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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

Halloween Scares & Solutions for Marketing

Halloween is coming, even earlier than usual this year, judging from all the retail displays already in the shops! Although it is now more associated with children dressing up in scary costumes and dem anding “Trick or Treat”,  it is actually a Christian remembrance of the dead on the eve of All Saints’ Day.

So what does that have to do with marketing? Apart from the obvious effort of many companies to include the pumpkin shape, flavour or aroma in almost every product they make, at least in the US, marketing too has its scary moments doesn’t it?

What scares you marketers the most, or to put it another way, what keeps you up at night? One of the most recent studies on the topic, issued a few months ago, comes from The Marketing Institute (MSI) and was summarised by David Aaker of Prophet as seven issues, which he divided into three tiers:

TIER ONE: The hot topics

  1. Underst anding customers and the customer experience with particular emphasis on the impact of social and digital.
  2. Big data and analytics, with how they will impact predictive modelling and the marketing mix.

TIER TWO: The other concerns

  1. Following on from the opportunities of Big Data, the next concern is Marketing Accountability and its ROI.
  2. Developing marketing excellence and the new skills required such as visualisation and storytelling.
  3. Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology and linking it to CRM
  4. Creating and communicating enduring customer value and how to measure it in the social environment.
  5. Developing and delivering integrated marketing

TIER THREE: Previous concerns getting under control

  1. Innovating products and services
  2. Global marketing
  3. Segmentation
  4. Optimizing social contracts

What I find interesting from this and similar studies that I wrote about last year, is the overlap between many of these challenges. Marketers are really concerned about the wealth of information that they have on their customers and how they can manage to turn it all into insights, for more profitable actions and engagement. I therefore thought it would be useful to summarise the “so whats” of all these current challenges and propose actions that will help marketers get these issues under control, so they can change their scares into solutions:

Underst anding the customer experience

SCARE: With the exciting new worlds of social and digital taking up much of the thoughts of marketers, they are struggling to find ways to think integration, but that is the only way to underst and today’s customers. 

SOLUTION: Starting from the customers’ perspective makes looking at the bigger picture much easier. Instead of thinking single channels of communication, think connection and engagement. (>>Tweet this<<). Instead of thinking purchase and loyalty, think advocacy. Creating value for the customer goes way beyond providing a product or service these days. (>>Tweet this<<)

Knowing what to do with data

SCARE: We have gone from an information rich environment to complete data overload. This challenge definitely keeps a lot of marketers up at night. They feel as if they have to use everything available but at the same time are also aware that they are incapable of doing so.

SOLUTION: The answer lies in the old “eating an elephant” solution. Rather than worrying about what is not being managed, marketers should review what they already have, and only then decide what else they could use to help answer all their questions. There is so much information available today that we can’t work with it all, but we can ask better questions that can be answered by analysing this data. Start with the right question and then use the data you have to answer it. (>>Tweet this<<)

Engaging customers

SCARE: Every br and has some sort of web presence today. Whether that is a website, Facebook page or Twitter account, most companies have rushed into social media without a detailed underst anding of why they are there. If this is your case, it’s time to take a step back.

SOLUTION: How are you connecting with your customers today, both offline and online? The two should be complementary. However if there is too much overlap and you are doing the same on both, then you are wasting your money. You are also wasting your money if you don’t know why you are online in the first place! (>>Tweet this<<)

I had a client once who wanted help in updating one of their websites. In running a first analysis of all their websites, I found that more than 80% of them were being visited by less than 30 visitors a month! We cancelled all those websites and invested the money in the remaining active ones, improving both their ROI and the engagement with their customers. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your own web statistics?

Marketing ROI

SCARE: Marketers are scared for their budgets and even more so for their jobs. With the rise in the importance of technology and IT, marketers need to move from br anding  and creativity alone, to embracing data and analytics much more than they have done in the past.

SOLUTIONBecome friends with your CIO and see IT as a support of rather than as a threat to your budgets. Yes managing new technologies and data analysis will need more investment, but that won’t (shouldn’t) come at the expense of br and building. In fact with the increased power of the customer and the number of channels on which to reach them, marketing needs increased budgets to be where and when the customer dem ands connection and information. (>>Tweet this<<)

Acquiring new skills

SCARE: As already mentioned, marketers must get comfortable with large amounts of different data. They also need better ways to analyse and make sense of it all, often in near real-time. This is a challenge in itself, but the new skills they have to acquire don’t stop there. They also need to turn their information into actionable insights and then share them with the rest of the business to gain acceptance and impact.

SOLUTION: Your market research and insight colleagues are the best people to help in making sense of the data and developing actionable insights. It will be the marketer’s job to share these with the rest of the business in a more creative way. Visualisation & storytelling are the new must-have skills for today. No longer can you expect PowerPoint presentations to excite and engage your C-suite executives – if they ever did!

These are five of the most pressing current scares of marketing and some simple solutions to address them. Are you challenged by something else? If so, add a comment below and I’ll help you find a solution. Or if you prefer, you can contact me here.

C3Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

 

 

Should you Test your Advertising? If so, What, When and How?

 

One of my clients recently asked me a very interesting question, which I share here, as I am sure that you too have asked it from time to time. It was this: “Should I test my advertising and if so, when and how?”

Depending upon whether you work on the client side, in a media agency or are a creative in an ad agency, you will have certainly answered this in a different way. So let’s review all the pros and cons and decide what is right – for you – in different circumstances.

 

Should you test advertising?

If you work on the client side and ask your colleagues in an advertising agency, most of them would probably scream NO and that’s not surprising! Countless teams have suffered at the h ands of market research and the over-testing of their creative.

In the past sixty years or so, there have been many different metrics invented, with the intention of evaluating which of a client’s communication concepts would best meet their objectives. And that for me is one of the biggest challenges to ad. testing. Should you test a campaign or each individual ad? Should you test an ad built to increase awareness in the same way as one built for encouraging trial, purchase, repurchase, loyalty or advocacy? My answer would be a very Swiss “It depends”.

Firstly you have to be clear about why you are advertising in the first place, and what your campaign is trying to achieve. It still amazes me how many companies develop new campaigns simply because that’s what they do each year. Hopefully each new campaign has a link to the preceding one, but even that is not always obvious. Therefore start by being very clear with whom you want to communicate and why – and share that information with your ad agency.

 

When to test

A lot of companies have a st andard process of testing ads before airing. Whilst this could be admired, it often results in multiple ad developments. The feeling is that more is better. If you test two, three or more ads, you can then choose the winner to air. What’s wrong with that?

Well, in my opinion, quite a lot. You’ve just wasted a lot of time, money and energy in developing multiple ads, when you know you’ll most probably only use one in most cases. It’s time to think differently and spend your valuable resources more wisely. Once the ad agency has developed a number of campaign concepts or ideas that meet your carefully defined objectives, then that is a better time to test.

Don’t wait until you have gone further and produced animations, final prints or complete films before testing. If you wait until that late a stage in the development process, you are also more likely to designate a “winner” when in fact they could all be good – or bad! Working with concepts will help identify the real winning ideas you have, which can then be developed into a final version or two for copytesting – if you must, but more of that later. The earlier you test, the more resources your ad agency can concentrate on the most relevant concept(s), rather than diluting their efforts to give you the wide choice you usually dem and. No wonder ad agencies don’t like copytesting!

 

What to test

Another reason for testing concepts rather than finished ads, is to ensure that they can be turned into a campaign. I have witnessed many terrific, so called “big ideas” that were superb as they stood, but which it was impossible to visualise other than in the single form proposed. If you show your early work to consumers, they might even be inspired by the story of an idea and suggest other ways to show the concept you have developed and thus you get an indication of the campaignability of the idea.

For regional and global campaigns, there is often the added complication of the translation of the idea into other languages. There are many concepts in English that don’t or only poorly translate into other languages. English is a wonderful language that is particularly appropriate for advertising, because of the ability to make wordplays, or use idioms, acronyms, slang, compound words and other wonders of its grammar. In addition the English language is known for its extensive vocabulary, which is especially useful in advertising copy-writing. Whereas in another language you might only have one or two words to express a particular meaning, English may have five or six, each with subtle differences.  If you’d like to see some great examples of advertising messages “lost in translation” (>>Tweet this<<) check out this fun article from Business News Daily.

 

How to test

Depending upon their “st andard” processes, most companies will tend to use the same methodology, with no regard for the reasons for doing so. Are you used to copytesting all your developments in order to pick the “winner”, or to get airing approved by management? Some clients I know must score in the “top quadrant” on the usual copytesting impact and persuasion metrics in order to use an ad, even though there are valid reasons to accept lower scores on one or other of the metrics, depending upon the campaign’s objectives.

Some of the best – and most useful – campaign testing I have ever seen, was done qualitatively. But that alone won’t work unless you then allow the creatives, market research and insight groups to discuss the results together – ALONE! It was exciting to share consumer opinions with the creatives and they found it equally stimulating to share their ideas and get feedback based on real consumer input. Whoever said that creatives don’t like testing are wrong; they just dislike judgemental, sometimes disrespectful and bl and numerical results with little if any depth of analysis.

A powerful testing methodology I have had the privilege to work with is the unique one proposed by PhaseOne. Their scientifically based, proprietary technique, is based on over thirty years experience of academic work  and real-world validation. Their knowledgebase includes an extensive foundation including analytics in human behaviour, anthropology, culture traits, entertainment, education, communications and marketing. This enables them to accurately explain how your target will react to your messages and even more importantly the reasons why, without actually speaking with consumers. In comparative testing versus st andard copytesting, their technique has been shown to give similar outcomes, but with greater depth and underst anding of the reasons why consumers react to an ad as they do and not just the what. If you’d like to hear more about this unique methodology, especially if you’re having trouble speaking with your own target customers due to legal or confidentiality issues, I’d be happy to share some case studies.

 

In summary when it comes to testing your advertising:

  1. Know with whom you want to communicate
  2. Know what your target audience wants to hear
  3. Know why you are communicating, what the message is that you want to send
  4. Know which concept(s) have the most resonance with both your target audience and objectives, and why
  5. Know how the concept(s) will develop into a campaign across media
  6. Know how you are going to communicate, the most relevant medium and channels for your target audience

Can you answer all six questions before pre-testing you own ads? If so, well done; if not, perhaps it’s time to review your testing process.

 

Where testing came from & where it’s going

In conclusion, a few words about the future of pre-testing. Although advertising testing supposedly started in the mid 1800’s, it was in the 1950’s that performance metrics became the holy grail of clients, ad agencies and media sellers alike. From Day-After-Recall, to persuasion, and br and linkage to moment-by-moment systems, it wasn’t until this decennie that the importance of emotional rather than rational responses to advertising gained support. Today, emotional analysis has become widely available and customers’ reaction to the ads are measured, usually on the six universal emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger) plus neutral. Whilst it’s still early days in underst anding the connection between emotional reactions and br and impact, things are moving fast. C³Centricity is now offering facial coding as part of its services, whether for adding to market research projects or for the development of original promotions and point-of-sale activities. One such case study is available for download on the C³Centricity Members area here. (Free to join)

Interestingly, when I was doing research for this post, almost all the more recent articles I found were about the testing of online advertising, comparing PPC and positioning, of the usual paid, earned and owned media. However, with around two-thirds of budgets still being on traditional media – at least for now –  and Statista showing that consumers still trust it more than new media,  it seemed appropriate for me to concentrate on that here and leave online for a future post.

Also, I have covered only pre-testing here, yet I know many companies who are satisfied with running only post-tests. They admit that it is because they never have enough time to pre-test their ads which, at least to me, highlights a clear lack of concept testing in the first place. Hopefully I have explained why I think it is important, no vital, for clients, media and ad agencies alike, to do more of it. At least it will provide more material for those development discussions – before it’s too late!

Do you agree? Have I forgotten something? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post

 

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.

Why Most Marketing Plans Fail & 9 Ways to Succeed with Yours

This Monday is Memorial Day in the US, when Americans everywhere think back to those in the US Armed Forces who gave their lives in the line of duty. I too am thinking back, but to all the marketing plans and ideas that have been sacrificed!

The reasons why some plans are accepted and others aren’t are many. Non-alignment with corporate plans is one of the most usual, but lack of clarity, consistency, preparation or budget are also common. And even when accepted, they aren’t always executed as planned. So I thought that it would be useful to take a look back at our own marketing plans that we set earlier this year and review what is and isn’t working. We still have time to make changes and meet our 2014 targets, so which of the following is your current issue?

Declining market share

Firstly, you should be ashamed that you’ve let your br and slide so much that you are actually losing share! Br and equity measures would have given you a clear warning that something was going wrong, months if not years ago! Did you ignore the numbers or were your efforts too small to have the necessary impact? Either way, it’s time to start working out what’s going wrong. Review the 5P’s of marketing for starters and prioritise actions based on what you find.

Stable market share

So your br and’s growth is slowing? This happens in the normal life-cycle of a br and, so no panic, but you do need to take action to renew growth. But don’t think that small tweaks will be enough. Competition is ruthless these days and you will need to create some buzz around your br and. Surprise and delight is the name of the game to win (back) consumers. Start from your strengths and then ramp one or two of them up a couple of levels.

Declining image

As mentioned above, your br and image will start to weaken before market share is affected (>>and%20image%20will%20start%20to%20weaken%20before%20market%20share%20is%20affected%20%20[tweetlink]” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<), so in theory you still have time to prevent significant share loss. But you must act now! It is more effective to review your image ratings by experience group, to see what you need to do to recover lapsed users or convert more trialists. In my experience the answers should be clear from a regularly run and thoughtfully analysed br and image study using a well-developed attribute list.

Losing consumer trust

This is a serious issue. (as if the others aren’t!) Trust in companies and br ands is what enables consumers to forgive mistakes or accept higher prices. (>>and%20br ands%20is%20what%20enables%20consumers%20to%20forgive%20mistakes%20or%20accept%20higher%20prices%20%20[tweetlink]” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<) And it tips the balance in your favour in product comparability when performances are similar. Trust is a complex principle built out of a number of influencing factors, such as integrity, reliance, confidence, quality and worthiness. Which of these has resulted in your consumers’ loss of trust? Once identified, you will need to review how you can influence it. It will take time – sometimes a lot of time – to change perceptions.

Inconsistent communications

Since most companies have one product manager or group in charge of each br and, this shouldn’t happen and yet it still does. Multiple suppliers with differing interpretations of the br and promise, and annual revamps of simply the previous year’s work, makes for communications that gradually slip from the original positioning and message. Instead of just looking at the latest or planned communications, it is vital to also review the previous five years’ work. It then becomes obvious how messaging has shifted. (>>Tweet this<<)

Inconsistent product performance

As with communications, most product testing compares current to the proposed new product and sometimes also versus the competition. Unfortunately small changes made can be undetectable to consumers even in direct comparison, or are within statistical errors and so are ignored. But over time, consumers are likely to come to realise that the product to which they have been loyal for many, many years, is no longer what it used to be. Therefore it is useful (essential) to compare product ratings to those from previous years, as well as to the current product.

No emotional attachment

This is a dangerous situation to be in, since if consumers have no emotional attachment to your br and, they can switch without too much thought. In fact your br and is no longer a br and, it’s a commodity! It needs to st and for something in the hearts and minds of consumers, so that they will choose you rather than a competitor. Especially in categories where performance differences are minimal, emotional attachment is what keeps consumers loyal. (>>Tweet this<<)Review how your consumers feel about your br and and what you can do to build more emotional attachment. The stimulation of the senses is a great way to do this. (read more here).

Confusing br and hierarchy

Your line extensions are like family members. There should be a well-defined parent br and and each variant should have clear resemblances to it. As mentioned above concerning product and communications consistency, line extensions can drift away from the look and feel of the parent br and, especially in dynamic categories where innovation and renovation are vital. When was the last time you looked at your whole product range – together? Differences in fonts, colours, sub-br and descriptions and design become quickly obvious. Make the changes needed to get the family back in line.

Lack of (the right) social media presence

I couldn’t end this list without including social media and the internet as this is where most consumer product br ands “live” today. (>>and%20the%20internet%20is%20where%20most%20consumer%20product%20br ands%20%E2%80%9Clive%E2%80%9D%20today%20%20[tweetlink]” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)It is not enough to launch a website and Facebook page for every br and and promotion. Living is the operative word here, so it’s much better to have one site that is regularly updated than tens that are visited by twenty people a month ( and yes I’ve found that in many major CPGs in the past). Also make sure that your tone online fits your tone offline and portrays the same personality. Social media is not new media, it’s just another channel, so it must fit into your overall communication’s strategy.

Hopefully this list has given you some food for thought and ideas on which to take action this week. If you are facing a different challenge I’d love to hear about it and possibly offer you some solutions. Just drop me a line here.      

C³Centricity used an image from Kozzi in this post.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? Satisfaction, Surprise & Delight

There’s been a lot of rather liberal use of the word LOVE recently in connection with br ands and their customers. Perhaps this was partly due to the lead up to Valentine’s Day last week.

But ever since Lovemarks was published in 2004, followed by The Lovemarks Effect and more recently Loveworks, companies have talked about how much br ands are loved by their customers. Sorry Mr Roberts et al, I personally don’t think consumers love br ands. Consumers may say they love you but I think that they really just love themselves! (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Whilst I agree with the premise that traditional br anding practices were (still are?) generally dull, boring and rather predictable, digital has certainly livened things up in the last ten years. With greater real-time visibility, br ands are constantly trying to out-do each other and luckily the customer has everything to gain from this. After all, surprise and delight are the fundamental dem ands of consumers today and the holy grail of br ands. However from attracting interest to inspiring love, that’s one heck of a jump!

Wikipedia defines love in many different ways, because the English language doesn’t distinguish between the levels of love that other languages do. The closest I could find to the emotional connection Kevin Roberts was referring to, was impersonal love described as “People can “love” material objects, animals, or activities if they invest themselves in bonding or otherwise identifying with those things”. This definition points out a very important element of br and love, that of personal investment. As I already mentioned, I believe that customers love themselves first and will only invest in br ands if they get something out of the relationship in return. That is the part of the bonding that too many br ands seem to forget when developing online advertising, fan pages and social media exchanges. It’s as if they publish and then say “Love (Like) me I’m great”, when they should be saying “We love you, you’re great”.

In 2004 Kevin Roberts introduced the notion of emotions to br anding and I believe everyone today agrees that purchasing involves an emotional response, often even stronger than rational based decision making. This is the one essential element that some br ands struggle to incorporate into their online presence in a meaningful way, so let’s see how the top br ands do it.

TwitterFirst, taking a look at Twitter’s list of the Top 20 most followed br ands for 2013 we can see that involvement (in this case following) is triggered by one of four simple customer needs:

  • Entertainment: YouTube, Instagram, TwitPic, Funny Or Die, MTV, Ramalan Indonesia, funnyordie, UberSocial
  • Keeping up with your friends: Twitter, Facebook
  • Keeping up with the world: CNN Breaking News , CNN, The New York Times, BBC Breaking News, Google
  • Keeping up with your team: FC Barcelona, Real Madrid F.C., NBA, ESPN

Interestingly, the br ands in this top 20 all provide a service to people, rather than blatantly looking for love, although they have been successful in bonding with their followers. Also, the only consumer br and to make it onto the list came in at number 20, namely Samsung Mobile. However their tweets are actually more like those of the news channels than a manufacturer promoting their br and, although of course they do include their product names when relevant.

Chatting for customer service connectionThe relationship between br ands and their followers is one of need (>>Click to Tweet<<); the Tweets provide customers with information they can use or share with their friends. In addition, for many, Twitter has become the modern day customer service line, since they are assured a more rapid response and usually a more positive conclusion than through a simple telephone based connection. Whilst excellent customer service should be the delivery no matter which medium customers choose to use, we have all now understood that they are not created equally. We know that telephone-based customer service still exists, but we just don’t get the fast, efficient level of assistance that we desire anymore, and are moving away from its usage.

As a result organisations are very keen to improve the service they give via Twitter and use it not only to respond to customer comments, but also to involve their customers in improving their products and services, as well as to keep them abreast of launches, new campaigns and promotions.

FacebookAnother platform that br ands use to connect with their customers is Facebook. Br ands create pages and encourage “Likes” for their postings, which seem to have similar purposes to Twitter, albeit with a more generous allowance than the 140 characters of a Tweet.

Looking at the pages with the most fans, we find a similarity to Twitter in terms of content and also a few of the same companies (NBA, MTV) but there are more consumer br ands present amongst the most popular. These br ands are promoting themselves through similar types of content, entertainment and news, but the biggest difference is the possibility for customers to reap direct benefit through coupons, promotions, store information and free games. In addition, customers can usually provide content too, by uploading their own photos, videos and stories.

So coming back to my original question, br ands should underst and that customers’ love can be as short lived as a holiday romance. As with marriage, it takes consistent effort to maintain the connection, providing satisfaction, surprise and delight in almost equal proportions. The br ands which succeed online are without exception those that offer all of these, as the following table shows:

Br and

Content

10 NBA videos, commentary, photos, merch andise
9 McDonald’s games, prizes, promotions, news,
8 Monster Energy extreme-sports clips, news, events
7 Victoria’s Secret exclusive updates, videos, screen wallpaper doubled its talking about me score when it started giving away 100k gift cards to fans, electronic gift cards
6 Converse photos of unique shoes
5 Red Bull mix of humour, extreme sports, events, images, games & apps
4 Starbucks photos, store locator, electronic gift cards, manage rewards, challenges
3 MTV sneak peeks of trailers, clips, humour, questions, photos, quizzes, information about pop stars
2 Disney facts, film screenshots, cartoons, videos, quotes, photo & story sharing
1 Coca-Cola encourages donations, local & global events & promotions, videos

In conclusion, let me say that I am not suggesting that we forget love, but rather that we take off our rose-tinted spectacles and underst and that our customers don’t really love us; as with my two cats it’s just a matter of “cupboard love”!

Did you know that C³Centricity measures EMOTIONAL REACTIONS to advertising, packaging, new br and concepts, products and just about anything else a customer can see, hear, taste or feel? Interested in learning more? Then why not CONTACT US today for an informal chat about your needs? We’re sure we can help.  

8 Marketing Essentials for 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the US catching up with a few C³Centricity partners about marketing priorities for 2014. The meetings were as inspirational as the new products being presented at the Las Vegas CES (Global Consumer Electronics & Consumer Technology Tradeshow)!

We discussed some of the most important challenges marketing will be facing in 2014 and brainstormed some possible solutions. If you are having any of these difficulties then I’m sure you will find the following ideas useful:

Social Media Metrics

Email is a popular customer service connection pointAs many companies transfer budget from traditional to online advertising, it is essential to also shift some of your funds to measuring its impact, even if some people do question the validity of such metrics. However, the most important thing to do is to link the metrics to what is happening in your business. Your CEO isn’t interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, but he is interested in knowing that you gained x% in awareness. Some st andard numbers often followed are mentioned in “ 10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” but remember that engagement and listening for better customer underst anding are also (more?) important, as mentioned in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours?

Storytelling

There is so much (too much?) information flowing into organisations today, but it is not being sufficiently accessed because most of it is not being integrated and analysed. Even when it is, sharing the insights is often a challenge because of the complexity of the process. Turning knowledge and underst anding into stories and then visualising or videoing them is a better way for both sharing and getting participation in actioning them. Why not review both your insight development and your knowledge sharing processes this year? If you’re comfortable with where you are, perhaps now is a good time to start storing your information and insights in easily-accessible libraries?

Showrooming & Virtual Reality

Virtual realityIt has been suggested that showrooming will be the end of retail outlets, but I believe there will be an integrated, rather than an either / or future. Virtual reality enables shoppers to see how products could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also allows both retailers and manufacturers to improve their offer by identifying any pain points, and enables them to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. How about going online with 3D catalogues or providing in-store areas to offer your customers product trial and experience?

 

New Communication Opportunities

According to Jay Walker-Smith of Yankelovich

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

Whether that second number should be 5,000 or 20,000 as I’ve also heard mentioned, it suggests that little can or is being retained our customers. Since this is unlikely to change in the future, as attention spans shorten even more, finding new messaging opportunities that resonate with our customers is vital. Why not use social media to track your target audience’s expressed wants and needs, and then compare them to what your key competitors are communicating. This will help you to uncover hidden communications’ gaps which you can then use to connect with your customers.

Adapting Communications to Personas

Don't alienate your business from its customersAre you dissatisfied with your current segmentation efforts? Creating personas can already add interest and thus actionability, by visualising their similarities and differences. Have you thought of taking the same approach to your communications too? By crafting personas built from your existing data on media habits and going beyond traditional segmentation, you can focus your attention on how to actually communicate with these different groups.

Channel Management

Mapping your br and’s story as told by the br and across channels can provide a “mosaic” of its communications and quickly highlight areas which need attention.Successful campaigns work across multiple channels but it is important to examine the contribution of each to avoid overlaps and gaps. Why not make 2014 your year of br and building through improved channel management?

Better Communications for Organisational Strategy

Following on from the above point, people’s attention spans are diminishing and we are all skimming rather than reading today. This means that companies need shorter, more impactful copy, for advertising and websites, but also for internal newsletters and communications. Analysing the content of communications can be very informative in underst anding the messages our customers, employees or consumers are receiving. We can no longer be satisfied with knowing just what we are sending out. Make this year the one in which all your communications resonate and provide the right messages to your targets.

Disruptive Innovation

Trends around the worldCustomers are becoming more and more dem anding – no news there! They don’t stay satisfied or surprised for long. What was novel yesterday is normal today and boring tomorrow. I suppose that’s why shows such as CES get so much air-time on local, national and even international media. We all love to dream and imagine a better life just around the corner. The same goes for our customers, who are always open to new and better propositions.   What are you doing to meet these increasing dem ands? Is your innovation linear, exponential or disruptive? If it’s not the second and hopefully the third, you are probably missing out. Why not make 2014 the year you disrupt your innovation process?

These were eight of the tens of ideas that I discussed with my partners to help companies identify their marketing priorities. Have a look at your plans and see whether you are still playing it safe by just repeating what you did last year? The same number of campaigns, the same promotions, even the same type of innovations. There’s still time to make 2014 the year of exponential growth and change for your company. 

Are you MAD? You may be if you’re still doing any of these

I may be mad, but whilst North America celebrates Thanksgiving this week, I am NOT going to talk about it. That already makes me different from every other blogger, newspaper and magazine at the moment! Instead let me start with a story.

It was not a comfortable position to be in. I was facing my doctor for the nth time, who was telling me for the nth time that I would have to get my weight under control. Last year he suspected that I was gluten intolerant, but being a bread lover I didn’t listen too hard, although I did try not to eat it every day. However, I did still include gluten in all my meals in one way or the other and over time these have become the main ingredient of many of them – pasta, chips, risotto anyone?

It was Rita Mae Brown, not Einstein who is often attributed with it, who wrote in one of her books:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”

Although Psychology Today would disagree, it does sound pretty mad to do the same thing and expect different results, so I must be mad to expect a different outcome from my gluten “addiction”!

Perhaps you have a similar dilemma in your own personal or professional life, perhaps even both. Well I’ll stick to what I know, with the following examples of madness in work; why not check how “mad” you really are by reviewing them?

#1. Following trends and not applying them to the business

Trends around the worldMAD: It is certainly important to underst and the market and the way things are changing. However trend following is what your competitors are doing too and probably they’re following exactly the same trends as you are. AND almost certainly working on new product ideas that meet these identified trends, just like you.

SANE: Develop the trends into future scenarios. You’ll be looking further out for indications of possible opportunities and risks that you can prepare for before they happen.

SEE “Turning trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-step process you need to do it” for more on this topic.

#2. Hanging on to outdated metrics or measurement tools

MAD: You may be proud that you can track br and image or other metrics back ten, fifteen or even more years. Comparability is great, but only if you are consistently reviewing your metrics and adapting them to the changing environment so they remain relevant.

SANE: Regularly assess the image attributes you are using, adding or eliminating items to ensure a good coverage of both your and your competitors’ br ands. The same goes for any other tracking you might run on a frequent basis. Have consumption or purchasing habits changed? Have new distribution or media channels opened that you’re not following? Make sure you’re not running projects on autopilot.

SEE “Are you happy with your Market Research” for more on this topic.

#3. Ignoring that the world has gone mobile

Multiple connection choices with customersMAD: For anyone over 25 or 30, it is difficult to imagine that someone would prefer to text rather than call, but that is exactly what younger people do today – a lot! So how are you going to reach them? They won’t be at home waiting to see your advertising on the TV or keen to answer the questions of your next market research study.

SANE: Adapt how, where and when you communicate with your customers, as well as the messages you share. Become a trusted adviser, a useful partner rather than just a seller of your wares. Investigate new ways of getting the information you need; try mobile, online, social media analysis, or real-time monitoring as a start.

SEE “What’s keeping marketers up at night & solutions to help them sleep” which covers many of these areas.

#4. Continuing to develop multiple advertising concepts to just before airing

MAD: Too many organisations continue to develop multiple advertising concepts, almost to pre-airing readiness, before getting their customers’ feedback. Whilst this may be the way you’ve always done things, and your ad agency isn’t going to suggest you change, there are better ways to get high-performing communications.

SANE: Get early input from your customers about the possible directions, or use a tool such as PhaseOne’s meaning segments analysis. This will ensure choice happens early in the process and your money can be spent on airing rather than the development of doomed communication concepts.

SEE “Four steps to building br and affinity” for more on this topic.

#5. Innovating using your technical knowledge rather than by better underst anding your customers

Innovation leversMAD: Your R&D people know your products really well and have the skills and techniques to make them. However in many organisations they know very little about the people that will use / consume them. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to let R&D alone decide what the company will be selling in the future.

SANE: Your customers may not be able to tell you what they want, but they almost certainly can tell you what they DON’T want, as well as the problems they are having in certain situations. Wouldn’t that be a better place to start investigating possible new product opportunities?

SEE “How to get R&D excited about innovation” for more on this topic.

#6. Not using the information you’ve got

MAD: The knee-jerk response to information needs is usually to request market research, but most organisations don’t make use of the information they already have.

SANE: Whenever you need to underst and a situation, start by gathering and reviewing everything you already have on the topic. In many cases this will be sufficient to finding your answer. If not, it will give you a precise objective for any further information gathering that is necessary.

SEE “Increasing your information ROI: turning knowledge into gold” for more on this topic.

#7. Not watching and listening to your customers regularly

Watching & listening to customersMAD: Leaving customer connection to your market research suppliers, sales & merch andising teams or call center personnel alone.

SANE: Making it company “policy” for (almost) everyone to connect with your customers on a regular basis. This could be through connection events, call center following or even just attending market research fieldwork. Regular contact with your customers provides invaluable – and free – information on their changing needs and desires.

SEE “How to become a fan of your customer” for more on this topic.

#8. Actioning market research results rather than insights

MAD: Market Research is a useful tool for reducing risk in decision making, but it is rare that one project alone will deliver deep insight. It is only when multiple sources of data and information are integrated that true insights can be developed.

SANE: Besides a first review of all available information mentioned above, identifying the behaviour change you are seeking is a great way of ensuring that market research and information integration lead to insight.

SEE “A new guide to insight development” for more on this topic.

#9. Expecting your customers to call you in office hours

Social media as part of plansMAD: It is naive to expect all your customers to not only accept to wait until your care center is open, but also to expect that everyone is happy to connect by phone.

SANE: Make it easy for customers to contact you because if you don’t, many will get frustrated and just voice their issues on social media. Provide all possible channels of communication, so that your customers can choose the one that best suits their needs: phone, email, postal mail, even your physical address. Also make sure that at a minimum, you are available when your product or service is most likely being used. This means meal times for food and cooking products or in the evening and late night for TV, Internet and Telecom services for example.

SEE “How great customer service leads to great customer loyalty” for more on this topic.

These are just a few of the areas where continuing to run your business without due care of the changing world is total madness. What mad things is your company doing that you would love to change? I am sure we’d all love to hear about your own insane examples.

Need help in sorting out a few “mad” practices in your company? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Here’s how other Marketers make Social Media more Customer Centric

There is so much buzz around the uses and benefits of social media today that everyone is doing it; but are they doing it right? 

DreamGrow recently announced the Top 10 US Social Media sites, which showed huge gains for YouTube and LinkedIn and falls for Facebook and Twitter. Whilst these results are for the USA, when was the last time you looked at the latest statistics of the usage in your own market?

If your customers have changed their habits, then wouldn’t it make sense for you to do the same?

With that in mind, I came up with four steps to consider, for the continued improvement of your business from br and-centered to a more customer-centric one.

The success of most businesses depends upon building lasting relationships with their customers. Show them that you really value them; Connect regularly with them; Satisfy their needs and excite them with solutions to their problems. Social media is taking over many aspects of this from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) by offering more people more ways to voice their opinion, good or bad, about the products and services they have tried.

Here are four things to review when improving your customer centric use of social media:

#1 Define the fit with your marketing & communication plans

Social media as part of plansReview all the current forms of connection you have with your customers. Think about the direct contact via call centres, CRM activities, promotions, sponsorship events and websites, or indirect through retailers, advertising and market research. Then think about how social media platforms can be effectively integrated to better engage with your customers to complement these connections.

Platforms like Facebook or Twitter may offer fast and personal ways to get closer to your customers, but they do not have the same impact as your other forms of connection. Therefore identify precise roles for each media within your plan, and don’t add social media just because everyone is talking about it today.

#2 Identify where to engage with your target audience

customer centric Social media channels
Choose the channels that your customer uses

Next choose the most appropriate platform(s) for your target audience. Do they spend most time on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube or another social platform? When did you last update the numbers? Have their habits changed? Continue to share valuable content via different social media channels and monitor the results. Which channels generate the most engagement with the content you share? Don’t expect your own br and websites to attract your customers without engagement on social platforms.

A leading CPG company which will remain anonymous but for which I have worked, found that more than two-thirds of their br and pages were being visited by less than 20 people per month! With Alexa, Google analytics and many other measurement sites available, there is no reason to continue to support sites that don’t deliver. Be ruthless and scrap those that don’t meet objectives. (you did set their objectives when you set them up, didn’t you?!)

#3 Listen to what they want to hear

customer centric companies listen to their customers
Learn to Listen to your customers

Every connection you make with your customers provides an opportunity for you to also ask questions or provide information back to them. This is particularly true with social media, where more people are likely to complain or ask questions than elsewhere, at least in developed markets. Although you may not like hearing negative comments about your products and services, it is better to find out and correct the issues quickly, than to discover the problem through falling sales.

To attract your customers to engage with you in social media, there has to be something in it for them. Therefore it is essential to ask yourself “what do they want to hear?” rather than “what do we want to tell them”.

 

#4 Discover when they are most engaged in social media

The right message must also be at the right timeSocial media provides virtually instantaneous contact with your customers, which means that you must always be open and ready to respond; they certainly expect it! (no you can’t continue to offer a 9-5, five days a week service – if in fact you ever really could!)

In addition, you need to discover what time of day your customers are most engaged in social media. That is when you will be posting and publishing your valuable information and suggestions. If you are doing business on a global scale, you’ll need different teams for each region. Gather smart data on a global and local scale to learn which parts of the day best support your engagement and customer centric approach.

These are a few ideas I came up with on adapting and using social media in your marketing and communications strategy. What other points are important to remember? Please share your thoughts and ideas below. 

If you would like to know more about connecting with your target customers, then please check out our website at: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

Need help in better using social media? Then let us help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us here

This post has been adapted and updated from one first published in July 2011 on MirrorYourself “The Social Media Coach to Launch Your Business”

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

The 7Ps of Customer Service

As with many Bloggers and Tweeters, my posts are sometimes prompted by something that happens in my daily life. This week, I question whether or not all companies have really taken the customer perspective with their care centres or are just talking the talk of customer service. I conclude with my suggested 7Ps of customer service to help those who are still struggling with this change.

My recent experience that prompted this post concerns Cablecom, a local Swiss cable company, which is desperately trying to correct a long-term deficit in customer care versus their 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 recently, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting, but that can only work for a certain time. 

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 resorted to Twitter. 

It has been a year or so since Twitter was first called the new call centre of today. Guy Clapperton, author of “This is Social Media”  wrote an interesting post about this at the end of 2011 and interestingly this idea was questioned at the time. What a lot has changed in just a few months! I would argue it is much, much more than that. Today’s call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases call centres 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 states 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 or to complete a contact form, send an email. And then of course to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to them.

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; it showed that companies must react immediately to customers using this means of communication. One in five expect an answer within 15 minutes and 42% within the hour. For reference when Guy Clapperton wrote his post in December 2011 the level was almost half that at just 25% within the hour!

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 CPG company to not be ready to help their users when they need it; for instance:

  • 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 call 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 take the perspective of the company we are reaching out to, or at least to the poor person who gets our wrath at the end of the email or telephone call?

Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a customer service advisor should be, that I have come across in all my 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? I summarise it as the new 7 Ps of customer care.

  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 uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

4 Tips on International Marketing

This week’s post was prompted by an article recently published by HubSpot about the similarities and differences between the preferences in social media around the world. As the world becomes ever smaller thanks to real-time connection, the challenge to international marketing is above all to remain relevant.

If you work in marketing then you are certainly feeling this. I hope you find the tips below of use and please share your own in the comments below; I would love to hear them.

Should you “Think Global, Act Local”?

This is one of the favourite sayings of many Fortune 100 CEOs. The original phrase has been attributed to Scots town planner and social activist Patrick Geddes. Whilst sourcing information and particularly local production is critical for many food consumers, so is the desire for novelty and new experiences.

In addition, certain countries are seen to be experts in the manufacture of certain products and thus add a perception of positive attributes such as quality, durability or modernity, that local production cannot match. Take for example Germany cars, French wine, Swiss chocolate, American Burgers, Japanese technology.

What are your own customers more interested in, local or global? Whereas the food industry may be becoming more locally biased for everyday purchases, the recent economic crisis encouraged more at-home eating and thus a rise in the desire for more exotic experiences on occasions.

Language is not the only frontier

I am sure you all know that language and not geography is the new frontier, but do you also know what this means in terms of preferences between the social media channels? The Hubspot report does a great job of showing a few of the major differences in habits across what they term to be the 20 most social media savvy countries, but there is a lot more you need to know.

Local country habits may in fact not be relevant for your own particular target group. Social media channels vary widely by demographics and sensitivities for example. David Moth recently wrote a great post about “The top 10 social media fails of 2012” which highlighted some of the issues encountered when you don’t know your audience as well as you should.

All your employees are marketers

You may be head of international or regional marketing, but do you know which of your employees are active online? According to MarketingEasy, most companies have adopted social media “without adequate on-going management, leaving them open to alarming exposure and potentially uncontrollable risk”. It further suggests that the average company has 178 “social media assets” (Websites, Twitter h andles, employee blogs, etc.), yet only 25% of these same organisations offer social business training to their employees.

If your own employees are talking about your company or br ands, wouldn’t it make sense to have a say in what they are sharing, if not to actually guide them in what they are saying? The cost of training will certainly be significantly lower than the cost of a crisis and its subsequent management.

Your CEO may not think “you’re worth it”

To paraphrase a famous slogan from the world of beauty, a recent Marketing Week article announced that 70% of CEOs have lost trust in their marketers. Is yours one of them? If you are not providing the business impact of your actions in a language that the CEO and CFO can underst and – growth, margins, share – then they will question whether or not you are worth your budget AND salary.

Social media and information technology can provide marketing with numerous metrics that would prove the worth of their investments, but marketers have to get comfortable with data and not remain in their cosy, creative world. How about befriending your CIO this week? I went into more detail on why this is important in another post earlier this year: Are your CMO and CIO friends?

International marketing in particular, but the world of marketers in general, is already in flux and the tide of change can no longer be stopped. We cannot remain the keeper of the br and without also becoming the keeper of the customer. What changes are you expecting and are you prepared for them?

If you enjoyed this post then why not share it with your colleagues? They will thank you for the chance to learn more about customer centricity too!

For additional ideas on making your company even more customer centric, please check the wealth of inspiration on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

The 7 Keys to Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Ever wonder how to get people talking about your business? Start by offering them incredible products and services that solve their problems and fulfill their needs. Make your customers happy and give them something to talk about. Read this article to access 7 key elements that will get people talking about you!

Every strategy comes with its own set of rules, and so does word of mouth marketing. Yes, this means that you can actually create a strategy to generate positive word of mouth support for your business.

But first: why does Word of Mouth matter?

Learn about cognitive dissonance: “this is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.”

In other words: people are always searching for ways to reduce this cognitive dissonance (to reduce risk and hence fear!).

Receiving positive reviews by word of mouth from friends or family on products or services will reduce the dissonance, as it confirms people in their beliefs that this is a good product or service. You could also define this as the effect of social proof. “If X amount of people share a positive experience, it has to be great!”

So, given that consumers need input to reduce the risk they take, and hence the fear that goes along with buying stuff, here are 7 key elements that will generate positive word of mouth promotion for your business:

 

#1 Make Customers Happy

If you value your customers, offer them more than they expect! And do it all the time. It’s not only the great product or service that generates loyalty, but the implicit message that states “you matter to us!”. That’s what every customer wants to hear! Solid relationships thrive on rewarding your customers with a creative surprise. Watch the smile on their face!

 

#2 Focus on Br and Commitment

In Spreading the Word, Tom Brown defined Br and commitment as:

“An enduring desire to maintain a relationship with a specific entity.” (Brown e.a., 2005, p. 126)

Your Facebook br and page may offer you a unique opportunity to build and nurture a relationship with your fans. But, it takes more than just generating a Like for your Fan page to get people to talk about you! Just watch how many Facebook pages have almost zero engagement.

So, ask yourself these 2 questions every day: “do your customers have an enduring desire to maintain a relationship with your br and?” and “what do you do to earn your fans’ trust each day?”.

If you focus on the enduring desire of fans to maintain the relationship with your br and, this sets the conditions for successful viral word of mouth marketing.

Br ands with a strong and engaging fan base on Facebook can count on daily likes, shares and comments. This engagement will increase your visibility and accelerate your Reach. This social proof will increase your br ands’ attraction and generate more fans. If you want to learn more on this, check out Social Midas.

 

#3 Offer Distinctive Products and Services

When it comes to distinctive products, for most people one word is enough: Apple. Steve Jobs has succeeded in building a strong br and that people associate with innovative products that rock! Every time Steve introduced a new product, like the iPod, iPhone or iPad, people just had to talk about it and still do!

When you think about distinctive service, I’m sure Zappos.com resonates with you. Not only does Zappos offer shoes online, they value their customer’s trust more than anything!

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

 

#4 Nurture Involvement

Offer solutions that connect to the mental relevancy of your customers. Think about how to trigger a big desire or confront huge pains or frustrations. Get into the middle section of your customer’s brain (limbic) to create somatic markers. These markers connect a personal experience with your br and. Just like a can of Coca-Cola will generate happiness and warm feelings for a lot of people. Continue to nurture these feelings and watch how your customers want to share their experience with their family and friends.

 

#5 Connect with Market Mavens

Market mavens are individuals who have up-to-date information about many kinds of products, places to shop and other facets of the market. These market mavens are the ones who are most likely to respond to information requests from friends or family. They love to educate others, and it also increases their status. Connect with these market mavens and make them your br and advocates.

 

#6 Identify your br and advocates

When it comes to word of mouth marketing, referrals by br and advocates are your most effective type of marketing. If you want to include these influencers in your strategy, you need to identify them first.

Fortunately, Satmetrix, Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld developed “The Ultimate Question”.  Ask your customers: “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend?” and calculate the Net Promoter Score. People that indicate this likelihood with a 9 or 10 are “loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth”.

 

#7 Invite Social Media Stars

If you want to increase your word of mouth marketing effectiveness on the social web, you need social media stars. These are social media users who reach a great number of people and have much influence. The Klout Score is certainly a great measure to identify these social media stars.

The Klout Score uses data from various social networks -like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr and Flickr in order to measure your True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact.

As more social media management tools -like HootSuite or SproutSocial- include Klout Score as the main indicator of social influence, I think it’s worth paying attention to the Klout Score of your online connections.

Take Away: although no one can predict virality of customer experiences on the social web, word of mouth marketing matters more than ever. Underst and these 7 key elements and create your own strategy to stimulate positive word of mouth.

My recommendation on word of mouth marketing: “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies get People Talking”.

We love to hear from you! Please share your reaction in the comments box below. Thanks 🙂

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

This post was first published on Felix Relationship Marketing on April 12th 2012

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