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What Customers Want Today. (And How to Give It To Them!)

As a customer centricity champion, just like you I hope, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want.

I’m always trying to understand exactly what their preferences are today, and where these may be going. My regular searches online include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable isn’t it?  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to online resource for understanding terms is  businessdictionary.com, which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say:

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition somewhat limited since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric for any and every business:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs ten times – if not even more – to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they can’t. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”  HERE.
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you differentiate your brand? By your customer care, that’s how. And knowing exactly what your customers want. It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. Yes MORE for exactly the same product or service, so why are you waiting? You can read a summary of the American Express research that reported this finding HERE.

I would also add that to summarise what customers want today, it is a seamless experience from pre to post purchase, both on and offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction, build loyalty and create raving fans.

 

The Importance of Customer Satisfaction & Understanding 

There is no denying that customer centricity is important, no vital to growth and profitability. However some companies are (too?) hesitant to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

  • Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. And this is why so many start-ups are stealing significant share from the major brands. It’s no longer (just) about product and service performance any more. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands have understood this better than anyone.
It’s no longer about product and service performance any more. It's about how the customers FEELS about your brand. #Marketing #Brand #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet
  • Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today and your complainers may even turn into advocates if delighted with the outcome. Complaints are also a wonderful (free) sources of innovation and renovation ideas. Find out what your customers are unhappy about and then propose a solution. You may even be able to charge more since the new offer will better meet their needs.
  • Customer service is still being confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but that is no longer enough. All businesses should be looking to surprise and delight their customers! Find more inspiration on this in “The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction.”

As mentioned above, the research that prompted this post was a Google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest to those searching online.

I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Well apparently not, at least for most people!

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. Do you agree? Whether you do or don’t, please comment below.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days aren’t they? So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

According to the latest report from  The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries. This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised!

However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, and are now leading the pack. But most other industries continue to ignore what their customers want. You can see the full Infographic overview below; click on it to see the full-sized original.

 

 wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found almost 100 million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. While this is certainly a significant increase on the measly two million I found just a few years ago, it is still extremely worrying.

The increased interest in customer satisfaction is confirmed by the latest results of the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) report. It shows customer satisfaction is stable after showing steady growth since the beginning of last year. That was the latest turnaround after more than two years of disastrous declines.

Customer satisfaction shows what customers want
National ACSI Q1 2018 USA

It has been proven that changes in customer satisfaction are a predictor of future consumer spending. So although we can rejoice at the return to higher levels, the latest stagnation suggests average future spending growth at best.

David VanAmburg, who is Managing Director at ACSI said recently:

“Customer satisfaction will need to increase for the economy to grow at a faster pace. It’s tough to pinpoint one cause of the stagnation, but unless it budges, the national ACSI score paints a dire picture for consumer spending growth.”

In the UK, which leads Europe in terms of customer satisfaction, levels also rose for the first time in four years, reflecting a more positive economy. However, that was before the Brexit vote and before the exit! I am looking forward to seeing whether the Brits’ optimism continues this coming year.

 

Key Takeaways

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to not only satisfy, but ideally delight their customers.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation, by adopting a customer first strategy. Read “What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)” for more on this.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer for every single business, whatever the industry.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most companies, especially when customers are becoming ever more demanding and verbose when disatisfied.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience always increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, or even just for information, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver surprise and delight, will see their reputations improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want immediate, if not instantaneous, answers to their questions and criticisms.

They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, the country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below. 

You know you can no longer wait; you’re getting left behind by those organisations – and competitors – who are taking action today! Take the C3C Evaluator™ quiz and find out exactly where your greatest opportunities lie. 

For more ideas on how you can understand what your customers want even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of customer understanding and service, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures.

If you would rather talk through your specific needs first, so we can personalise the course just for you and your team, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. The featured image at the top is from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.”

Why You Struggle To Meet Your Business Objectives (And how to Crush them)

“There may be customers without brands, but there are NO brands without customers!”

I am often quoted as saying this and yet I still find most companies spend more time thinking about their brands than their customers, which is alarming to say the least! And you? 

Last week I spoke about identifying the exact category in which you are competing. If you missed it, then I suggest you read “You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are!” before continuing. You will never be successful if you don’t understand the category people put you in and the competitors they compare you to.

In the post, I explain that we often work with a category definition that is based upon industry norms rather than that of our customers. For instance you might segment by price or demographic groups, whereas your customers group brands by flavour or packaging.

Understand how customers see the category and its sub-segments, can make a huge difference to your success in satisfying your own target customers.

This week I want to continue the theme of taking the customers’ perspective by speaking about our own business objectives. You know, the topics that make up our business and marketing plans with such lofty ambitions as:

  • Grow our market share to X%
  • Become the category captain/leader in Retailer Z
  • Launch three new brand variants

All of these may be valid business objectives, but they are not customer focussed. They start from the business perspective.

Growing market share may be a valid business objective, but it's not customer focussed. Click To Tweet

Adopting a customer-first strategy means turning business objectives into customer aims, by taking what is sometimes referred to as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.

Here are some questions to help you identify your customers’ aim, their attitudes and behaviours that you are trying to influence:

1. Who are you targeting?

Every brand has a target audience. This is a sub-segment of all category users. Yes you do need to segment users and target the most relevant and most profitable group of them for your brand, and then ignore the rest. If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!

“If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!”

2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand?

In order to attract your competitors’ customers you need to understand their motives, why they are preferring the competitive brand to your offer. This information can come from many sources, such as market research, social media, or care centre contacts.

3. What reason might make them consider switching?

If you are to appeal to your competitors’ customers then you must be able to satisfy them at least as well, and ideally better than does their current brand. What do you know about the criticisms customers have of the brand? What benefits do you offer and they don’t, or only partially? Could these be appealing to some of their customers?

4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before?

Do you have benefits that you have never highlighted in the past? Have you improved your product or service to now make it a better option? The reasons for switching must be both obvious and appealing in order to attract new customers to your brand.

Answering these four questions will enable you to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You now have all the information you need in order to be able to attract some, if not all, of your competitors’ customers.

Answer four simple questions to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You will have all the information you need to attract some, if not all, of your competitors' customers. Click To Tweet

Let’s now look at a (necessarily) simple example.

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Business Objective: Grow our market share

This is probably one of the most common business objectives I have come across. Is it yours too?

In order to grow market share, we first need to answer the four questions mentioned above, and turn the business objective into a customer aim:

1. Who are you targeting? Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink. At first, you may think you are selling to all soft drink consumers. However, from your Usage & Awareness data (or observation at retail) you know you are attracting 18-35 year old men, who live in main urban areas of your region. You also know that there are two competitor brands who attract the same consumer group, Brands X and Y. Brand X is the same price as your brand and is sold in similar can packaging. Brand Y however is higher priced and sold in glass bottles.

2. Why are they currently using your competitor's brand? From your brand image study, communications analysis or in-store interviews, you know who the consumers of Brand X and Y are. Hopefully you also know why they are using that brand rather than yours.

Do you have any of the benefits for which they are searching? If so, then you may be able to appeal to them. If not, then they are certainly not the best source of potential new customers for your brand.

For this example we will assume that consumers like Brand X because it is sweet and has small bubbles, whereas Brand Y is less sweet and is very fizzy.

3. What reason might make them consider switching? Consumers of Brand X are sensitive to fashion and the latest trends. Brand Y is a traditional brand that has been around for decades. Brand X was launched in the last five years and its can is bright, modern and trendy looking.

4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn't before? You launched a new campaign that went viral on social media. Everyone if talking about it and it has positively impacted your brand's image. Whereas you used to be seen as a cheaper version of Brand Y, you have revitalised your brand's image and are now perceived as much trendier.

Customer Aim: Attract consumers from Brand X who are looking for a trendy, carbonated soft drink that comes in a can and is affordably priced.

As you can see from this objective, it is far more focused and is now based upon your potential customers' aim. This makes it both more actionable and easier to implement.

I hope you found this exercise useful and will try it yourself in your next marketing or business plans. If you do, then do let me know how it goes. You can email me or simply add a comment below and share your experiences.

Final Thoughts

Your plan may say that you want to grow your business, but in reality this objective is ongoing. Every year you are usually looking to grow your brand - unless of course you are "milking" an older brand as you allow it to die off.

In order to grow, you need to both maintain your current customer base, as well as attract new ones. It is well documented that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one.

And yet most organisations continue to spend more on acquisition than retention. To see the latest numbers on this, I suggest you check out this awesome infographic by Invesp that was recently shared by Neil Davey on MyCustomer.

According to Gartner's latest CMO Survey US CMOs continue to find more success with customer acquisition than they do with retention. They reported a 3.1% year-over-year increase in customer acquisition performance versus a 1.9% increase in customer retention performance.

The explanation could be that they always have growing market share as a company objective and think that they therefore need to invest more. Or perhaps it's because they take the time to attract new customers, but then don't invest to follow them over time, in order to identify their changing needs and desires.

While I agree both are important, with loyalty levels decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think?

While loyalty levels are decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think? Click To Tweet

Growing market share can only come from attracting more customers, getting your current customers to buy more, or getting your customers to spend more. It's time you considered investing (equally?) in all three areas.

Of course, you can also grow market share by maintaining your customers in a declining category, but that needs a totally different approach and more pertinent questions. If you're interested, then I'll happily cover this in a future post. Just let me know.

4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

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