The New Qualities for Customer Service Excellence

The covid pandemic clearly highlighted those companies that truly care about their customers and which provide customer service excellence.

If a company claims to be customer centric then it is essential that they don’t just talk the talk, but walk the talk too. The pandemic gave many people more time to review from whom they bought and what services they were getting in return.

A few years ago I was prompted to question my own purchase decision of cable services from the Swiss company UPC-Cablecom. It had been known to have a  long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom. And as recent PWC research shows, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they were renowned for putting their customers first. UPC-Cablecom, on the other hand, had until then, been trying to win customers through non-stop promotions and aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially where the internet 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 UPC-Cablecom – my perception at least, because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s customer service centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response, since contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in no reaction for hours if not days.

Social media usually guarantees a quick response, since contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in no reaction for hours if not days. #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerCare #CallCentre #CRM #CEX Click To Tweet

 

What makes a great customer care centre?

Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Research shows that nearly a half of all customers (46%) expect companies to respond faster than 4 hours, and 12% expect a response within 15 minutes or less. And yet the average time to respond to customer service requests is currently 12 hours and 10 minutes! How does your own customer service response times compare? As you enjoy my blog posts I assume they are significantly better.

Most call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary, experience for (often dissatisfied) customers to endure. In many cases, they are automated, with a long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs – if you’re lucky that is!

But too often the result of all that effort is just a recording telling you to call back later as 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 alternative solutions to waiting on the line. Going to the website to find a solution in their available FAQs, or to complete a contact form, or to send an email. This I find insulting since I am sure most people only call after having tried to find a solution online – anything so they don’t have to suffer these long waits!

And then, of course, to add insult to injury, we hear the trite message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Some companies that have understood their customers’ frustration with long help-line queues, have found alternative solutions such as offering a callback. Of course, providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support, would be the simplest and most acceptable solution, no?!

Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company in particular to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most. For example:

  • Early morning or late at night for personal care products
  • Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
  • Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products
Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most. #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerCare #CareCentre #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

While in a few cases, a few customers may use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is only used as a customer’s final cry for help, after being frustrated by long waits on call centre help-lines or self-service selections that led the customer nowhere except around in circles. 

 

What makes a great customer service representative (CSR)?

Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company. But perhaps we as customers, should also take the company’s perspective when reaching out to them. Or at least that of the poor customer service representative who is subjected to our frustration and anger at the end of our email or phone call.

To illustrate the skills and talents of a great customer services rep, I want to share my experience with UPC-Cablecom. Jimmy N. was one of the very best examples of what a CSR should be, based upon my considerable years of experience on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age (mid twenties)?

I have summarised below what I see as the most important skills of a customer services representative, that he clearly demonstrated. I call them the 7Ps of customer service excellence.

Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” that you would add? If you have suggestions, then please add them in the comments below, especially you Jimmy if you read this!

Do you believe that your CSRs could do more for your customers? Then we would love to support you. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website for more information on our services: http://C3centricity.com/training

This article is regularly updated; the original version was posted on C3Centricity in February 2013.

Packaging: Are You Using This Free Channel For Communicating With Your Customers?

Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage? Or both of these?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communicating.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

We all expect most things that we use to be intuitive these days. We assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions. How intuitive is your brand? Click To Tweet

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned. I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or cable box.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations as to why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

Since the internet arrived, we have access to more and more information, and yet we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore as marketers, we need to ensure that any vital information we want to share, is clearly highlighted on the pack.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on the pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention, so make use of it to impress or educate.

Here are a few of the best examples I have come across:

Nestle compass on Packaging is Part of Product or PromotionNestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their pack,s with their “nutritional compass.” This includes four different pieces of information: good to know, good to remember, good question and the nutritional data.

What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. Although they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their “compass.”

 


Our customers’ attention is constantly pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are buying or actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn’t you agree?

I’d like to finish with a suggestion of a fun exercise you can do both alone or as a team. Have a look at your packs right now and assume the only things you know about the brand are from this. What conclusions would you draw from it?


For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://bit.ly/3Q6OIYz

This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.

 

 

10 Ways to Improve Customer Centricity Today

Many of you know that it is vital to continuously improve your customer centricity. You must put the customer clearly at the heart of your business in everything you do. But that’s easier said than done, because your customers are constantly changing.

I think that’s why many businesses struggle to improve their customer centricity, because they don’t know where to start. Am I right? If so, then this article is especially for you. 

This week I want to share ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to improved customer centricity. 

 

#1 Review the description of your target audience

Complete this 4W persona template for customer centricityLet’s start at the very beginning – with the customer of course!

Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to refer to these as personas or avatars. Whatever you call yours, they should be precise, detailed and ideally visual as well.

If you haven’t yet developed your persona, or you know it is not as complete as it could be, why not use our new C3Centricity 4W™ Persona Template? Complete the who, what, where and why for each of your brands and finally understand who you are aiming to attract.

I suggest you also complete one for your company if it appears predominantly on your packaging or communications. I did this for a client and found that some of their brands were positioning themselves in opposition to their company image. As you can imagine, this was getting them nowhere and in fact damaging both their brand and their company image!

Include in your own persona template not only demographics and consumption / purchasing habits, but also information about where your customers do these things, what values they have that you can tap into, and what emotions motivate them to use your brand.

If your current persona doesn’t include all this information, it is probably time to update it – and why not with our 4W™ template?

 

#2 Optimise how you connect with your customers

Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect? You should after completing your updated persona template.

Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it a one-way or two-way discussion? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?

Obviously the second communication style is what you should be aiming for. You can learn far more about your customers when they are ready to share their information with you. And that comes when they trust you to keep their data safe and know that you only collect what you need to give them a superior experience. Make sure that’s what you are doing.

Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time. Are you in a monologue or a dialogue? Which would they prefer? #BrandBuilding #BrandCommunication Click To Tweet

 

#3 Identify the needs your brand is addressing

Do you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?

Which customer need are you solvingThey certainly have several needs, but you should be aiming to address only one of their needs.

If you attempt to address more than one need at the same time, and especially if they are not sequential, your customer will get confused as to what solution you are helping them solve. Clarity is definitely the name of the game when it comes to brand positioning.

Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for your customer, will leave them perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can offer a real solution.

Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has one additional benefit. It can increase the success of regional and global launches by identifying groups and cultures with similar levels of a specific need.

 

 #4 Make your customers everyone’s responsibility

Who in your organisation is thinking about your customers? Is customer care only on the objectives of one or two departments? Perhaps you think it’s only for the customer service employees or merchandisers and promoters to do.

It should, in fact, be on everyone’s annual objectives. Each employee should get the chance to watch, listen and engage with your customers on a regular basis. This will help them to understand how their work fits into the company’s overall objective to not only satisfy but to delight customers too.

Every employee has a role to play in customer centricity and connecting with the customers on a frequent basis and sharing experiences across departments will ensure that they understand this.

That said, I do have one suggestion before allowing everyone to go out and watch / listen to customers. It is to ensure that they get a detailed brief of the do’s and don’ts of customer interaction. Read more about these in our top rated article “The 5 Essential Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Business Success.”

Before allowing employees to watch / listen to customers, ensure they get a detailed briefing of the do's and don'ts of customer interaction. #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

 

 

#5 Plan for the unthinkable

We have all had a lot of new experiences in the past few years: the covid pandemic, the war in Europe, dramatic climate changes to name just a few. So how has your business coped? Many companies have gone out of business because they never prepared for such events.

Now while many of recent events were unthinkable, and accepting that it’s impossible to prepare for any and every situation, thinking about the impossible can make your business more resilient.

So how have you prepared your business and protected its planned expansion? Do you know how future events may impact it and what you would do in each situation? How would you react to new laws, new customer demands, or their new sensitivities such as ecology, sourcing of ingredients?

It is obviously far better to plan for such events before they happen, so that you can quickly react to challenges as well as opportunities. That’s why I am such a big fan of plausible future scenario planning. By thinking the unthinkable, even if they never happen, you will have thought through your responses and actions which will certainly be useful to cope with future events that do occur.

 

#6 Review how customer centric your plans are

Are your customers clearly identified and described in your plans, as well as the customers of your major competitors? Do people know who they are targeting with each brand product and service offer? Obviously developing a persona is the most valuable first step, but there is more you can do.

Review your plans and consider how your customers will react to each of your planned actions; not just the outcomes you are hoping for, but a true detailed analysis based upon your understanding of them and their desires.

Have you planned any actions to surprise and delight them? Or are you relying on the “same old” activities, copy / pasted from last year? You’d be amazed how many marketing plans remain practically the same for years and years, with no thought given to improving them! Your customers are changing so your plans need to reflect this.

You see, people today get bored very quickly and expect better than they were previously offered in most things – communications, promotions, products and services.

Also, if you’re not careful you can actually “train” your customers to anticipate your actions. This results in a declining interest in what you are offering and even a change in habits when yours become too predictable. Many categories have witnessed customers planning to only purchase brands when they are on promotion, as a result of too frequent and regular or seasonal discounts their customers have come to expect.

That’s why you must plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year, so your customers remain surprised and delighted.

Plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year for your brand, so your customers remain surprised and delighted. #BrandBuilding #BrandPromotions #Brand Communications Click To Tweet

 

#7 Expand your thinking about innovation

Just as I encourage you to rethink your tactics and actions, I also want you to rethink how you innovate.

Are you blocked in an innovation box, relying on your internal technical expertise and skills? If you understand your customers well, you can offer them new products and services that will be more successful, because you know what will surprise and delight them, what their needs and desires really are.

For example why not innovate by adding sensorial experiences to the brands you already offer? This will distinguish them from the competition and give an additional reason for your customers to buy. Consider adding sound to taste, colour to services, touch to packaging, aromas to retail displays.

With the decline in differentiation today, give your customers more reasons to stay with you and they will become loyal advocates.

To find more ideas about improving your innovation read “The Best Ways To Improve Innovation With Better Ideation & Insights.”

With the decline in differentiation today, give your customers more reasons to stay with you and they will become loyal advocates. #Polysensoriality #Innovation #BrandAppeal Click To Tweet

 

#8 Stop testing your communications to death

Customer centricity means observing your customersIf you regularly run copy-testing and communications analyses, I can feel your shock as you read this suggestion! But why not review the process you use to develop your advertising? I bet you are running on habit rather than thoughtful advertising development. Am I right?

If you spent more time and resources reviewing how to connect with your customers, and then tested early stage work up-stream with them, you would be more likely to develop winners.

This process would also reduce or totally replace your usual last-minute tests just before airing them, when in most cases it is already too late to change anything. You are then forced to launch what you know to be inferior communications and relaunch the improved version at a later date. I am sure you have noticed this from other brands, no? Customers notice this too.

 

#9 Define your image

Your brand has an image but it might not be what you think it is!

Make sure you are measuring each of your brand’s images at least annually and not only on the attributes that you want to perform well on.

Review and update the attributes you use to measure the perceptions of your category and ensure you rate what is (also) important to your customers, not just to you.

Attributes that cover both your competitors’ strengths and the total category will provide a much more thorough understanding of your own image, its strengths and opportunities for improvement. You might even find a new or adapted positioning that no-one else is currently occupying!

 

#10 Update your KPI’s

You know that well-used phrase “what gets measured gets managed” Well, are you measuring what needs managing or only the metrics that you can easily gather?

If you know your customers well, who they are, what they do, what they think of you and your competitors, and then compare this data to where you want to take your brand, the metrics you need to be measuring become evident.

Far too many organisations run their business using financial and sales-based metrics, which gives an incomplete view of the company. Add customer metrics too, such as communications, engagement, product ratings, and you will get a near 360 degree view of where you are today. Then you’ll be ready to take actions that will have the most impact.

 

 

I hope this list has helped you to define a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Even actioning just one of them will improve your customer centricity. Of course completing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the heart of your business, as well as in the hearts of all your employees.

If you would like to know just how customer centric you are today, why not complete the C3C Evaluator™ assessment tool? It will help you to identify where you are today, as well as how to prioritise any needed changes in your organisation, to get you to where you want to be. 

If you’d like some help or further ideas about making your organisation more customer centric, please contact us here:

https://www.c3centricity.com/contact

The Exciting Future of Brand Building comes from Customer Centricity

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

Many organisations realised that it was time for a major overhaul of their primarily outbound strategies. Consumers no longer appreciated being interrupted in their daily lives, if they ever did! Marketing had to find ways to stimulate more inbound engagements, but how?

However, after trying multiple inbound marketing strategies, they find that they are still irritating their customers with spammy emails, intrusive pop-ups and over-complicated cookies, that gather far more information than most organisations will ever need or use. At least those will soon be a thing of the past!

Despite these changes, CMOs remain one of the leading c-suite members who struggle to keep their jobs for more than four or five years. The reasons are many, but the post “Head of Marketing, How Can You Keep Your Job When Most CMOs Are Losing Theirs?” explains what you can do to ensure that you leave your position when you want to and not on your CEO’s terms.

Brand Building

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

A more recent change is bringing more marketing tasks in-house, as P&G has done. Read more here. While this certainly saves a considerable part of their budget, the biggest advantage from my perspective, is that these companies automatically learn more about their customers’ behaviour. When you are planning communication campaigns and deciding on ad spend, you need to understand where your customers are and when they are most open to receiving your messages. That for me is far more valuable than any savings on agency costs. What do you think?

Even without making such a drastic move, many other consumer goods companies have realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to customer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their businesses. Customer centricity is not a destination, because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. It is a journey where you are accompanying your customers with the aim to satisfy and delight them, however they change.

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

One of the issues that has been created by marketing is that I believe we have taught our customers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans, all too often repeated with few changes from one year to the next. As a result they have regular promotions, so our customers understand this and just wait for the next price offs before buying, whenever they can.

Our customers also realise that advertising highlights changes that in reality don’t exist between brands other than in terms of image. In today’s world, products and services have become more and more similar from one company to another. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance and benefits.

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

 

Consumers changing behaviour

What this research also highlights is a change in shopping behaviour, far more complex than just moving purchases online. Customers are open to changing and have become far more comfortable with adapting to new ideas.

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

These are your seven starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building, to a more customer centric approach to customer satisfaction and delight. Every single one of them has your customer at the heart of them. Are they any others that you’d like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can on my own, so please share them below in the comments and let your knowledge shine!

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

And as I said earlier, if you’re interested in up-skilling your team, then we can provide fun course on many areas of customer centricity, both online and offline. Download our training brochure now and contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our trainings are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.

10 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Customer Centricity

We all know that adopting a customer-first strategy is essential for business growth and profitability. However, customer centricity has become even more important today, as a result of all the changes in our customers’ behaviour following the global covid lockdown. We are now even more impatient and demanding of businesses, and quick to complain publicly when things go wrong, or rather when we are not totally satisfied.

All companies need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation. But I know that many struggle, even in more normal times, to be customer centric. They just don’t know where to start. Am I right? If you’re in this situation yourself, then this article is for you. In it I share ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to an improved customer-first strategy.

 

#1 Review & Revise the Description of your Target Audience

Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to speak about personas or avatars.

Complete this 4W persona template for customer centricityIs it as complete as it should be? If not, then regular readers will know about and probably use the C3Centricity 4W™ template for storing all this information. You can download it and get the accompanying workbook for free here.

In your avatar, you must include not only your customers’ demographics and consumption / purchasing habits, but also information about where they do these things, what values they have that you can tap into and what emotions motivate them to purchase and use your brand.

 

#2 Assess the Optimum Way of Connecting with Your Customers

Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect?

Review how you communicate with your customers and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it one-way or two? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?

Obviously the second is what it should be. You can learn far more about your customers by listening, especially when they are ready to share their information with you.

For an original take on engaging your customers see “You’re missing out on a Free Communication Channel!” (Any guesses what it is?)

Review how you communicate with your customer and make sure its a dialogue not a monologue. #Brand #Communications #Marketing Click To Tweet

 

#3 Identify the Needs Your Brand is Addressing

Maslow's hierarchy of needsDo you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?

They certainly have more than one need, but you must identify and address only one at a time.

If you attempt to address more than one and especially if they are not sequential, your customer may be confused.

Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for them, will leave your customers perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can meet their needs and objectives.

Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has one additional benefit. It can increase the success of regional and global launches by identifying cultures with similar levels of a specific need.

For more on this, please see “How to Take Local Brands to Global Success: The 5 Rules to Fortune.”

Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has an additional benefit. It can increase the chance of success of regional & global launches. #Brand #Values #BrandEquity Click To Tweet

I hope this list has helped you to identify a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Actioning even just one of them will improve your customer centricity and your profitability too (according to research).

Of course completing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the center of your business, as well as in the hearts of your employees.

If you would like to know just how customer centric you are, complete the C3C Evaluator™ assessment. The mini-version is free! The Evaluator™  will help you to identify where you are today as well as how to prioritise any needed changes in your organisation. 

For further inspiration on making your organisation more customer centric, check out our new course on Udemy. It’s called “A Customer-First Strategy for Accelerating Brand Growth.”

How to Improve Customer Centricity in Hospitality

The title of this week’s post might surprise you. After all, the hospitality industry should be highly customer centric, as it relies on satisfying its guests.

However, it can learn a lot from consumer packaged goods (FMCG/CPG), as I shared with industry experts at a Faculty Day of one of the leading hospitality schools in Switzerland. Having spent most of my career in consumer goods, I was invited to share what the hospitality industry could learn from the industry. From the reactions at the end of my talk it seems that the answer is a lot!

It might surprise you, but the two industries have a number of similarities. They both (should) have their customers at their heart. And they are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clients in the quality of the products and services they offer.

As the world changes, customer demands are changing too and companies need to stay current, if not ahead of these demands, in order to ensure continued growth. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Future #Trends Click To Tweet

 

During my presentation, I shared many ideas; here are a few of the points I covered:

 

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about the need to move from a return on investment to a return on relationships. While I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Despite many books touting the need for our customers to “Love” our brands, in reality, I’m not sure that any of us want to have a deep relationship with brands.

Brands that have a high following and loyalty, have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. #Brand #Marketing #Engagement Click To Tweet

The relationship is based on more than just the brand. It is founded on trust and confidence in the product, the brand’s website and their engaging communications. Think Coca Cola and Red Bull as great examples of this.

 

#2. Build Relationships with Strangers

The hospitality industry is based on serving and satisfying its guests. But in today’s connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but could potentially become guests. These may include the friends of past guests, who have heard about the hotel or restaurant and are interested in visiting it for themselves.

One good example of this, but I know many hotels are also doing it, is the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico. This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to post them on Facebook.

This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging future guests before they even arrive. In addition, the posts will certainly have a positive influence on website visitors. And the guests who publish their photos, will have an even stronger positive impact on their friends and followers.  After all, they will more than likely have similar tastes and desires.

 

#3. Value is more Important than Price

Having additional control of our lives today, means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their decisions are influenced by their peers, more than by traditional marketing.

In addition, the internet enables us to compare multiple offers, so we are far less interested in bundled propositions than we once were. Today we often prefer to decide what is best value for us personally, by buying individual elements for our very personalised vacations. For example, we may overspend on experiences and then choose a more modest hotel and car rental. Each buyer will make choices upon their individual value perceptions.

 

#4. Renovation is more than Buildings

Most CPG companies have annual targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner, by building on their individual talents and enabling them to develop better products and services.

To improve customer centricity in hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; check the link to see the latest photos published on their Facebook page.

The Art Series Hotels are another example of how well they excel at understanding their guests. Their unique offer is called Art Series Overstay Checkout, and means that if no guest is checking into your room the next day, you can stay a few extra hours or even days for free.

 

#5. Loyalty is never really Won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer demands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This also means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

Loyalty is never really won, so all industries need to work on building engagement. Customer demands are constantly evolving and we need to keep up with the changes. #Customer #CustomerUnderstanding #Loyalty Click To Tweet

 

#6. Dialogue don’t just Communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want the chance to inform companies about what they want to buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints they may have.

According to a recent Edison Research, 20% of respondents expect a company to answer to their social media posts within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means that 24/7 monitoring for all organisations is now essential if we are not to disappoint are most engaged customers.

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during my presentation. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, you can find it on SlideShare here.

Are you struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information on our training and consulting offers, and then contact us here.

This post was first published on C3Centricity in 2013 and has been regularly updated since.

C³Centricity uses images from Pizabay.com

Today’s Toughest Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

What a Short Hospital Stay Taught me About Customer Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Introduce yourself

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Confirm that you know me

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Ask if I am happy/comfortable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer experience is negative

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

 

4. Ask if you can do more

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

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

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

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

 

5. Don’t stop before the end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6. Don’t wait until it’s urgent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


 

7. It all starts and ends with the customer

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

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

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

Are your communications relevant and emotionally validating for your customers?

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

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

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


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

11 Bad Customer Service Examples
Source: JitBit.com

Afterthought

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

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