customers they’re Always Right” they include some great phrases your care centre personnel should learn and abide by, to keep your customer happy. These include:

  • “How can I help?”
  • “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
  • “I will keep you updated.”
  • “I will deliver on time.”
  • “It’ll be just what you ordered.”
  • “I appreciate your business.”

These should not be said without the conviction to follow-up and deliver what is promised. For instance, on-time delivery means just that, if not even earlier, as Amazon often does! Keeping your customer updated means that you will get back to them, even if it is just to say that you are still working on the issue. Knowing that they have not been forgotten is a wonderful emotion for customers and confirms their importance to you. They are more likely to accept waiting without any build up of negativity in the meantime until a solution is found.

Rebecca Brown of SalesForce added a further three phrases, that I particularly like for reducing customer frustration; they are:

  • “I have your information right here”
  • “What do you think?”
  • “Help me help you”

These additional ideas work because they recognise the importance of the customer to the company and avoids them getting frustrated when they have to repeat their issues over and over again. These phrases also build the spirit of teamwork to resolve the issue and empowers the customer and employee to work closely together without being on different sides.

How do you Train your own Customer Service Advisors?

If throwing away your call centre scripts is too far for you to go, at least for now, but you could do with improving your care centre operations to make them even more customer centric, I have a few more ideas for you:

  1. INVITE: How are you currently inviting your customers to connect with you? On your pack or in your advertising? Is the invitation clearly legible and does it offer your customers a choice of channels that they can use to connect? You should want as many connections as possible with your customers, so openly invite them wherever they will have the chance to see it. Some of you will certainly see this as a risk; more contacts equal more complaints, no? Well yes – hopefully at the same proportion as currently – but wouldn’t you rather know if your product or service has problems so you can quickly resolve them?
  2. LISTEN: Advisors should listen attentively to what the customer has to share: it always amazes me how often they try to interrupt the customer in their explanation of why they called. Perhaps this has to do with the call-time targets that have been set. Why not replace them with satisfaction targets? Let the customer talk until the reason for calling is fully explained and they feels that the advisor has really listened.
  3. RESPOND: If your care centre has scripted responses and you can’t throw them away, at least give your advisors permission to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to respond and satisfy your customer. Your customers have taken time and effort to reach out to you, so don’t disappoint them. Surprise and delight them with your response  and generosity. Don’t just offer them a replacement product or coupons; everyone else does that. Add samples of new products, send the replacement by express mail, or offer an additional, usually paid service for free. What more can you do for your customer, so their problem turns into a positive story that they will share with friends, family and even the world if they are active on social media?
  4. KEEP LISTENING: Don’t assume that the first thing your customer talks about is the real reason for their call or connection. Sometimes there are other things that would be useful for you to know but you never get the chance to hear them because your advisors are ending the calls too quickly. Perhaps you customer believes you wouldn’t be interested so never calls about their ideas or suggestions. Before ending the connection, why not ask if there is anything else your customer wants to share of talk about with you. More information in this area is always better information.
  5. ASK: Only when your customer is fully satisfied with your responses and has no other things they want to share, can you broach the subject of whether or not they would be willing to answer a few questions for you. If they are, keep it short and if necessary arrange for a follow-up call for more. Please don’t go through your full segmentation questionnaire; just ask the three to five questions that will help you know them better.If they are not, respect their decision.

In summary, to satisfy customers, make sure you invite them to connect with you, then listen, give employees the freedom to respond appropriately, and then listen some more before asking anything yourself. Your customers’ surprise and delight turns any problem into a reason to share their experience as positive advocacy.

These are my steps to customer centric excellence for care services. Which are the most important in your opinion? Do you have any others you would add? I would love to hear from you if you have.

Need help in improving your own customer care? Let us help you catalyse your customer underst anding and connection; contact us here for inspiration.

C³Centricity sourced images from Dreamstime.com for this post

This post is an update of one that was published on C³Centricity in December 2011

The New 7Ps of Best Practice Customer Services. Are you following them?

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re walking and not just talking the talk of true customer service?

Last year I was prompted to question this of the Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer care 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 h and 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 was more than a year ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Guy Clapperton, author of “This is Social Media” wrote an interesting post about this in 2011 and surprisingly this idea was actually questioned at the time. Today, I would argue that it is much, much more than this.

Today’s call centres 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. 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. 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.

Edison recently ran some research showing the patience that we have or rather don’t have today, on social media. Convince & Convert published some of the first results in an interesting article showing that companies must react immediately to customers using social media. One in five expect an answer within 15 minutes and 42% within the hour. For reference, when Guy Clapperton wrote his post almost three years ago, the level was almost half that at just 25%.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a call back, 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 (>>Tweet this<<); 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 before “going under”.

Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company, but should we as customers also not take the company’s perspective when reaching out to them, or at least to the poor person who gets our wrath at the end of our email or phone call?

Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a customer service advisor 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 (early twenties)?

I summarise it as the new 7 Ps of customer services:

  1. Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person.
  2. Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question.
  3. Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did!
  4. Perceptive: Empathised, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed.
  5. Professional: He was an expert, knew his topic and more importantly knew how to explain its complex details in simple terms.
  6. Pragmatic: Worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both.
  7. Perseverant: He continued to ask and answer questions until he was sure I was happy with everything.

Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” to mention? Let me know, especially you Jimmy, if you read this.

If you need help in optimising your own care centres or customer connections then we would love to support your plans. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

No Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

This article is based upon a post first published on C3Centricity in February 2013.

Sourcing & Services Matter: Why Price Alone Won’t get your Customers to Stay

Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.

Walmart gives serviceIn 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “ Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.

 

Target gives serviceTarget announced last October its plans to introduce the “ Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.

 

Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.

 

Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?

 

Tesco gives serviceTesco recently introduced their “ Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “ Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.

 

Sainsbury's gives serviceSainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “ Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s  horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco.

 

If pricing has become (still is?) the entry stakes for retailers today, what else can they do to differentiate themselves and propose a viable alternative that appeals to today’s shoppers? Here are a few I came up with, based upon some of the more interesting initiatives and current trends in societal sensitivities:

  • Individualism: I live alone, as do a large minority of people in the developed world ( 47% in Sweden according to Euromonitor) How about offering smaller packs and individual servings? I would happily pay more for the convenience and the guilt avoidance. (I throw out vast quantities of food that is past its sell-buy date)
  • Localism: the horsemeat and other food sc andals have made people wary of buying from countries where they are unsure of their controls, hygiene or ethics. Identified sourcing and traceability brings trust and reassurance.
  • Fair trade guarantees fairness  and serviceFairness: This helps eliminate the guilt attached to buying (too) cheap products. We now know that products from the East are in general cheaper than products from the West. However, we still want reassurance that workers are being treated fairly. Fair Trade associations and the end to child-labour are causes most shoppers would be will to pay (a little) more for.
  • Sustainability: Recent weather changes have finally convinced everyone of the need to look after and protect our planet from further degradation. Therefore sustainability has become something to fight for. Whether this is reducing the use of palm oil to protect Indonesian rainforests or finding alternatives to bottled water which both wastes resources and pollutes the l and, people are dem anding more of manufacturers.
  • Packaging: Packs are no longer just for protection and shelf-impact, they provide information on ingredients, sourcing and links to apps that provide more about the company who made it or give access to reviews from other buyers.
  • Lowe's offers virtual room designerServices: Some retailers are offering schools for cooking, home repairs, creative pursuits or decorating (see Loew’s virtual room designer as a great example of this). No longer is it sufficient to sell products, people are getting help with making the best use of them and thus getting more value from their purchase.

 

These are just a few of the ways that retailers are building their relationships with their shoppers. They may come for price, but that is an unsustainable competitive advantage in today’s world. Retailers that maintain the loyalty of their customers will be offering more in terms of support and services to keep them coming back.  

If you would like to update your own retail environment and services, why not contact us for an informal chat? We can provide shopper journey mapping, in-store eye-tracking, at shelf facial imaging and many more forward-thinking tools.

C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and named company websites.

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