The current pandemic has clearly highlighted those companies who care about their customers and who provide them with customer service excellence.
If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re truly walking the talk and not just talking about customer service excellence? Many companies are and the pandemic has brought them into the spotlight.
A few years ago I was prompted to question this of the local Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom.
Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom, on the other hand, had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.
Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.
It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response whereas contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in nothing.
Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Recent research shows that 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes or less! How good is your own customer service?
Most call centres today are a frustrating if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases, they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs – if you are lucky that is!
Usually, the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line at best, or to call back later most often.
We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then, of course, to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.
Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a callback or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.
Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most; for example:
Early morning or late at night for personal care products
Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products
Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help after being frustrated by long waits on their careline calls, or self-service selections that led nowhere.
What makes a great customer service representative (CSR)?
Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company. But perhaps we as customers, should also take the company’s perspective when reaching out to them? Or at least that of the poor customer service representative who is subjected to our frustration and anger at the end of our email or phone call?
Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a CSR should be, based upon my considerable years of working on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age (mid twenties)?
I have summarised below what I see as the most important skills of a customer services representative, which I call the 7Ps.
The new 7Ps of customer service excellence
Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person. This is a win-win for both the company and the customer. It made me feel important as he called me straight back, but it also enabled the company to take my complaints offline and away from the eyes of other current or potential customers.
2. Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question. Sometimes a good listener is all it takes to defuse a potential issue from escalating. The customer wants to be understood and in this case, I felt real empathy from Jimmy as I shared my negative experiences.
3. Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did! I admit I would not make a good CSR. I am generally calm, but when I get angry I really explode, especially when I feel I am being treated unfairly or being taken advantage of. Having reps who can remain calm even when the customer is accusing the company or even their call centre person of exaggerated shortcomings, is essential to defuse the emotional tension of the connection.
4. Perceptive: Jimmy empathised with me, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed. He ensured that I understood the information he was sharing and that I was comfortable with his comments and explanations.
5. Professional: He was an expert, knowing his topic and more importantly how to explain its complex details in simple terms. Have you ever called for help and found that you knew more about the topic than the company representative? I know I have on several occasions. As a result instead of feeling supported, I became more frustrated as I was forced to explain my problem in different terms of in more detail until it was understood.
6. Pragmatic: Jimmy worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both. Unlike many call centres where the clear objective is to get you to accept the least costly solution, this time I really felt that Jimmy was working for me not against me. I felt confident that the solution we found together would be the best result for me.
7. Perseverant: He continued to ask and answer questions until he was sure I was happy with everything. Many companies now add a question at the end of the discussion, asking if there is anything else that we need. However, in most cases, it sounds artificial, especially when we have thanked the CSR and said goodbye. I can understand why it is important to make sure the customer is fully satisfied before hanging up, but it would be better if the question is adapted to each individual situation.
Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” that you would add? If you have suggestions, then please add them in the comments below, especially you Jimmy if you read this!
Do you believe that your CSRs could do more for your customers? Then we would love to support you. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website for more information on our services: http://C3centricity.com/training
This article is an updated version of one that was first posted on C3Centricity in February 2013.
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We all know that customer centricity is essential; even more so these days with the lockdown in most countries due to the pandemic.
Now more than ever, businesses need to put their customers clearly at the heart of their organisation. But I know that many struggle, even in more normal times, to be customer centric. They just don’t know where to start. Am I right? If you’re one of them, then this article is for you.
This week I give you ten simple actions to accelerate your organisation along its path to an improved customer-first strategy.
#1 Review & Revise the Description of your Target Audience
Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? These days we tend to speak about personas or avatars.
Is it as complete as it should be? If not, then regular readers will know about and probably use the C3Centricity 4W™ template for storing all this information. You can download it and get the accompanying workbook here.
Include not only your customers’ demographics and consumption / purchasing habits but also information about where they do these things, what values they have that you can tap into and what emotions motivate them to purchase and use your brand.
#2 Assess the Optimum Way of Connecting with Your Customers
Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect?
Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time. Is it one-way or two? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue?
Obviously the second is what it should be. You can learn far more about your customers when they are ready to share their information with you.
Do you know what needs your customer has and which of them you are tapping into?
They certainly have more than one need, but you must identify and address only one.
If you attempt to address more than one and especially if they are not sequential, your customer may be confused.
Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for them will leave your customers perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can meet their needs and objectives.
Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has one additional benefit. It can increase the success of regional and global launches by identifying cultures with similar levels of a specific need.
Is customer care only on the objectives of one or two departments in your organisation? Perhaps it’s only for the care centre employees or merchandisers to do.
It should, in fact, be on everyone’s annual objectives, to watch, listen and engage with your customers regularly. This will help them to understand how their work fits into the company’s objective to satisfy and delight them.
Every employee has a role to play in customer centricity and connecting with the customers on a frequent basis and sharing experiences with colleagues will ensure that everyone understands this.
Do you know where your business is going? Do you know what might happen in the future and what you would do in each situation? How would you react to new laws, new customer demands, and their new sensitivities such as ecology, sustainability, sourcing or ingredients?
It is better to plan for such events before they happen, so that you can quickly react to challenges as well as opportunities.
I am in favour of developing plausible future scenarios, rather than merely following trends. Why? Because everyone follows trends so they provide no competitive advantage. However, by developing scenarios, they will be unique to your organisation and provide a clear path to answer all possible future opportunities and threats.
#6 Review Your Business Plans for Customer Centricity
Are your customers clearly identified and described in your plans, as well as the customers of your major competitors?
Review your plans by considering how your customers will react to each of your scheduled actions. Not just the outcomes you are hoping for, but a true detailed analysis based upon your understanding of them and their desires.
Have you planned any actions to surprise and delight them, or are you only relying on the “same old” activities, repeated from year to year?
People get bored quickly and you can also “train” your customers to expect your promotions. They then wait for them before purchasing, often in quantity, and will also eventually become of less interest, and perceived value, to them. Plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year.
Are you blocked in an innovation box, relying on your internal technical and expert skills? If you know your customer well you can offer them more successful innovations, perhaps through additional sensorial experiences.
Consider adding sound to taste, colour to services, touch to packaging, aromas to retail displays. Give your customers more reasons to stay with you and they will become more loyal.
I can feel your shock as you read this, but why not review your process for developing your advertising?
If you spent more time and resources reviewing how to connect with your customer, and then reviewed early-stage work up-stream with them, you would be more likely to develop winners.
It would also reduce or totally replace your usual tests just before airing, when in most cases it is too late to change anything.
#9 Define Your Image
Your brand has an image but it might not be what you think it is. Make sure you are measuring it regularly and not only on the attributes that you ideally want to perform well on. You need to include attributes important to your competitors, as well as the category in general.
I so often see biassed attribute lists which, while providing exaggerated, over-positive images, lull companies into a false sense of security. When you are not measuring what is important for your competitors, you will always come out on top.
Another advantage is that the coverage of the total category will be more complete and you may even find a new or adapted positioning that no-one else is currently occupying.
You know that what gets measured gets managed, well are you measuring what needs managing or only the easy metrics to gather?
If you know your customers well, who they are, what they do, what they think of you and your competitors, and then compare these to where you want to take your brand, the metrics you need to be measuring become evident.
Too many organisations rely on financial KPIs alone. Make sure you are not one of them, by adding metrics to cover customer awareness, satisfaction and perception.
I hope this list has helped you to identify a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Actioning even just one of them will improve your customer centricity and your profitability too (according to research).
Of course completing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the center of your business, as well as in the hearts of your employees.
If you would like to know just how customer centric you are, complete the C3C Evaluator™ assessment. It’s free! The Evaluator™ will help you to identify where you are today as well as how to prioritise any needed changes in your organisation.
For further inspiration on making your organisation more customer centric, check out our other articles on C3Centricity, or contact us here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
However, even today, with the creation of inbound marketing strategies, 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.
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.
Luckily a few other consumer goods companies 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 business. 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.
I think 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 and regular promotions, so they wait for the next price offs whenever they can.
They also realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume may differ, but there are strong similarities in their performance.
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.
They have also come to expect constant innovation as they quickly adapt 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!
In response to these ever more savvy customers, marketing has to change. In the 2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it confirmed that marketers need new skills and can no longer rely on creativity alone.
If you’re interested in upskilling your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.
Companies that place their customers at the heart of their business, are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and engaging games. Their contact pages provide many alternative ways for customers to reach out to them, rather than the less appealing reason menu and message box that disappears into hyperspace! Their advertising is emotional, with the customer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their customers in many aspects of their business.
And if you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website and then complete our free quiz C3C Evaluator™.
Moving Beyond Brand Building
Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are some ideas that you can use to help you quickly move forward on your journey to greater customer centricity:
1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.
2. Whenever you take a decision, ask yourself “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” If they would disagree, then you should reconsider your options.
This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the customer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.
3. Review the content of your website in detail. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do. And while you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.
4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona / avatar. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C3Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free HERE)
5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.
6. If you are lucky enough to have retail outlets, spend time with your front-line staff and your customers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know. Then add the information to your persona description and review your future promotions for any improvements you could make.
7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with everyone in the company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2 above.
These are your seven starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building, to a more customer centric approach. They all have your customer at the heart of them. Any others you’d like to add? I know you can come up with many more ideas than I can alone, so why not share them below and let your knowledge shine?
If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age 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 it annually. It’s fun, inspiring and a useful roadmap for your customer centric journey.
If you’re interested in upskilling your team, then we can provide fun training on many areas of customer centricity. Download our training brochure and then contact us so we can discuss your precise needs. All our courses are personalised to meet your specific requirements; no off-the-shelf trainings are ever given.
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!
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.
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.
I have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want
“to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Although they don’t specifically mention exceeding their customers’ expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.
They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn’t trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.
One recent challenge for Amazon is the claimed increase in fake reviews. I myself was once asked to give a five-star rating in return for a total reimbursement of the cost of the product. Needless to say, I immediately returned the item and informed Amazon.
This practice seems to be particularly common for articles coming from China, although I am sure it is becoming a widespread behaviour as companies realise the importance of high customer ratings. In fact, there are now even platforms for checking the validity of reviews, so hopefully things will improve in the near term. If you would like to learn more on the topic, then I suggest you read this great article on cnet.
Just like Amazon, Zappos too has made customer centricity the heart of their business. Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their “WOW Philosophy,” is “To provide the best customer service possible.”
CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that
“We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.”
That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.
Another of his quotes is
“To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.”
This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer’s expect today – the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too.
Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.
In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being “better.” While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.
Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook’s vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?
“For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.”
How many organisations would look different if we used these same criteria!
The final example I want to share is from the UK and shows how even retail can become an essential part of delighting the customer. The brand is Brompton Bikes, a folding, city bike.
They understand that it is no longer sufficient to provide an excellent product and an easy way to buy them or to order online. Brompton have realised that their retail outlet needs to be an integral part of the brand experience, if they want to not only satisfy, but delight their customers.
Now while that may not in itself be that new, Nike and other trainer brands have been doing this for a while, it is the first time I have seen it done for durable goods.
What Brompton have done particularly well, is to understand their urban buyers’ lifestyle. They have been able to become an integral part of it, by not only providing transport, but also an easy way to buy accessories, get repairs done and even to park safely while their customers visit the adjacent shopping mall. In other words they have made their brand a solution for city dwellers.
In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:
Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is becoming ever more difficult to do this these days, it is definitely worth the effort in order to build their loyalty.
Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. Brompton have achieved this by deeply understanding the lifestyle of their customers. As Maya Angelou is famed for saying
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Strivefor better in everything you do, Never be satisfied with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
Make it a part of every employee’s objectives to ensure your products and services not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.
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 did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? 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?
If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.
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.
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 DVD recorder.
In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.
As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.
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 a pack.
It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.
Here are a few examples I have come across recently:
Nestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.
What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.
Juvena of Switzerland: The short message to “Enjoy the smoothness” on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.
Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.
Yucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.
The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.
While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that’s what I call impact!
Pringleshave done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.
They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.
Heinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing – and reading.
A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change – of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?
These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.
If you’re not confident that your packs are optimised to connect with your customers, why not get us to run a pack audit? We will review all your packs and discuss how you can make them more customer centric. Why not communicate with your customers when they are ready to listen, as they use your product?
People are willing to help you
Creative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.
What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it’s fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.
Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.
We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.
Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. 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 actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn’t you agree?
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
Although 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.
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
As anyone who has been to the emergency room of a hospital knows, patience is important. You don’t get seen by order of arrival, but by the importance of 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.
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.
So there you have them. The seven lessons I learnt about excellence in customer experience from my recent stays in various hospitals. As you can see they are all relevant to almost any business environment and industry, whether B2B or B2C.
Let me know what you think and whether you have found learnings from your experiences in other situations. The world is full of inspiration if we just look more closely.
Speaking of inspiration, I wanted to share with you an inspirational Infographic, which caught my eye recently. Rather than talking about customer service excellence as I did, they look at “11 Ways Bad Customer Service Is Burning Your Bottom Line.” It makes great readin and covers the wrong side of a lot of the topics I mentioned above.
Need help in identifying, connecting and engaging the very best customers for your business? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity. Contact us here or check out our forthcoming Webinar “Customer Centricity Champions.” Reserve your slot before it’s too late!
PS If you’re wondering how I am now, I’m out of the clinic and recovering at home. I have been thinking a lot about what all these accidents mean. The right side of the body is future and personal, so obviously I’m in need of some serious revamping of my life. January seems as good a time as any to lie back and think about everything and make new plans. I hope you do it without the need for a “bodily reminder!”
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<<)
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 morewilling 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 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.
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.
Secondly 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.
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.
As you have no doubt already noticed, my Blog posts and those of many other Bloggers too, are often prompted by real-world experiences. This week is no exception.
I want to share with you some examples of how companies jeopardise the loyalty of their customers and also seriously limit their chances of getting repeat purchases. But manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party; there have been some interesting comments on retail loyalty as well these past few weeks, so I will touch upon that too.
Promising More than the Customer Gets
This week I bought a new br and of bacon; I fancied a real English breakfast for once. When I opened the pack up, I was shocked to see that under the first three or four deliciously lean slices, was a pack of rather fatty, poor quality meat. Now why would a company do this? To make the sale of course. Seeing such great quality you would rightly expect the pack to contain similar meats to the front slices.
Another example which uses a similar ploy involves packaging. How often have you been enticed into buying a new product because of the picture on the pack? Or perhaps it was in an advertisement showing a delicious-looking meal or an amazing improvement to the skin or hair? Sometimes the pack content or product result may be acceptable, but when it’s not, you’re disappointed rather than delighted, aren’t you? (I previously wrote about one such experience in a post on br and honestyhere) Again, why would a manufacturer set themselves up to deceive the customer into buying – once?!
Are such behaviours customer-centric? Certainly not! They are deceitful tricks used to sell customers less than they were led to expect. Yes you may get the sale, but you won’t get repurchase and certainly not loyalty. Which do you want? One, several or long-term purchases?
Raising Prices without Saying so
Most major markets have seen low rises in their CPIs (consumer price index) in 2014 with Switzerl andactually in the current situation of a deflation! However that hasn’t stopped several manufacturers from increasing their prices. Or should I say decreasing the content of their packs, as that seems to be the more usual response of many of them? This is not a very customer-centric approach to pricing.
The shopper is buying the same br and at the same price, but the contents, which the consumer rarely verifies, have decreased. If the reduction is significant, consumers may notice that the pack is significantly larger than the contents inside, which may then prompt them to check the actual weight they have bought.
A recent article in the UKs “The Telegraph” talked about some of the most noticeable offenders, including Birds Eye (Pirmira’s Iglo Group) and Twix (Mars) c andy bars. However many categories were using the same method of hidden price rises.
A survey of 1,257 UK’s Which? members found that over half (58%) said theywould rather prices rose than packs got smaller. A further 37% would rather the pack shrank, but only if they were told. (>>Tweet this<<)
M andatory Sign-ups for Free Products
There are hundreds of new offers on the internet every day, trying to entice new customers to “try before you buy”. However some sites dem and m andatory sign-up to the paid program before allowing their customers to test their service. Credit card details and other personal information is requested, supposedly to “help the customer to subscribe more easily” should they decide to buy after the trial period.
However there is also most likely an automated transfer included from the free to a paid service should the customer forget to cancel in time. They then find themselves in the situation of buying a paid suscription without full knowledge of it. Is this customer centric? Of course not. If a customer decides to buy, he would be much happier to provide the necessary information to do so at the time of purchase. Again, you may have sold one more membership, but are extremely unlikely to get a happy or loyal customer.
Cheap isn’t Always Less Expensive
More and more airlines and hotels are selling their services “on the cheap” or at least that’s what it looks like. However, when you start adding on the extras, those attractive prices don’t seem quite so cheap anymore.
Take a low-cost flight for instance; in Europe that would probably be with Ryanair or EasyJet, and in the US with SouthWest Airlines or JetBlue. In addition to the cost of the flight, you will often pay for hold luggage and sometimes carry-on items too, as well as food on board, priority boarding, seat reservation, pillows, blankets, headphones and even entertainment.
Hotels will add on charges to guarantee bed type, taxes, WiFi, breakfast, gym use, bag storage, resort fees and even m andatory gratuities.
Retail advertising and promotions are other areas where shoppers need to have their wits about them and a calculator on h and. The old adage that bigger is better no longer seems to apply. If several sizes are offered purchasers really need to check prices per 4 ozs or 100 gms. The BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) and BOGO promotions can also sometimes work out more expensive than buying one pack at the usual price charged.
One of my favourite promotional ads of all time is one I photographed in the UK at the local Pound Store, the equivalent of the Dollar Store in the US. See the photo above. Now that really is a bargain!
Consumers are Getting Wiser
The above are just a few examples of “tricks” that manufacturers and retailers play on their customers. It’s almost as if they are trying to see just how far they can go before their clients notice. Well, I think we have noticed, and this is confirmed in an article on CMO.com that caught my eye last week. It mentioned a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. Faisal Masud, Staples’ chief digital officer and EVP of e-commerce, who was part of a panel discussion at the event, made the following comment:
“Consumers are agnostic to where they shop. The days of window shopping and just paying the price you think is fair are gone. A lot of folks don’t even want to interact with people or companies. They just want their goods fast and at the lowest possible price. For that reason, a lot of the retail loyalty programs are a little bit doomed.”
I would add that a lot of br and loyalty will go the same way if practices such as those mentioned in this article continue. I believe these behaviours are short-terms acts of desperation of a losing br and. In fact I spoke in detail about using pricing in another post called “Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell?”
Winners treat their customers as important people who have a choice and to whom they offer the best product or service they can, to satisfy, delight and why not also surprise them? If you are still thinking of such trickery as a way out of your current br and decline think again. It’s just not customer centric.
Do you have other examples you have seen of behaviour that is not customer centric? If so, I would love to hear about them.
And if you would like help in finding a solution to your own current business issue I would love to help. Just contact me for a chat and let’s see where it takes us.
C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.
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
Underst anding customers and the customer experience with particular emphasis on the impact of social and digital.
Big data and analytics, with how they will impact predictive modelling and the marketing mix.
TIER TWO: The other concerns
Following on from the opportunities of Big Data, the next concern is Marketing Accountability and its ROI.
Developing marketing excellence and the new skills required such as visualisation and storytelling.
Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology and linking it to CRM
Creating and communicating enduring customer value and how to measure it in the social environment.
Developing and delivering integrated marketing
TIER THREE: Previous concerns getting under control
Innovating products and services
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<<)
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?
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.
SOLUTION: Become 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. (>>Tweetthis<<)
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 actionableinsights 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.
If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re walking and not just talking the talk of true customer service excellence?
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.
Edisonrecently 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:
Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person.
Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question.
Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did!
Perceptive: Empathised, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed.
Professional: He was an expert, knew his topic and more importantly knew how to explain its complex details in simple terms.
Pragmatic: Worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both.
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, justINSPIRATION!
C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.
This article is based upon a post first published on C3Centricity in February 2013.
One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.
Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into underst anding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.
Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.
#1. Be precise in your objectives
Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired changein your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive br and purchasers to buy your br and instead.
Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.
#2. Involve a wide range of experts
Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department(>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.
Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or br and, including for example:
R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
operations who can share current defects and development aspects
sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met
The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company
#3. Review all available information & knowledge
All organisations have far more information than most employees realise(>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.
Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge. You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.
As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.
#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes
I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).
Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:
go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you underst and the decision making process of your target customers.
compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their br and’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one h and? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?
Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your br and. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.
#5. Fill the gaps
Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review(>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.
Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.
#6. Develop the insight
At this stage, you will certainly have a better underst anding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.
You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.
These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.
From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.
What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.