Just like most entrepreneurs and business people, I go to my fair share of conferences. I believe that marketers can benefit from being regularly challenged by new thinking and ideas.
One that stays in my memory for many reasons, was an event I attended in San Jose, California. Some say California is the centre of internet marketing; the San Francisco area for technology and San Diego for marketing. I tend to agree after having recently attended events in both cities.
The conference that changed many of my views on modern marketing was one about how business people, not just marketers, can break through our self-limiting behaviours. It is this idea which prompted today’s post. How we marketers can relinquish our well-established thoughts and actions to make our businesses grow more profitably. If this is of interest to you too, then read on.
HEART-CENTERED VERSUS CUSTOMER-CENTRIC
The conference I attended in San Jose was a great opportunity for me to meet many other people from around the world. People who want to make their businesses more heart-centered. You know that I am a champion of customer centricity. I love to support companies that want to put their customers at the heart of their businesses.
So you might be wondering what the difference is between a customer-centric and a heart-centered business. After the conference, I would say that in my opinion, not much. I believe it is difficult to think customer first without it also involving the heart; at least, it should.
As we try to put our customers at the centre of our organisations, it is through a concern to satisfy and delight them. A heart-centred business would probably go even further to ensure that what they do also benefits non-customers, or, at least, doesn’t harm them.
Creating shared value has become a strong commitment of many of the leading global players in the consumer goods market. Reliance Jio, Merck and Bank of America lead the way according to the Fortune “Change the World” List.
If the topic inspires you then you might also be interested in reading an article on “Innovation and Creating Shared Value”, which I was invited to contribute to one of the first issues of the Journal of Creating Value. I will also be speaking at the 2nd Global Conference on Creating Value in New York later this year. So let me know if you too will be attending and we can meet up.
CUSTOMER FIRST EXAMPLES
But back to defining the types of business. Which is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric? Or are you not even there yet?
Do you think customer first but forget about those who are not yet your customers? That’s a dangerous thing to do as you may be limiting your brand’s potential. Here are a few current habits that some companies have, which show how customer centric they are – or not:
Asking credit card details for a “free” offer. This information would only be of use to charge the client. It is a “trick” often employed by companies that are not customer centric. Those that are would only ask for such information once the customer is committed to purchasing the offer.
Requiring full details on a contact form when the customer just wants to ask a question or download something. This information rarely provides value to the customer and is a real turn-off for many. Customer-centric businesses avoid asking more information than they need for immediate action. For them, building a strong relationship with their customer is more important; the additional details can be gathered as the relationship develops.
Offering helpful suggestions of other products or services that may be of interest when a customer buys something. Yes, this does benefit the company too if the customer buys additional offers, but a win-win service offer can be customer-centric too. These recommendations use a technique called affinity analysis (sometimes called basket analysis) and although Amazon wasn’t the first to use it, they are by far the most well-known marketers to do so.
Providing positive experiences the customer hasn’t paid for and doesn’t expect. This can be upgraded products or shipping, samples or complementary products or services included with their purchase. This benefits the customer by adding an element of positive emotional connection to the business. It also benefits the business as it can lead to a better company image, increased sales and greater loyalty.
During my US trip, I caught up with a few of C3Centricity’s major partners in California. One of them, SciFutures, in Burbank, gave me my own experience of the future in a hands-on way, which was awesome!
During my last visit a few years earlier, they let my try out the Oculus Rift VR glasses. While it was interesting, the stilted imagery did not enable me to fully embrace the new world I was watching. It was of a roller coaster they had warned would make me sick – which of course it didn’t! Not only did I not fully engage with the scenes shown, I was underwhelmed by the potential of using the experience for marketers.
Fast forward to just a few years later and I was blown away by the HTC Vive andAmazon Echo / Alexa experiences they gave me. (I am speaking about several years ago now) The HTC glasses enabled me to integrate into a world of endless possibilities. They invited me to become an artist. And although I am not very creative, this tool enabled me to create incredible 3D images which I could view from every angle.
The Amazon Echo / Alexa unit, which is the first step towards a smarter home that I would certainly like to make, sat quietly on the shelf until an order was issued. “She” was an always-on assistant that I couldn’t wait to own. (I still don’t have one and yet me less “techie” brother does!)
She could estimate the drive time to my next appointment – which is vital when battling the impossibly heavy traffic in Los Angeles – or play a specific song or add an item to my shopping list. This promised a vocal, hands-off experience I wanted.
But my visit wasn’t just to try out the latest gadgets, although I admit they were fun experiences. We also discussed SciFutures’ work with major multinationals. They were developing and more importantly, showing, the possible future developments of the home, the financial sector and multiple other industries. Their unique demonstration of the future remain ahead of all the other trend-following, scenario planning agencies, even today!
I am always living in / dreaming about the future, so you can imagine how exciting my discussions with them were. (If you are in need of some new perspectives on your own industry, in order to be better prepared in this fast-changing world, then let me know. We can start creating an inspiring and exciting future scenario for your business)
SELF-LIMITING THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIOURS
At the beginning of this article, I said that I had been inspired by an event to review the self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that slow our progress and that of our businesses. I therefore, want to end with a list of them, which I developed during the conference and in the days following it. I would love it if you would add your own ideas in the comments below.
Beliefs are created out of our own, personal experiences and we rarely realise that some of them are not truths. Tony Robbins said that “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” While reviewing the following list, I suggest we dwell on our own thoughts and behaviours and make 2019 the year we make changes that will empower us. Both we and our businesses will flourish if we do.
The word “can’t” is far too often used these days, when in fact we most likely mean “won’t make the time” or “aren’t interested“. We should be more honest with both ourselves and our co-workers. Explaining our reasons for our behaviour or lack of enthusiasm is valuable information for future exchanges and learning. “Honesty is the best policy,” said Benjamin Franklin more than three hundred years ago and yet we have still not learned the lesson!
The word “should” often precedes the use of the word “can’t”. For example “I should do that but I can’t find the energy”. Again we need to be honest in admitting the real reasons behind both why we “should” do something and why we won’t. This will also lead to a better self-awareness and understanding.
We love to give rather than to receive. We love to provide support and help others, but hate asking for it ourselves. This is a crazy situation that most of us find ourselves in more often than we would like to admit. We like others to be indebted to us, as it gives us a (false) feeling of power. Keep this in mind and endeavour to make your life one of balance; to give and receive.
Shakespeare said it best in his play “As you like it”, Act II, Scene VII: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”What are you playing at? Relationships are built on trust and authenticity, both in the personal and professional circles. Are you or your brand pretending to be someone (thing) you are not, or to know something you don’t? If so, the stress of being “found out” will take its toll eventually, one way or the other. Being our authentic selves is the only way to exp and, grow and flourish. The same is true for brands.
“Procrastination is the thief of time”is a mid-18th century proverb which means that if you delay doing something, it will almost certainly take longer to complete later on. The best solutions to procrastination include making lists, breaking down large or unattractive tasks into smaller, more achievable steps, and making the work time-limited. Making progress, however small, is better than none at all.
Often one of the reasons for procrastination is perfectionism. We set such impossibly high standards that we know we’ll not meet, even before trying – so we don’t try. Life is for learning and as I said previously, any progress is better than no progress. Imperfection is human; embrace your humanness and learn from your failures. Edison is quoted as saying “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”.So ask yourself: “Are you learning to fail or failing to learn?” Hopefully, it’s the former!
These are just a few of the many self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that many of us, including myself, have. They make our lives more difficult than they need to be. I was motivated by the conference I attended. I hope that my sharing these ideas has inspired you too to change. But without the need for the travel and resource investments I myself made!
My final comment on self-limiting thoughts and behavioursis a quote from that conference; “Fear is the only thing that gets smaller as we run towards it.” Marketers, are you ready to run towards your own fears and succeed in this awesomely changing world of possibilities?
Be a true leader; share this post with the members of your team who need the inspiration and support.
Your boss expects you to be able to answer all his questions and especially to know your customers. Here are the 13 things your boss is likely to ask you and a handy Checklist to prove to him that you know your customers better than he realises.
Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really? The following is a checklist of 13 facts you need to be able to answer in order to know your customers as well as you should.
As you read the post, keep tabs on your answers and share your final score below. I’m offering a personal 50% discount code to spend in store for everyone who publishes their score here in July 2018. And if you’re the boss, I’d love to hear how well you think your team would do – 100% of course, no?!
#1. Who is your customer?
OK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you really know about them?
The C3Centricity 4W™ Template is a great resource for storing all the information you have on your customer. Download a free copy and watch the related videos HERE.
#2. What business are you in?
Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customers. Many organisations are working with industry definitions rather than customer ones. What about you? If you want to know your customers, you need to understand what category they think they are buying.
This is one of the essential elements you need to understand in order to know your customers deeply. It is something that many organisations don’t take the time to clearly identify, which results in an incorrect appreciation of their market and competitors. By not correctly identifying the category you are in, or plan to enter, your innovations will also lack the success you are hoping for.
For instance, are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? One of my clients wanted to launch a fruit flavoured soft drink and thought they were competing with other soft drinks. When we worked together we discovered that they were actually competing in the energy drink business!
Again another slow starter to show you know your customers. Here you want to make sure that you have correctly identified what market you are actually competing in and who are your competitors. It just might not be the one you think!
Also, do you know as much about your competitors’ customers as you do about your own? Complete a SWOT to know exactly where you stand with them – although it’s probably best to wait until you have read the next eleven points before actually doing this.
Once you know who your competitors are, use the 4W™ Template again for each of the major ones and add information to it every time you learn something new about them.
#4. What do they buy?
What and where your customers buy your product should have been covered in point #1. (If it’s wasn’t, make a note to gather that information and add it to your 4W™ template.)
Now you should look at how much your customer spends on your product or service and how much they have available. How does what they spend compare with the amount they spend on your competitors? Is your share of category and wallet growing? If not, why not?
Other information you need to gather to know your customers in this area is how they react to promotions. Do they only buy on promotion? Do they buy in bulk? Do they have size or packaging preferences? All this information will help you to get into the head of your customers and really know them.
Understanding the shopper, who is not always the person who uses or consumes your product, is also essential information you need to have at your fingertips for this section. If they are different people (mothers, housekeepers, single mums) then I would suggest you also develop a 4W™ Template for the shopper too. In this way you can compare and understand the similarities and differences between the buyer and the consumer. I’m sure that having personas for both will also impress the boss and show him/her that you really know your customers!
#5. What does your customer need?
I’m not speaking about what he says he needs, but what he really needs and perhaps doesn’t even know yet. What would surprise and delight him? What does he need that he only knows he does when he sees it?
Apple is one company that seems to be very good at getting at peoples’ unarticulated needs. Be inspired by them to know your customers as deeply as they do.
Apple have people queuing up to buy one of their new products even when they already have a perfectly functioning older model. Do they really need this new version? No. Do they want it? Perhaps! But, what their real emotion is, is a desire, a craving for the latest version, whatever the price! Wouldn’t you like customers to feel the same about what you have to offer?
#6. What do they think of your price?
Here consider not just the price they pay, but also the cost to them of their actual purchase. Do they buy online with packing and shipping costs extra? Do they have to drive out-of-town or even further to be able to purchase? All of these add to the perceived cost of your brand.
In order to know your customers, you have to calcualte the total cost to them of buying what you have to offer? And how that price compares to the total value they place on it?
Value will automatically include comparison to competitive offers, so ensure you include an evaluation of their brands’ values too.
Review the elements of your offer which your customers value and which they value less. Is there room for renovation to include more of what they like or to remove what does not bring value – and usually involves cost for you. Spend your manufacturing and development budget on things your customers value most.
Packaging today goes far beyond protecting the product inside and making its on-shelf presence more impactful.
It is a further medium for communications and also for showcasing your value and USP (unique selling point). However, many organisations have still not realised this. You can therefore get ahead of the competition when you know your customers deeply and their packaging preferences. Read “Is your packaging product or promotion?” for more on this topic.
Packaging is also an important part of your manufacturing costs so its value to the customer should be critically assessed. Even if you reduce your carton strength or pack content because you can, it certainly doesn’t mean you always should. Perhaps your customers don’t immediately notice the changes, but one day they will wake up and re-evaluate the value they are getting. Your packaging which is now made of flimsy carton, will appear to them as being of lower quality and this perception mat get transferred to its contents. Upon evaluation of your total offer, they then might decide to switch away!
Product testing is an often overlooked essential of concept development. Even if a product is tested before launch, and supposingly does well (or it wouldn’t have been launched, I hope) competition is constantly changing, as are your customers’ tastes.
Therefore it is important to keep an eye on your performance over time. Annual measurement at the very least and preferably also of your major competitors is the minimum, to keep your finger on the pulse.
Another important aspect of product testing is to keep track of the metrics over time. It is not sufficient to test versus your previous offer or that of your major competitor. Incremental changes may not be immediately noticed, but can become significant over time. And this applies to product just as much as to its packaging mentioned above.
If you don’t have the budget for regular testing – and I would question why you don’t for such a critical element of you mix – there are other things you can do. Follow social media comments from your customers for one. These provide invaluable input not only on your product’s performance and that of your competitors, but online comments can also supply ideas for renovation and innovation.
As with product testing, this is another of the on-going performance metrics, to ensure you know your customers. In addition, the earlier you start testing within the communications development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts. I am continually appalled at just how many companies waste large portions of their marketing budget by producing multiple ads, sometimes to practically air-readiness before choosing the final direction.
Of course, your ad agency will never complain about you working in this way, but couldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? I highly recommend you check out PhaseOne’s unique tool for early stage, confidential global communications evaluation.
Their clients rarely develop more than two ads and often by testing early-stage concepts, they develop only one. Think about how much money you could save by doing this! Contact meif you’d like to hear how businesses globally are benefiting from this approach and saving tens of thousands in ad testing..
#10. What do they think about your online presence?
It’s not so much what they think here, but more about do they even notice? Unless you know your customers’ habits online, you are unlikely to be where and when they are ready to receive your messages.
Instead of choosing and using just the most popular online websites – like everyone else – your work completing point #1 will indicate which are the most visited by your customers. For some brands an online presence is of minimal importance, whereas for others it actually replaces more traditional forms of advertising. Think of RedBull as just one powerful example of this. Although they now advertise both on and offline, they started building awareness through social media and word of mouth alone.
#11. What do they think of your social media personality?
You can’t hide your personality on social media, nor delete what you have shared. The words you choose for a Tweet, the ideas you share on FaceBook, the images you post on Pinterest, all build to a picture in the minds of your customer. What image do you think was created in the minds of people who read the following Tweet exchange from Nestle?
Treat your online discussions in the same way you would any other form of communications and use the same tone and spirit. Just because it’s new media doesn’t mean it is less important or serious.
As the above example shows, mismanagement of customer connections on such platforms cannot be removed – even if as Nestlé did, you take it off your own website – it will always be online for others to find and haunt you with!
#12. Why do they buy?
There are many “why” questions I could have added here, but this is fundamentally the most important. If you know why people buy and how you are satisfying their needs, the more likely you are to satisfy them.
In addition, if you frequently monitor their changing needs and desires through trend following, the more likely you are to continue to enjoy increasing customer satisfaction.
I’ve saved the best for last. Why are you in the business you are in? Are you looking to grow a products’ sales, increase distribution for your other products, make a different product more attractive (or a competitors’ less attractive), or are you just milking profits? All of these are valid reasons, but you need to be very clear on why, in order to know how to answer all the other questions.
The BCG Growth Share Matrix is a well-known tool you can use to check that you really understand what you are trying to do. This verification will enable you to eliminate the actions that don’t align with your objectives and mission for your brand.
So there’s my 13-point “Know your Customer” checklist to enable you to know your customers well enough to answer any question your boss may ask of you.
I suggest you go back to the top and revisit each point and answer them truthfully. By reviewing all 13 I am sure that your thoughts will have changed or at least been modified as a result of this new perspective.
And if you yourself happen to be the boss, why not ask your team how many they can answer? Let my know your score below; be the first to confirm that you can answer all 13!
If you or your team can’t answer all 13 questions, I have a solution. Book a 1-Day Catalyst training session and be amazed at the progress & changes!
“There may be customers without brands, but there are NO brands without customers!”
I am often quoted as saying this and yet I still find most companies spend more time thinking about their brands than their customers, which is alarming to say the least! And you?
Last week I spoke about identifying the exact category in which you are competing. If you missed it, then I suggest you read “You’re Not Competing In The Category You Think You Are!” before continuing. You will never be successful if you don’t understand the category people put you in and the competitors they compare you to.
In the post, I explain that we often work with a category definition that is based upon industry norms rather than that of our customers. For instance you might segment by price or demographic groups, whereas your customers group brands by flavour or packaging.
Understand how customers see the category and its sub-segments, can make a huge difference to your success in satisfying your own target customers.
This week I want to continue the theme of taking the customers’ perspective by speaking about our own business objectives. You know, the topics that make up our business and marketing plans with such lofty ambitions as:
Grow our market share to X%
Become the category captain/leader in Retailer Z
Launch three new brand variants
All of these may be valid business objectives, but they are not customer focussed. They start from the business perspective.
Adopting a customer-first strategy means turning business objectives into customer aims, by taking what is sometimes referred to as a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.
Here are some questions to help you identify your customers’ aim, their attitudes and behaviours that you are trying to influence:
1. Who are you targeting?
Every brand has a target audience. This is a sub-segment of all category users. Yes you do need to segment users and target the most relevant and most profitable group of them for your brand, and then ignore the rest. If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!
“If you are trying to appeal to everyone you end up pleasing no-one!”
2. Why are they currently using your competitor’s brand?
In order to attract your competitors’ customers you need to understand their motives, why they are preferring the competitive brand to your offer. This information can come from many sources, such as market research, social media, or care centre contacts.
3. What reason might make them consider switching?
If you are to appeal to your competitors’ customers then you must be able to satisfy them at least as well, and ideally better than does their current brand. What do you know about the criticisms customers have of the brand? What benefits do you offer and they don’t, or only partially? Could these be appealing to some of their customers?
4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn’t before?
Do you have benefits that you have never highlighted in the past? Have you improved your product or service to now make it a better option? The reasons for switching must be both obvious and appealing in order to attract new customers to your brand.
Answering these four questions will enable you to turn a business objective into a customer aim. You now have all the information you need in order to be able to attract some, if not all, of your competitors’ customers.
This is probably one of the most common business objectives I have come across. Is it yours too?
In order to grow market share, we first need to answer the four questions mentioned above, and turn the business objective into a customer aim:
1. Who are you targeting? Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink. At first, you may think you are selling to all soft drink consumers. However, from your Usage & Awareness data (or observation at retail) you know you are attracting 18-35 year old men, who live in main urban areas of your region. You also know that there are two competitor brands who attract the same consumer group, Brands X and Y. Brand X is the same price as your brand and is sold in similar can packaging. Brand Y however is higher priced and sold in glass bottles.
2. Why are they currently using your competitor's brand? From your brand image study, communications analysis or in-store interviews, you know who the consumers of Brand X and Y are. Hopefully you also know why they are using that brand rather than yours.
Do you have any of the benefits for which they are searching? If so, then you may be able to appeal to them. If not, then they are certainly not the best source of potential new customers for your brand.
For this example we will assume that consumers like Brand X because it is sweet and has small bubbles, whereas Brand Y is less sweet and is very fizzy.
3. What reason might make them consider switching? Consumers of Brand X are sensitive to fashion and the latest trends. Brand Y is a traditional brand that has been around for decades. Brand X was launched in the last five years and its can is bright, modern and trendy looking.
4. Why do you believe that you can appeal to them now but didn't before? You launched a new campaign that went viral on social media. Everyone if talking about it and it has positively impacted your brand's image. Whereas you used to be seen as a cheaper version of Brand Y, you have revitalised your brand's image and are now perceived as much trendier.
Customer Aim: Attract consumers from Brand X who are looking for a trendy, carbonated soft drink that comes in a can and is affordably priced.
As you can see from this objective, it is far more focused and is now based upon your potential customers' aim. This makes it both more actionable and easier to implement.
I hope you found this exercise useful and will try it yourself in your next marketing or business plans. If you do, then do let me know how it goes. You can email me or simply add a comment below and share your experiences.
Your plan may say that you want to grow your business, but in reality this objective is ongoing. Every year you are usually looking to grow your brand - unless of course you are "milking" an older brand as you allow it to die off.
In order to grow, you need to both maintain your current customer base, as well as attract new ones. It is well documented that it costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one.
And yet most organisations continue to spend more on acquisition than retention. To see the latest numbers on this, I suggest you check out this awesome infographic by Invesp that was recently shared by Neil Davey on MyCustomer.
The explanation could be that they always have growing market share as a company objective and think that they therefore need to invest more. Or perhaps it's because they take the time to attract new customers, but then don't invest to follow them over time, in order to identify their changing needs and desires.
While I agree both are important, with loyalty levels decreasing, organisations must invest more in retention than acquisition, at least in my opinion. What do you think?
Growing market share can only come from attracting more customers, getting your current customers to buy more, or getting your customers to spend more. It's time you considered investing (equally?) in all three areas.
Of course, you can also grow market share by maintaining your customers in a declining category, but that needs a totally different approach and more pertinent questions. If you're interested, then I'll happily cover this in a future post. Just let me know.
By now, every CEO knows that a stronger customer focus is the answer to many of their business challenges. Why therefore do so many companies still struggle to adopt a customer-first strategy and culture?
Read on for my own thoughts and perspectives on what should be a top company objective for proven business success.
I provide answers to the seven main reasons why companies fail to adopt a customer first strategy; which one are you struggling with today?
1. The CEO has stated it as a company objective but has not detailed what and how the organisation will change
While it is essential that a customer-first strategy has a board-level sponsor, it is important that every employee understands their role in making it happen. It should not be treated as just another project but as a long-term company top 3 objective.
When this happens, every division is obliged to see how they will be impacted and what part they will play in meeting it. This is one area where the CEO can’t set it and forget it. He/she needs to be regularly informed of progress and ask “awkward” questions to ensure that everyone is embracing it. Without company-wide support, it will never succeed.
2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy
As mentioned above, everyone has a role to play in satisfying and delighting the customer. It is not the job of marketing, sales or market research alone. It is vital that each employee thinks customer first and ensures that every action and decision they make is customer centric.
One easy way to do this is to ask this question at the end of every meeting: “what would our customers think of the decision we just made?”If there is something they wouldn’t like or you know that you yourself wouldn’t approve of, then it needs to be reconsidered.
As with every well-defined objective, it is important that there is a leader supported by a team, to make progress while also adapting and adjusting as challenges arise in its execution. The same is true for a customer-first strategy.
However, unlike most other projects, this one will not have an end date! It should have a timeline to identify milestones, of course. But as the customer will continue to change, the actions needed will need constant adaptation. I like to say that “customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination.”
The initiative must have an executive sponsor and a passionate and charismatic leader, to excite and drive the whole organisation towards a more customer-centric approach to business.
Once the board has endorsed the initiative, the every-day leadership should be handled by someone who exemplifies customer-centricity and has a passion for customer delight. In the most customer-centric organisations, this person is a Chief Customer Officer who sits on the executive board alongside the CEO, CFO and CMO.
As you can see, these are actions that demand specific capabilities that complement rather than replace those of the heads of sales, marketing and PR. That is why a customer-first strategy needs a separate functional head. Trying to integrate these into the responsibilities of these leaders is unlikely to meet with much success.
5. No-one understands how to move the initiative forward.
When you don’t know where you’re going, most people are afraid to take the first step. But that’s the only one you need to know. It’s easier to course-correct when you are moving than when you’re standing still. As already mentioned, customer centricity is a journey, not a destination.
That’s why many organisations now work with a business catalyst to help them take those all important first few steps. Once the project is up and running, occasional sessions are then sufficient to keep the internal excitement for the customer growing.
6. Everyone in the organisation is not clear about their role in satisfying and delighting the customer.
It is well-known that companies such as Amazon and Zappos have new employees enjoy direct contact with the customer from their very first days working in the company. However, this is something that should be encouraged on an ongoing basis as well.
Ideally, every employee should get the chance to watch, listen and interact with customers regularly. The best organisations have such connections on every employee’s annual objectives, specifying such exchanges on a monthly basis as a minimum.
7. They think it costs too much
While this may be the perception, in reality, it costs a lot more NOT to adopt a customer-first strategy. It makes both business sense AND customer sense.
There has been so much research done on the impact of a customer- first strategy that there is no doubt that it provides a positive ROI (return on investment):
Walker found that 86% of buyers would pay more for a better experience.
Genesys showed that improving the experience for customers is the key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales.
Bain & Companyresearch shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by between 25% and 95%.
These numbers should be sufficient to convince every CEO that a customer-first strategy is worth investing in. In fact, it is an essential strategy every CEO would be wise to adopt, no matter what industry they are in.
So what are you or your CEO waiting for? Did I miss a different problem you are currently facing? What other challenges have you faced or are now facing in adopting a customer-first strategy? Please let me know by adding your comments below.
If you would like to discuss what support we can provide in helping you to adopt a customer first strategy, check out our website then contact us here:
Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and online social media shares.
Almost every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why?
A customer first strategy is not so hard. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. What do you think?
Reasons for having a customer-first strategy
There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I found.
86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers 2020 Report
A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co
Those are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding them back from investing in their customers rather than (just) in the products and services they offer?
I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!
If you’re ready to put your customers first, then why not sign up and join the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips,Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement to Grow your Business Faster.
Marketing are too busy building brands
With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.
However, an analysis run by IBMon research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that:
"Only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information."
According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)
It surprises me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I'm often quoted as saying:
"We're drowning in data but thirsting for insights."
Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to "which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value." It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?
Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR's latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 2.2% in 2015, the first "significant" growth recorded in five years! Compare this to the more than 4% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.
But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.
However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than a half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!
So if CMOs can't develop insight about their customers, shouldn't market research be more not less important to them? After all, it's the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what's going wrong?
Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment
Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don't tell you their "why." That's where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more "why" answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.
I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They're not sociable, speak a language others don't understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.
This was recently confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, most researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.
It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer first strategy in many organisations.
Customer services are seen as complaint handlers
When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!
I don't think Nestle were the only ones who had this image at that time. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make changes.
You only have to take a look at companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first. Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.
An excellent article by Shep Hyken called "Ten Customer Service Tips for Customer Loyalty Month" details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that "According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard."
The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:
In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%
Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer-first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I'd love to hear them in the comments below.
So to answer the title of this article, a customer first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind this company-wide objective. It can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights.
And it will mean every employee having the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.
Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out our website and answer our free mini C3C Evaluator tool here: https://www.c3centricity.com
Your customers only really care about themselves and your product’s value to them!
I’ve been a customer champion for most of my career. But with the likes of Richard Branson saying it’s employees first, customers second, my confidence was beginning to slide a little.
Thank goodness, therefore, for some new research from Global RepTrak®that has finally confirmed what I have always believed. Customers care about themselves first and foremost! Everyone else comes second.
Dale Carnegie spelled it out really well when he said:
“People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.”
It was the below chart that I first saw on MarketingCharts.comthat alerted me to this work by RepTrak™. (I highly recommend signing up for their daily charts by the way; they’re a great source of facts and inspiration!)
The article that accompanies the chart is a great read too. However, I wanted to take a look behind these numbers and try to understand why some influencers have been pushing employee centricity.
Products And Services Are Key
The first four factors of reputation shown in the graph above are all product related. Therefore it’s clear that customers think about themselves first and foremost. They want satisfaction and therefore it’s a product’s value that matters most. I think that’s normal, don’t you? They are looking for a solution that meets their needs and a company that stands behind what they offer.
Great customer service won’t make up for a terrible product or service offer. So every organisation needs to ensure that what they propose is the very best they possibly can.
However, it is also true that the quality and value you offer depends to a large extent on the excellence of your employees in delivering it. If employees are not motivated to give their best, then what they deliver will be sub-optimal.
This is why it is essential that everyone within a company understands their role in satisfying the customer.
One of the quickest ways I have found to achieve this is by providing regular access to the customer. Once an employee sees and understands what they can do to increase satisfaction, they are much more likely to do it. After all, it’s absurd to think that they would want their employer to fail, isn’t it? In fact, I have seen a genuine excitement around customer connections whenever I have introduced them within an organisation.
I think it was P&G who coined the phrase “the first moment of truth” in referring to the beginning of the shopping experience. I would, therefore, add employees, at least in retail and other consumer-facing industries, as being a close second. However, the vast majority of products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with their customers. (sadly true even today, which is why I encourage regular customer connections as I mentioned earlier.)
Now it’s true that service industry employees matter to the customers, but even now I’m not convinced they come first. I still think customers will judge a hotel, a restaurant or an airline based primarily on the product’s value, just like any other industry. However, it is obvious that loyalty is impacted by and depends upon the services offered.
“You’re not trying to win an argument. You’re trying to win a customer.”
As he says “You really can’t win an argument with a customer. If you “win,” it means the customer has “lost,” and you could end up losing the customer.”
That is why it’s important to hire the right people and then give them sufficient freedom to solve almost any issue for the customer. If you force them to follow a rulebook of acceptable answers, then you will limit their authority to satisfy the customer. They may actually end up saying “we can’t do that” to the customer, which is sure to irritate them and won’t exactly encourage loyalty! After all, isn’t that what customer service is all about, protecting the business’s current and potential customers?
Going back to the RepTrack report, it is interesting to see that ethical and fair practices score above average, yet treating employees fairly and rewarding them appropriately score well below average. Again this confirms that it is what directly impacts the customer that matters most to them.
An organisation’s impact on society matters more to customers than their fairness to their employees. In other words, it’s the higher order practices of corporate social responsibility that enable the customer to feel good about spending their money with the company.
Clearly, this is an extreme situation and management should do everything to treat their employees well; that just makes good business sense. Unhappy employees will impact your product quality and the motivation of others, not just that of your customers.
There have been many examples to confirm this, such as incidents involving FedEx, United Airlines and Domino’s to name just a few. Click on their names to remind yourself of these famous customer service disasters.
More recently the automobile industry has been facing numerous scandals of emissions and fuel economy frauds. It seems that Volkswagen was not an isolated case and since then Opel, Chevrolet/GMC/Buick, Daimler, Fiat/Chrysler, Mitsubishi and most recently PSA and Renault have been scrutinised. Whether these were coordinated, isolated or employee driven is still to be ascertained.
I understand that when you’re in business, your goal is to sell products and servicesto your customers and make money for your shareholders.
However, why don’t employees ever ask the question about the impact of their behaviour on the customers? And if that customer was their wife, daughter, family member or friend, would that make a difference? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t; as human beings, we should want to treat every other person fairly. At least that’s what I believe.
So in conclusion, our customers – and we are all someone’s customer – care firs and foremost about your product’s value to them. Will it answer their needs? Will it be the solution to their problem? I therefore don’t see how there can be any doubt that customers matter more than employees. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. It’s just as conflictual and complex as the “chicken or egg” question if you ask me!
If You Would Like to Become More Profitable, Join the FREE Customer Champions Webinar. In it I share Numerous Tools, Tips and Templates that you can use to Grow your Business and Improve your Customer Understanding and Engagement.
I’ve just returned from a trip to California, USA. All you marketers who follow me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, will have seen some photos of the various places I visited, from San Jose in Silicon Valley near San Francisco to the huge sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles.
I was there to attend a conference on how business people, not just marketers, can break through our self-limiting behaviours. I also took the chance to catch up with a few C³Centricity partners. All the experiences were mind-blowing or rather mind-stretching, and it is this idea which prompted today’s post. How we marketers can break through our well-established but self-limiting thoughts and behaviours to make our businesses shine.
Heart-centered versus Customer-centric
The conference I attended was a great opportunity for me to meet many other people from around the world, who want to make their businesses more heart-centered. You know that I am a champion of customer centricity, so you might be wondering what the difference is between a customer-centric and a heart-centered business. After my three days in San Jose, I would say that in my opinion, not much. I believe it is difficult to think customer first without it also involving the heart; at least, it should.
As we try to put our customers at the centre of our organisations, it is through a concern to satisfy and delight them. A heart-centred business would probably go further to ensure that what they do also benefits non-customers, or, at least, doesn’t harm them.
Creating shared value has become a strong commitment of many of the leading global players in the consumer goods market, with Vodaphone, Google and Toyota leading the way according to the Forbes “Change the World” List. If the topic inspires you then you might also be interested to read an article on ” Innovation and Creating Shared Value“, which I was invited to contribute to the latest issue of the Journal of Creating Value.
But back to businesses; which is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric, or are you not even there yet? (>>Tweet this<<) Do you think customer first but forget about those who are not yet customers? If so, then here are a few current habits that some companies have, which show how customer centric they are – or not:
Asking credit card details for a “free” offer. This information would only be of use to charge the client and is a “trick” often employed by companies making time-limited free offers, in the hope their clients forget to cancel within the allotted trial period. Customer-centric businesses would only ask for such information once the customer is committed to purchasing the offer.
Requiring full details on a contact form when the customer just wants to ask a question or download something. This information rarely provides value to the customer and is a real turn-off for many. Customer-centric businesses avoid asking more information than they need for immediate action. For them, building a strong relationship with their customer is more important; the additional details can be gathered as the relationship develops.
Offering helpful suggestions of other products or services that may be of interest when a customer buys something. Yes, this does benefit the company too if the customer buys additional offers, but win-win service is customer-centric too. These recommendations use a technique called affinity analysis (sometimes called basket analysis) and although Amazon wasn’t the first to use it, they are by far the most well-known marketers to do so.
Providing positive experiences the customer hasn’t paid for and doesn’t expect. This can be upgraded products or shipping, samples or additional products or services included with their purchase. This benefits the customer by adding an element of positive emotional connection to the business. It also benefits the business as it can lead to a better company image and greater loyalty.
Creating Plausible Future Scenarios
As I mentioned in the introduction, I caught up with a few of C³Centricity’s major partners in California. One of them, SciFutures, in Burbank, gave me my own experience of the future in a h ands-on way, which was awesome! During my last visit, they let my try out the Oculus Rift VR glasses. While it was interesting, the stilted imagery did not enable me to fully embrace the new world I was watching – a roller coaster they had warned would make me sick – which of course it didn’t! Not only did I not fully engage with the scenes shown, I was underwhelmed by the potential of using the experience for marketers.
Fast forward to less than one year later and I was blown away but the HTC Vive andAmazon Echo / Alexa experiences they gave me. The HTC glasses enabled me to integrate into a world of endless possibilities. They invited me to become an artist and although I am not very creative, this tool enabled me to create incredible 3D images which I could view from every angle.
The Amazon Echo / Alexa unit, which is the first step towards a smarter home that I would certainly like to make, sat quietly on the shelf until an order was issued. Whether it was to estimate the drive time to my next appointment – which is vital when battling the impossibly heavy traffic in Los Angeles – to requesting to listen to a specific music or to add an item to my shopping list, “she” was an always-on assistant that I can’t wait to have for real in the not too distant future.
Besides these fun experiences, we also discussed SciFutures’ work with major multinationals in developing and more importantly, showing, the possible future developments of the home, the financial sector and multiple other industries.
I am always living in / dreaming about the future, so you can imagine how exciting our discussions were. (If you are in need of some new perspectives on your own industry in order to be better prepared in this fast-changing world, then let me know and we can start creating an inspiring and exciting future scenario for your business)
Self-limiting Thoughts and Behaviours
At the beginning of this article, I said that I had been inspired to review the self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that slow our progress and that of our businesses. I, therefore, want to end with a list of them, which I developed during the conference and in the days following it. I would love it if you add your own ideas in the comments below.
Beliefs are created out of our own, personal experiences and we rarely realise that some of them are not truths. Tony Robbins said that “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” (>>Tweet this<<) While reviewing the following list, I suggest we dwell on our own thoughts and behaviours and make 2016 the year we made changes that will empower us. Both we and our businesses will flourish if we do.
The word “can’t” is far too often used these days, when in fact we most likely mean “won’t make the time” or “aren’t interested“. We should be more honest with both ourselves and our co-workers. Explaining our reasons for our behaviour or lack of enthusiasm is valuable information for future exchanges and learning. “Honesty is the best policy,” said Benjamin Franklin more than three hundred years ago and yet we have still not learned the lesson! (>>Tweet this<<)
The word “should” often precedes the use of the word “can’t”. For example “I should do that but I can’t find the energy”. Again we need to be honest in admitting the real reasons behind both why we “should” do something and why we won’t. And again a better self-awareness and underst anding.
We love to give rather than to receive. We love to provide support and help but hate asking for it ourselves. This is a crazy situation that most of us find ourselves in more often than we would like to admit? We like others to be indebted to us, as it gives us a (false) feeling of power. Keep this in mind and endeavour to make your life one of balance; to give and receive.
Shakespeare said it best in his play “As you like it”, Act II, Scene VII: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”(>>Tweet this<<) What are you playing it? Relationships are built on trust and authenticity, both in the personal and professional circles. Are you pretending to be someone you are not, or to know something you don’t? If so, the stress of being “found out” will take it’s toll eventually, one way or the other. Being our authentic selves is the only way to exp and, grow and flourish. The same is true for br ands.
“Procrastination is the thief of time”(>>Tweet this<<)is a mid-18th century proverb which means that if you delay doing something, it will almost certainly take longer to complete later on. The best solutions to procrastination include making lists, breaking down large or unattractive tasks into smaller, more achievable steps, and making the work time-limited. Making progress, however small, is better than none at all. (>>Tweet this<<).
Often one of the reasons for procrastination is perfectionism. We set such impossibly high st andards that we know we’ll not meet, even before trying – so we don’t try. Life is for learning and as I said previously, any progress is better than no progress. Imperfection is human; embrace your humanness and learn from your failures. Edison is quoted as saying “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”. (>>Tweet this<<) So ask yourself: “Are you learning to fail or failing to learn?” Hopefully, it’s the former! (>>Tweet this<<)
These are just a few of the many self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that many of us have and which make our lives more difficult than they need be. I was motivated by the conference I attended and I hope that my sharing these ideas has inspired you too to change, but without the need for the travel and resource investments I myself made!
My final comment on self-limiting thoughts and behavioursis a quote from that conference; “Fear is the only thing that gets smaller as we run towards it.” Hey all you marketers, are you ready to run towards your own fears and succeed in this awesomely changing world of possibilities?
Please share your own ideas and let’s support each other to be more authentic in 2016. If you haven’t already done so, please join the C³Centricity Members Group on Facebook, where we share ideas and support each other in becoming more heart-centered and customer centric.
It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?
I got an email today that irritated me, I mean it really insulted me, and prompted this post on customer centricity. I am sure it would have annoyed you too; in fact you have probably already received it or at least something similar yourself in the past.
It announced a “massive 46-page eBook” that I had been chosen to receive for free. It sounded as if I should be happy and feel privileged to receive it. I wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call 46 pages massive. A jumbo jet is massive; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is massive; not a measly 46 pages – even if it was for free.
Why do companies continue to think that they can treat people like idiots? In my opinion, it can only be a very short-lived business strategy. People will quickly learn the truth, especially in today’s connected world. Or should I blame the advertising agencies for coming up with these “lies”? However, it seems to me to be just a little too close for comfort to the “misleading claims” from which the Advertising St andards Authority in most countries should be protecting us.
If you are looking to be truly customer centric, here are some other examples that you are hopefully NOT doing.
The above illustration is just one example of many exaggerated claims which seem to have become prevalent these days. This is most probably because the internet makes it so easy to reach new, “naive” customers, who still trust organisations to do the right thing. Why do so many companies use overly attractive adjectives that their product or service can’t live up to? They are setting themselves up to disappoint their potential customers, especially if they don’t register what comes after that word before buying.
Massive, mouth-watering, heart-stopping, mind-blowing, huge discount, best price ever; most of the time the products are not, which is probably why they feel they have to use such words. Customer centric companies don’t use these claims unless they can substantiate them.
One area that often suffers from exaggeration is packaging. How many packs have you opened to find the product sitting miserably in the lower half of it? What a disappointment from the promise of the packaging. Or worse still in my opinion, are companies whose packs have been discretely reduced in contents over time. Companies may print the weight of the product that is inside the pack, but customers recognise and buy the pack without checking its weight each time they buy.
What is particularly offensive in this example is that it is the company’s most loyalcustomers who are being cheated. The company reduces the pack’s quantity but not its price; they are getting a price increase without informing their customers. That isn’t customer centric.
Another area that often suffers from exaggerated claims is price value. I was recently offered access online to a video “worth more than US$ 997” for just US$49.99. I don’t know any videos, even those of the classics or Oscar-winning films, that are worth that amount, and certainly no such offers proposed on the internet.
To paraphrase the infamous quote of Oliver Platt:
“Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the seller” (>>Tweet this<<)
How are you pricing your own product and service offerings? Do you base it on company cost or customer value? If not the latter, you may also be leaving a lot of money on the table, as your offer might actually be worth more than you are charging for it. The most important information you need to decide on your price is what your customer is prepared to pay for it; that is what value is all about. Customer centric companies know and apply this on a daily basis
Promising but not delivering
Airlines are renowned for this, especially the low-cost ones. They advertise flights at ridiculously low prices that few, if any, end up paying, since you need to add on the cost of paying by credit card, booking your seat, taking a bag on board etc. etc. Yes the advertised price attracts attention, but once you have made a few attempts at reserving these low prices, you underst and the “game” and compare before buying. And most of the time the “normal” airlines are cheaper. As I’m sure you’re heard many times and to quote Thomas (Tom) J. Peters:
“The formula for success is to under-promise and over-deliver” (>>Tweet this<<)
Amazon and Zappos are two companies who regularly do this; in fact it’s a part of their business model. They occasionally provide priority delivery at no extra cost, as a delightful surprise for their customers. Amazon also proposes useful suggestions of other books, music or other products to buy whilst you are surfing their website to purchase something. Yes, I know it is in their interest to get you to buy something else, but it is a service and highly valued by most people. Customer centric behaviour is always a win-win for both the customer and the company.
You subscribe to a service on a free trial basis, or a one-off monthly fee as many Telecom companies now offer. What you don’t notice or remember, is that it is automatically renewed at the end of the trial period unless cancelled. Yes I know it’s written in the terms and conditions or at the very bottom of the online page if you scroll down, but I don’t read font 8 very easily, even with my glasses! And be honest, none of us reads to the very end of the terms and conditions, and the companies that use this tactic are counting on it.
Of course, when you are informed that your subscription has been renewed, you realise what has happened and immediately cancel, with hopefully only a one month and not an annual unwanted payment. Yes the company has gotten a payment it probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but they certainly didn’t make us a loyal and happy customer, did they?
If you are using this type of “hidden selling” to get customers, please stop. Customer centric companies invite people to continue their subscription, perhaps at a special price. In this way they will get almost as many customers, but they will most certainly be happier and more likely to continue to purchase from them.
These are just a few examples of how companies are intentionally aiming to get customers to buy something that is not worth the money being asked in many cases. If the product or service they propose did offer true value, then people would buy or repurchase without the need for such tricks. As Peter Drucker said:
“The aim of marketing is to know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (<<Tweet this<<)
I would go one step further and say that it is the aim of customer centric businesses.
With today’s ease of sharing experiences on the web, why do companies continue to try to cheat unsuspecting customers? It is most definitely a short-term business strategy. Unhappy customers used to tell ten people, now they tell tens of millions, with a simple Tweet. And if there are several unhappy customers who Tweet about similar experiences, then others will start to see the trend and become wary. Whilst there will always be a few disgruntled customers who complain, more than that will highlight a real issue.
This reminds me; I hate doing it but I am one of the people who have tweeted about poor customerservice because I am not getting an answer when using the provided phone and email contacts. Customer service is all about taking the customers’ perspective (>>Tweet this<<) and offering multiple ways to be contacted and then responding quickly. Companies do respond to negative tweets, usually in record time and certainly faster than connections by other means. Why are companies forcing their customers to go public with their dissatisfaction to get heard? Most would be happy and would probably prefer to share their complaints with the company in private – IF they get a quick response.
So coming back to my question, the answer is a resounding yes. Most companies now speak about the importance of being customer centric, but so many of them are still doing many of the practices mentioned above, which are most definitely NOT customer centric behaviour. Are you one of them? Do you have other examples that you yourself have experienced? Why not share them here?
C³Centricity used images from the ASA in the UK, Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.
A recent report I came across this week shows that 76% of marketers do not use behavioral information in either segmentation analysis or targeting. They have the data, they’re just not taking advantage of it to better identify and then satisfy their consumers. This shocked me, so I went looking for more information to clarify the situation.
The study was conducted in late 2013 by Razorfish and Adobe amongst marketing and technology executives in the US, Canada, Germany, France and the UK. According to Pete Stein, CEO of Razorfish, the two main reasons for this lack of usage are firstly that today’s marketers are driving consumer segmentation with outdated technology, processes and tools, and secondly that there is an exponential growth in the availability of behavioral data.
In another study called “From Stretched to Strengthened” IBM reports that 71% of CMOs feel unprepared to h andle today’s “data explosion”. A third study, Domo‘s “2013 Data-driven marketing survey” found that two-thirds of marketers feel unable to h andle the volume of marketing data that’s available for analysis without feeling overwhelmed, and concluded that there were five reasons why this is the case:
69% don’t have the time to analyse it
66% can’t see it integrated
44% don’t have the time to collect it
40% don’t have access across devices
40% can’t see it in real time
These statistics suggest some interesting, no vital, changes that business intelligence / planning / market research / insight (BI) departments should make to address these needs of marketers. Once made, they would increase their perceived value and recognition, as well as that of the marketing department as well. Now that can’t be bad can it?
Here are my thoughts on each of them:
No time to analyse the data
I personally believe that if the support function (BI) was doing its job properly, marketing wouldn’t have to analyse the data. In fact I don’t think it is, nor should it be, their responsibility. Of course, this does mean that BI should be attributed with the appropriate levels of resources in both time and personnel to run the analyses and generate actionable insights.
Studies conducted every couple of years by the market research arm of the Corporate Executive Board (MREB), consistently show that world-class businesses have BI departments that have progressed from methodological experts to insight consultants, and then to knowledge synthesizers. Therefore unless you allow your team to develop in this direction, the onus for analysis will remain a challenge.
Can’t see the data integrated
Even before Big Data became a buzz word, companies have struggled to break down the internal silos of information ownership. The ever-increasing flow of data into organisations has just made the matter worse, so that it can no longer be ignored. Information integration may dem and a significant investment in both time and money, but the rewards are huge.
For example, from my own experience with clients, I have witnessed a grocery retailer increase sales by 15% whilst decreasing its promotional & discount allowances by 13%. This was achieved by simply making better use of the information they already had, and enabled them to make more relevant suggestions and offers to their customers. Airlines too are realising increased buy-in of their vacation and flight promotions, through more timely and relevant mailings to precisely segmented customer groups. That was only possible because they integrated the information from their different departments.
Don’t have time to collect the data
For me the problem is actually no longer simply not having the time to collect the data, but a rather subtle adaptation of our expectations to near real-time data availability today. We have all become less patient and this as true for the CEO, as it is for the CMO and on downwards.
Marketing must become more agile and flexible to be able to react to the latest data and adjust their actions and communications accordingly. Why continue to reward retailers with promotional pricing for items that are not flying off their shelves? The money could be better spent elsewhere, whether at a different retailer more aligned to the targeted segment, or even to another type of action.
Don’t have access across devices
It amazes me that so many people are still struggling to acknowledge that the PC is rapidly losing out to tablets. In fact, according to the International Data Corp. tablets will outsell PCs within the next year or so. IDC also says that while global smartphone salesin 2013 were up by 39% over 2012, they’re expected to grow by only around 19% this year.
However, as more smartphones get connected to cars as presented at the recent Geneva Car Show, marketers will be expecting to review their latest audience data or sales during their drive into work. It therefore makes sense to enable cross-device accessibility.
As an aside, I hope marketers also underst and what this trend means to their communication plans and how they connect with and engage their consumers.
Can’t see data in real time
With the never-ending flow of information into organisations it makes sense that marketers dem and to be able to look at the latest data in real time. Retail or audience data that is a month or even a few weeks out of date is of little use in this fast-paced world in which we live. Marketers will also expect market research to provide direct access to consumers and become less and less patient of studies that take weeks if not months to complete.
My conclusion from all of this is that the C-Suite needs to invest even more in data management for marketers and not only for the financial results to which they have become accustomed. They should not dem and the ROI of marketing without empowering marketers to be able to analyse the data available to them. What do you think?
C³Centricity used images from Microsoft and Mashable in this post.
Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book –the formatting not the content! – it was the perfect occasion for me to review what I wanted to achieve in the coming six months.
This got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going and what changes need to be made to ensure their completion over the remaining six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can still take to go further along your journey.
#1. Identify the category in which you are competing
This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.
Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.
#2. Underst and your primary target
Knowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.
Action: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their +4Ws” – Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so.
#3. Watch and listen to your customers
Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.
Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer, whether by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shops and use your product / service.
#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business
Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage unless they are turned into future scenarios.
Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges.
#5. Reinvent your innovation
Most organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.
Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services.
#6. Follow your image
It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.
Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).
#7. Turn your information into insight
Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.
Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.
#8. Share your information and insights
Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.
Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.
#9. Evaluate your progress
As the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says “What gets measured gets managed”. Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?
Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.
#10. Plan for action
Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.
Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait.
These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:
“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers”
Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.
Include not only 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 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.
#3 Identify the needs your brand is addressing
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 getting confused.
Mixed brand messages on what the brand can do for them will leave them perplexed. This will, in turn, reduce the likelihood that they will be convinced your offer can meet their 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.
#4 Make your customer everyone’s responsibility
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 will ensure that they understand this.
#5 Plan for the unthinkable
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, 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.
#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 planned actions; not just the outcomes you are hoping for, but a true detailed analysis based upon your understanding of them and their desires. Have you planned any actions to surprise and delight them, or are you only relying on the “same old” activities, repeated from last year? People get bored quickly and you can actually “train” your customers to expect your actions, which as a result will quickly become less interesting to them. Plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year.
#7 Expand your innovation thinking
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.
#8 Stop testing your communications to death
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 them, 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 wanted to perform well on. Review and update the attributes used to measure the perceptions of your category with your customers, and ensure you measure what is (also) important to them. The coverage of the total category will likely be more complete and you might even find a new or adapted positioning that no-one else is currently occupying.
#10 Update your KPI’s
You know that what gets measured gets managed, well are you measuring what needs managing or only the easy metrics to gather? It 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.
I hope this list has helped you to define a few areas that need revision in your organisation. Even actioning just one of them will improve your customer centricity. Of course doing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the heart of your business, as well as in the hearts of all your employees.
If you would like to know just how customer centric you are today, why not complete the C3C Evaluator™? It will help you to identify where you are today as well as how to prioritise any needed changes in your organisation.
For more information on making your organisation more customer centric, please check out C3Centricity for additional inspiring articles and then contact us here: