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Are Smart Things Really Smart?

Last week I wrote a long post on “The 7 Essential Differences Between Simply Responding to Customers and Providing True Customer Service“. So this week I wanted to write a shorter thought piece on a topic getting a lot of airtime these days; that of smart things, the IoT or the Internet of Things.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smart watches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. My question to you is “Are they really smart?” (>>Tweet this<<) 

The reason for my question is that I recently read an article entitled “Taking ‘Smart’ Out Of Smart Things” by Chuck Martin. It made me think about whether “smart things” really are that smart or whether it’s something else that’s making them appear smart?

So here are my views on it; feel free to add your own opinions in the comments below, I would love to start a discussion on “smartness”.

The Age of the Customer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to Forrester in their report published early last year, entitled The Business Impact of Customer Experience“, we are now in the “Age of the Customer”. This was music to my ears when I first heard that, because as you know I’m a customer champion. However, at the beginning of this year, The World Economic Forum reported that we are now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution“. (>>Tweet this<<)

In their article, they explain that “The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Does this mean that people will have less and less importance as technology takes over more and more areas of our daily lives – and value? Luckily no. The author, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, concludes the article by saying “In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

So no panic; there will hopefully still be a place for people in this brave new world! But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have to adapt – and adapt quickly if we don’t want to be left behind.

In researching for this post I also found that “smart” is now being attributed to many, many new areas. And this is thanks to the increased use of data or as we now like to term it Big Data. Data tells us what to do, or more precisely, computers control the processes in which we are involved. Although humans are still smarter (for now?), machines can tell us things that we didn’t know or couldn’t work out for ourselves, or if we could, not as quickly. Read more about this here.

Smart Things or Lazy People?

Another aspect of smart things is that they make life easier for the user. This might suggest that people will become lazier if they don’t compensate for all the actions they no longer make during an average day. Of course, those with fitness b ands, like myself, may just continue to do things manually for the increased statistics on our activity counter; this article makes a good read on the topic. But the average “Jo” will add more and more robots to do the manual work that they don’t want to do, so what will they do with all this new-found leisure time? Work more or play more? My bet, or rather hope, is for the latter!

With machines taking over the more menial tasks, we will be forced to make better use of our brains; after all, it’s the only thing that robots don’t have – for now at least! So are you training yourself to think more, improve your memory and polish up your analytical skills? According to Korn Ferry’s 2015 Pulse report, a customer centric approach and analytical skills are the two most sought-after specialized skills within the marketing function today. (>>Tweet this<<) So if you’re in marketing you’d better start honing them, before the robot takes your seat! Smart people will realise and take action; the less-smart will wait and see. Which are you?

What do you think? What challenges and opportunities will smart marketing bring us? Please add your comments below and let’s start a wave of smart discussions!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity . 

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?

 

 

How the Best Marketers are getting Deeper, More Actionable Insights

Are you as busy as I’ve been, trying to deliver on all your final objectives before year-end? Stressful times indeed, but this post is a must-read if you want to start 2016 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone (>>Tweet this<<) and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in the company.

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for (>>Tweet this<<). Successful businesses depend upon deep customer insight. They underst and the power of engagement built on insight to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Great companies underst and the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

So if you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these tips which I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams this week. Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation.

  1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first. Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude and you are likely to meet with more success. This is because you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.
  2. Insight generation should start with customer connection (>>Tweet this<<). When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers. They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes.
  3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really underst and the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.
  4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight learn new things about the business every day, so why not as’ that they share them? Every project and every analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question at h and. However, ask that they make them a regular part of their newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking.
  5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merch andisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail. These connections can quickly become addictive as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.
  6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage. According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in some research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to h andle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will be better informed and feel less overwhelmed.
  7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.
  8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall underst anding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with them. Do they involve you in insight development or only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer underst anding easier in your organisation?

For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let’s have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts or provide fun training days, as we already do to businesses in many various industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity

 

This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and the current discount codes. The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!

My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.

Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act

Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.

Business doesn’t get what it needs

One of the problems that has been highlighted by BusinessIntelligence.com is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.

Information must become smarter

The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better underst and the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.

Information needs to become useful

While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the information available to us.

Market research and insight teams need new skills

In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and  insight professionals need to acquire new skills:

  • Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of underst anding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on br ands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support br and building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story

Stories exist in all cultures. They have developed down through the ages as a means of transferring knowledge, long before books and now the web enabled their storage.

Today’s information-rich world has made storytelling a required talent for CEOs and CMOs alike to develop. And websites and Fan pages now make it a necessary skill for br ands too.

Br and stories are perhaps one of the easiest ways to resonate with customers. Hopefully, this will then lead to those highly sought-after but ever-diminishing rewards of loyalty and advocacy. Of course, I say “easiest” with caution, since great storytelling is an art that is often learned but rarely truly mastered. ( and I am conscious that I am (too) often in that group!)

One of the best places to find great stories is on TED. Amongst the most popular talks on the topic of storytelling, andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story.html”>The Clue to a great story was given in February 2012 by Andrew Stanton. Stanton is the Pixar writer and director of both the hit movies Toy Story  and WALL-E. I was reminded of his talk because it has since been turned into an infographic on the TED Blog. It inspired me to review the five “clues” Stanton talked about and then to apply them to br ands. These five essential elements of remarkable br and stories are the result.

 

Make me Care

According to Stanton, a story needs to start by quickly drawing sympathy from the audience / reader. The hero is introduced as being rejected or badly treated by family, friends, circumstances, or the world in general.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
SOURCE: CopyPress

Well-known examples of heroes include Cinderella or the lovable WALL-E in the film of the same name. Their predicament immediately generates feelings of concern and empathy, especially when identified as unfair or outside the control of the hero.

This works well for people, but for br ands I believe the emotions sought should be on the opposite side of these as demonstrated by Plutchiks’ Wheel of Emotions (see right).

Those of trust, admiration or anticipation are more relevant for br ands than remorse, grief, and loathing. People spend money on br ands because they believe that they will provide pleasure and / or solve one of their problems. Our job as marketers is not only to satisfy this need but to go even further by turning that expectation into surprise and delight (but more on that later).

 

Take me with you

In storytelling, there is often a journey, a mystery or a problem that needs solving. Something that entices the reader or audience to linger a while longer  and to learn more about the situation. In a similar way, a br and wants its customers to remain and become loyal. It therefore makes promises, whether real or just perceived as such by the customer.

Storytelling in businessWhen I first started working at Philip Morris International, there was a rumour amongst consumers that Marlboro was financing the Ku Klux Klan in the US. This started because its packaging had three red rooftops or “K’s” on it (front, back and bottom of pack). Management obviously didn’t want this untruth to be believed by its smokers, so one of the K’s was removed by making the bottom of the pack solid red.

However, consumers’ desire for mystery and intrigue was so strong that another rumour quickly emerged. This time, smokers had found three printer’s colour dots inside the pack (black, yellow and red). The story went that these markings symbolized that Marlboro hated Blacks, Asians and Indians! Once again management looked for ways to dismiss this rumour, but as in the previous case, just denying it would have most likely led to further reinforcement of the rumour. Since the printer needed these colour matches, they remained for many years.

Customers love to tell stories about “their” br ands. There are many myths about the greatest br ands around, often starting from their packaging or communications. For example, Toblerone has the “Bear of Berne” and the Matterhorn, exemplifying its Swiss origin, on its pack. The br and name too has Berne spelled within it and the chocolate itself is shaped like a mountain.

Camel has the “Manneken Pis from Brussels” on the back leg of the camel. Whereas the Toblerone links were intentional, I don’t think JTI planned that association into their design! Consumers just looked at the pack and having discovered the resemblance, started to share their findings, and it became a “truth”.

Many other br ands have developed stories through their communications, that are also shared and repeated until their customers believe they are true. Further examples include Columbia outdoor wear’s “Tough Mother” campaign, Harley Davidson’s enabling “middle aged” men to become bikers at the weekend, or Dove’s campaign for real women to name just a few. All these stories confirm and further support the connection their customers have with these br ands, so they almost become a part of their extended families. Such a strong emotional connection will ensure br and loyalty and advocacy for as long as the stories are maintained.

Be Intentional

In a story, the hero has an inner motivation, which drives them toward their goal. They will encounter problems and challenges along the way, but their motivation remains strong to reach their desired destination.

For a br and, this motivation is what it st ands for, its br and equity. What is the br and’s image, its personality; what benefits can the customer expect? Not only is it important to identify these, but perhaps even more importantly, is to consistently portray them in everything a br and does. From its product to its packaging, its communications to its sponsorships, the customers’ loyalty and appreciation are reinforced by every element that remains consistent and continuously reinforced.

Let me like you

A story depends on a hero with whom the audience can empathize; someone worthy of their respect, even love.

This is exactly the same for br ands, which is why problems and crises need to be h andled quickly, fairly and respectfully. In today’s world of global connection, everything a br and says or does, anywhere in the world, is shared and commented upon, around the globe in a matter of milliseconds. Whereas in the past, disappointed customers may have told ten others, today it is estimated to be closer to ten million, thanks to social media!

In a great article entitled “What an angry customer costs” by Fred Reichheld, it is said that the cost to companies of haters or detractors is enormous. “Successful companies take detractors seriously. They get to the root cause of customers’ anger by listening to complaints, taking them seriously and fixing problems that might be more pervasive” But it’s not merely a question of preventing the spread of negative word of mouth. As Reichheld, himself says “For many customers … (resolving complaints) …is where true loyalty begins”.

(Surprise and) Delight me

Stanton says that stories should charm and fascinate the audience. For br ands, we should aim for surprise and delight as previously mentioned. The surprise of learning something new about the product or company that made it; delight at getting unexpected gifts or attention from the br and.

This is where limited editions and seasonal offers first started, but over the last few years, thanks to today’s connected world, br ands are going much further:

  • In 2010, SpanAir delivered an Unexpected Luggage Surprise for its customers flying over Christmas Eve.
  • Also in 2010, another airline KLM, had staff members prepare gifts for a select few passengers who tweeted about their pending departure on a KLM flight at the airport.
  • Tropicana  brought “Artic Sun” to the remote Canadian town of Inuvik, where residents live in darkness for weeks each winter.
  • Amazon is known for their excellent customer service, but they often go the extra mile, upgrading customer shipping to expedited service for free.
  • Kleenex surprised sick people with their Feel Good campaign that targeted people Tweeting about going down with the ‘flu.
  • Google, who are known for their creative and timely illustrations on their homepage, started showing a birthday cake as the image above the search box on people’s birthday.

The last example actually happened to me for the first time a few years ago and I admit that I was so excited I actually Tweeted about it! Am I the only one who was touched by this gesture, because I haven’t heard anyone else mentioning it?

So those are Stanton’s five clues to a great story, adapted for br ands. Do they work? What stories are told about your own br ands? Or do you have other great examples to share? Please share them below.

For more on br ands please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ or contact us here for an informal chat about how we could support your own br and building efforts or provide fun and-evaluation/”>training days.

This post has been adapted and updated from one which first appeared on C3Centricity in 2013.

The New Way to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

When I get several requests in the same week on exactly the same topic, I know something is happening in the marketplace. This week was one such occasion.

A Pharma company wants a presentation on it; a CPG company asked me to give a half-day workshop about the topic; a conference requested a keynote speech about it; a major US business school wants a guest lecture covering the idea  and a consumer goods company wants an article for their newsletter. What’s the topic? The new ways to innovate, that’s what.

With all this interest, and despite having written some popular posts in the past on best-practice innovation, such as “ How to innovate more creatively”, “How to get R&D as excited about consumer innovation as you are”  and “Never succeed at innovation: 10 mistakes even great companies make”, I thought I would summarise the latest trends around how to innovate more successfully today. So here are some ideas to get you thinking about the changes you might want to bring to your own innovation processes.

Customers react to new innovation1. Start with the customer in mind – always

So many organisations still have an innovation process that starts with R&D or operations. It’s time to reverse your innovation funnel and start with the customer. (>>Tweet this<<) What are their problems with current products and services; what do they dream of having? How are they compensating or compromising?

 

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” Steve Jobs

However, as Henry Ford and Steve Jobs remind us, customers don’t usually know what they want. They are usually very clear about what they don’t like, but they also often know the solution they are looking for – even if they don’t express it as such. It is our job to interpret what they are saying into what they need. Therefore, identify the result they want but not how they want to achieve it, otherwise you will be looking for that “faster horse”!

2. Stage-gate innovation is essential for a successful business

Today’s world is fast paced and customers never stay satisfied for long. What surprises and delights today, is ordinary and normal, if not tomorrow, at best in a couple of weeks or months. That’s why it’s vital to work on new product and service developments even before you launch your latest offering.

NEW INNOVATION STAGE-GATESMany companies today work with generation pipelines, with three, four or five stages of innovation preparation. This ensures that they are already working on the replacement of each product they launch, whether or not it’s a success.

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

According to the McKinsey article “ Reinventing Innovation in CPG“, real growth comes from ground-breaking innovations, not simplistic renovations. However, line extensions do provide the time for organisations to prepare their true innovations, while responding to today’s customers incessant desire for novelty.

They are also easier to develop and launch, which means they are less dem anding on resources. Companies which are satisfied with only incremental innovations are unlikely to see significant growth in the long-term. For this reason successful br ands need to do both. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Launch before you’re finished

Many tech companies use this approach, by involving customers as beta testers. In this way, they get their customers help – for free – to improve and mould the final offer. It also allows them to launch more quickly and gain the positive image associations of being first to market.

If you are concerned about confidentiality or competitive speed to respond, then work with customers through co-creation. (>>Tweet this<<) Involve them at every stage of the development process from ideation to launch preparation. If your management are  concerned about the risks of sharing innovative ideas outside the company, involve employees instead, perhaps from other divisions so they are less biassed.

5. Review the category in which you’re playing

Are you sure that your customers see your br and in the same light as you do? Many times I have heard a customer correct an interviewer in a research project, when asked about br ands in a category. “That br and isn’t in that segment, category A” they say; “It’s not a competitor of X, but of Y and Z, the main br ands in category B”. Some examples include dried soups which today compete with sauce mixes, carbonated soft drinks with fruit juices and body gels with shampoos.

Another advantage of underst anding the category in which your customers place your br and is that this can provide you with new ideas for expansion.

Mars ice creamMany confectionary br ands have moved into ice cream and desserts. They have understood that they are being seen as more of a “treat” than merely “just” a chocolate bar. When your customers choose between products from several different categories when deciding what to eat or buy, it is a clear indication that you are not (only) competing in the category you first thought you were. (>>Tweet this<<)

In conclusion, there are many reasons why innovations fail:

  • A short-term mindset where success is dem anded in weeks or months rather than years.
  • Top management instils a fear of failure, so no-one will defend ideas that are unpopular.
  • The innovation process itself is biassed towards current knowledge and skills.
  • A lack of deep customer underst anding.

These five ideas will help you to reinvent your innovation and also make it more customer-centric. After all isn’t that what all best practices should do today, involve the customer? If you have other – better? – ideas, then why not share them below?

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts  and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient just a little longer – but it’s coming soon!

 

 

How to Fast-Start your Customer Centric Journey and Accelerate Ahead of Competition

Many of my clients tell me that they underst and they should be paying more attention to their customers, but admit that they just don’t know where to start when it comes to becoming more customer centric.

I can empathise with them; the task may seem overwhelming at first. After all, it is not something that can be corrected by just starting a new project or taking a single action. It dem ands consistent effort over the longterm, to make an organisation truly customer centric. Here are a few of the ideas I give them at the start of their journey, taken from my latest book Winning Customer Centricity, now available in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”> Noble,  iBook and in all good bookstores.

As I am often quoted as saying:

“Customer Centricity is a Journey and not a Destination(>>and%20not%20a%20Destination%22%20%20[tweetlink]%20%23CRX%20%23Quote” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

So where do you start?

The first action to take when turning around a product or service-based company is to start by thinking about how your organisation is currently working. What is its structure and what processes are used to develop your offers? It is only by underst anding how your company functions, that you can identify the priority changes that need to be made. Therefore these are the first five things I suggest to do when starting on your own journey to improved customer centricity:

1. Identify a C-suite sponsor

Customers on the board with c-suiteEvery project needs a sponsor, but when it involves a major culture change, it must be sponsored at the very top, ideally by the CEO. (>>Tweet this<<) If this is not possible, the most customer – savvy executive should be the sponsor, whether that is the CMO or the SVP of marketing services or customer insight.

The initiative must be recognised as a priority company objective by everyone in the organisation, so the higher the level of the project sponsor is, the better it will be.

2. Make every employee aware of the priority initiative

Once you have a senior sponsor, the next step is to make everyone aware of the initiative. It always amazes me how many departmental projects go unnoticed by other groups within the same organisation. (>>Tweet this<<) In my consulting practice, I often uncover overlapping projects when I am invited to work with a client on a project. Perhaps this is because I work across departments and therefore don’t suffer from the silo effect impacting most employees. I also have the privilege of being able to ask “silly questions” which of course are never redundant.

In order to make all employees aware of the project, it must be mentioned at every opportunity. This means signing your emails with a suitable quote such as:

“We don’t pay your salaries, our customers do, every time they buy our product” (>>Tweet this<<)

or

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers” (>>ands%2C%20but%20there%20are%20no%20br ands%20without%20customers%22%20%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customers%20%23Br ands” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

You can also mention it in newsletters, on bulletin boards, or through internal memos, with clear explanations as to why it is important and how everyone is expected to participate. This alone will make the project st and out from the tens if not hundreds of other projects in your organization, which are most likely driven by a single department or group.

3. Identify your categories

Identify the category you are in This may seem strange to be asked to evaluate the categories in which you are active, but I am always surprised how many companies identify the category from a manufacturers perspective and not that of their customer. (>>Tweet this<<) For example a carbonated fruit juice could be seen by customers as being a part of carbonated soft drinks, of fruit juices, or in a completely new category of its own. It all depends on how they consume it.

Another example might be a dried soup mix, which customers may use to make soup, but also to make a sauce, to add taste to a casserole or dip, or to enhance the flavour of a dish made from scratch with fresh ingredients. In each case, the soup mix would be competing with products in those different categories, such as sauce mixes, flavour enhancers, and not just other (dried) soups.

4. Identify the category users

As you can imagine, if your product is being categorised in different product segments by consumers, then the users themselves will most likely differ. Taking the above example of dried soups, the category user might be:

  • Young singles – using the product to make a quick and easy soup
  • Mothers of teenage children – to make their sauces more flavourful
  • Couples – to add to their scratch cooking recipes

In each case the group of consumers have differing needs and therefore different segment descriptions. This is why underst anding the category in which you are active and the customers of the sub-group that you are appealing to, is a vital first step to underst anding your customers. (>>anding%20the%20category%20%26%20customers%20of%20the%20sub-group%20you%20are%20appealing%20to%2C%20is%20a%20vital%20first%20step%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customer%20%23Underst anding” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

5. Choose your category segment

Choose your customer segmentAgain taking dried soups as our example, the description of your users will be very different depending upon how they use the product. The simple demographic breaks mentioned above would be insufficient to be able to get to know them well. The more descriptions you can add to these basic demographics, the more likely you are to underst and and therefore delight your customers. (>>and%20your%20customers.%20[tweetlink]%20%23Customer%20%23Personas%20″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Tweet this<<)

In C³Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to identify and store everything we know about category users. For more information on this useful template, see the post and-underst and-your-customers/” target=”_blank”>How well do you know your customers? or the Video series on YouTube. You can also download the free template in the Members area.

These are the first five actions to take when starting out on your own journey to increased customer centricity. Getting the whole company and every employee in it, behind such an initiative, is the only way to make it happen. As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos is often quoted as saying:

“We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company”

Your customer centric journey starts with these first steps, and then it’s just a matter of knowing intimately the people you are hoping to satisfy and delight, and ideally surprise too. Have you already started your journey to Customer Centricity? If so, what has been your biggest challenge to date,  and if you solved the issue, how did you do it? Others who are just starting on their journey would love to hear from you.

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

The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become. Constant innovation and novelty has made us all more impatient and critical. We want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient to drive growth alone. Marketing must deliver 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 by the hotel, its rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following mail a day or so later:

“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 the reason why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

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

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

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

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

The above personal example I gave 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.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logoI 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.

Zappos

Zappos powered customer satisfaction through service
Image source: Zappos.com

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. 

Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

Apple

Apple-logoSteve 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 orgaisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

Did you make the best product, and did you enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of these, then you are having a good year. @TimCook #CEX #CRM #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

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 more difficult than ever to do these days with such demanding customers, it is definitely worth the effort to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. (>>Tweet this<<) 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.” 
  • Strive for better in everything you do; never be satisfied yourself 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 products and services that 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.

I am sure you too have examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others can you add to this list? Please share your suggestions below.

This post used an image from “Winning Customer Centricity” Denyse’s new book out next month.

Are you Jeopardising your Customers’ Loyalty? Or is it Going to Disappear Anyway?

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 honesty here) 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 and actually 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 they would 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.

IMG_0217Retail 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 calledAre 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.

Deliver a Great Experience to All Prospects, Including Those that Don’t Buy

This week I am happy to share a guest post by Bob Thompson from CustomerThink. His post is inspired by his latest book “Hooked on Customers”, which I’ve just read and highly recommend to everyone looking to be more customer centric. 

For sure, increasing sales productivity is a good thing. Marketing organizations are putting in place systems and tools to generate and score leads, so that reps can focus on more qualified prospects.

However, even in the best case scenario reps will not close every opportunity. Some customers may not have a need to buy now. Others may have a need, but they may select another alternative. A CSO Insights study found average win rates of about 45% in 2011, a five point drop from 2006.

So the key question is: What kind of sales experience are you delivering to all of your prospects—including those that weren’t qualified or didn’t buy?

This is important because, whether a prospect buys or not, their experience interacting with your company will create a lasting impression. A good experience means they may return another day, when they have needs that match your solutions. Or, they’ll recommend your company to a colleague. Either way, that helps increase revenue productivity. For example, last year I was looking for software to support my online community CustomerThink.com. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I searched for solutions, interacted with vendor web sites and engaged with several sales reps by email and phone. To most of the vendors I was just another not-very-valuable small business buyer. And I was treated accordingly, no doubt thanks to some nifty lead scoring algorithms that have become de rigueur for B2B marketers.

Unfortunately, these vendors probably didn’t factor into their scoring that my posts on CustomerThink reach an audience of 80,000 visitors per month. Or, that I have colleagues in the publishing business that are also potential buyers. And what do you know, shortly after my buying experiences, an industry colleague asked me for advice on similar tools, and I was only too happy to share my recommendations. Privately.

Bottom line: While I may not have been scored or treated as a valuable prospect, I was valuable in other ways—as an influencer. And many of your prospects are, too. The point of lead scoring is to assess the value of the prospect to you—the seller—so you can make the best use of your resources. Let’s flip this idea around. What I’m advocating is that you spend time to really underst and how your prospects—all of them—perceive their experience with your br and. From the initial web search to interacting with your web site to engaging with inside or field sales reps, all of these touchpoints form an impression and influence their likelihood to buy or recommend.

Start by assessing your current customer and prospect experiences. Look for opportunities to get prospect feedback using web analytics and feedback solutions. You could even hire “mystery prospects” to take on different personas representing buyers, influencers, researchers, etc. The prospect experience used to be mainly face-to-face interactions. Then it moved to the phone, and now it’s going digital in a big way.

If you do a buyer “journey map” you’ll probably find that more and more buyers start their journey online and are rapidly adopting mobile technologies such as smart phones and tablets. In the US, Nielson reports that in 2012 about half of all mobile subscribers are using smartphones. Ultimately, a great prospect experience is about interacting on their terms–giving them the information they want, in the form they want, where they want, at the time they want it, on the device they want. Whether prospects buy immediately or not, a positive experience will become the “gift that keeps on giving” in the future.

Realize that as you’re scoring prospects on their value to you, they are also scoring their experience with your company. Delivering a great prospect experience can help you differentiate and become a B2B br and that business people talk about like consumers rave about Zappos!

This post was originally published on February 22, 2013 at www.hookedoncustomers.com

The Highly Effective Habits of Truly Innovative Companies

A couple of months ago I shared what I consider to be the Ten Mistakes even Great Companies Make when innovating. Whilst it is useful to have these “watch out” lists, I believe it is also beneficial to take a look at how other companies get it right.

This post was prompted by a new client who is one of those already doing innovation extremely well and yet is still looking to improve their thinking. That for me is the sign of a truly innovative company. So read on for some ideas on how you too can become great at innovating.

Set Stretch Launch Targets

Let me start by saying there is a huge difference between the quantity and quality of innovations in almost all companies. In fact I believe there is an inverse relationship between the two. Those that innovate a lot rarely do it well. I think this is because they have the pressure of meeting objectives of numbers of new launches, rather than numbers of successful launches.

What is a successful launch? For me it is meeting or beating carefully thought through and calculated objectives. Not those wishfully high numbers used to get management buy-in for the launch, nor those ridiculously low targets that everyone knows will be met even before the new product is launched. No, I mean objectives that are stretch targets but achievable with the right plan, actions and effort. In other words SMART.

Be Inspired by your Customers

There are a lot of very clever organisations, especially in the technology area, which develop incredibly innovative products. Apple is (was?) obviously one of these and until recently, was admired for its innovations. Now it has been claimed that Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research. This is untrue. He did believe in market research, but market research done right. He didn’t ask consumers what they wanted, because he said they didn’t know. Instead he asked them what their problems were, what they dreamt about. He then showed them his answers to these and got their reactions. Even when he got his answers, he didn’t immediately start adapting products to meet these stated needs, but rather worked to underst and what consumers meant by what they asked for. As the infamous Ford quote says

“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse!”

Jobs didn’t build a faster tape player, or a smaller one, or a lighter one. He made “music on the go” more convenient, more accessible and above all, more fun.

Use a Flexible Approach to Idea Generation

Many companies approach innovation as a strict process. They will use something similar to the below funnel, brainstorming for a multitude of ideas that eventually get whittled down to the one or two new launches that are finally chosen.

St andard funnel used by companies lacking innovative ideas

There are many companies today offering new processes and ways of innovating, but they all come down to a finite number of alternative levers:

  • Start from your strengths and / or weaknesses
  • Start from the strengths and / or weaknesses of your competitors
  • Extend into adjacent categories
  • Extend into new channels
  • Extend into new presentations (packs, prices, communications)

They also use one of three models to reduce their number of possible choices in their selection process:

  • Start large and reduce down (the st andard “funnel” approach shown above)
  • Start small and exp and before selecting (inverse funnel approach)
  • Repeated executions of the combination of the above expansion and contraction of ideas (sometimes referred to as the accordion approach)

Whichever you decide to use, you eventually get to a decision of the one, or few, launch choices, at least in most cases. Truly innovative companies are not limited to one process or tool, and are open to idea generation from however and wherever it might come.

Make Innovation Everyone’s Responsibility

Innovation is for the privileged few in (too) many organisations today. Teams are separated off to concentrate on being “more creative” or to “bond” with R&D. However truly innovative companies use open innovation where everyone can have and share ideas about the company’s process, products and customers. In a great article on this (“ Who blocks innovation?”) Jeffrey Phillips ends with a wonderful short story:

“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realizes that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody then Nobody did what Anybody could have done”

Great companies are often great because they are very innovative. And they are very good at innovating because of three highly effective habits:

  • They set appropriate stretch targets for every new launch; good is never good enough
  • They listen to their customers, but don’t do what they say, but rather what they mean
  • They open idea generation to be inspired by a multitude of different processes, tools and above all people

Would you add another habit? Have I forgotten an important trait? Please let me know what you would add or feel free to react with your comments below.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime in this post.

Is Honesty still the Best Policy? Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

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.

ASA Logo protecting customer centricityWhy 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.

Claims

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.

Packaging

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 loyal customers 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.

Value

Customer centric companies price on value not costAnother 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<<)

 

Zappos

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.

Hidden renewals

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 customer service 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.

Marketing Information Lost in Translation: How to Save yourself & Rise above the Competition

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

Tablets set to outsell PCs in 2015It 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 sales in 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.

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