Essentials of a Customer First Strategy Every Industry Needs to Adopt

Every business should strive to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore often mentioned as a company objective. Unfortunately, it rarely goes beyond the theory in most organisations, so I decided to help out with these six suggestions.

Hospitality is perhaps one of the most visible industries where customer satisfaction, or lack of, is quickly shared with the world.  (Read my last post for more on this)

It is true that without satisfaction, customers will not return to a hotel or restaurant. And they will almost certainly share their (bad) experiences with anyone who will listen – including online!

Hospitality is also one of the industries that receives the most comments online, thanks to TripAdvisor and other booking sites. There is no hiding from their clients!

Now while I empathise, this is not all bad news. Because it means that great service will also be more quickly known about online. Therefore you can make changes and see the results almost immediately, or at least far quicker than in most other businesses.

However, despite this, I believe that the hospitality industry has a lot it can learn from consumer packaged goods (CPG) where improvements take the consumer longer to appreciate. In fact most other industries could benefit from taking a look at some of CPG’s best-in-class processes.

Both the hospitality and CPG industries have their customers at their heart; after all it’s in their name. They are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clientele in the quality of the products and services they offer.

However, as the world changes, customer demands do too and companies need to stay current if not ahead of these requirements, in order to ensure continued growth.

 

The 6 essentials of a customer first strategy

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of talk recently on moving from a return on investment to a return on relationship metric. While I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Be honest, other than the author of the once popular book that started talking about brand love, who wants to have a relationship with a brand?!

Brands that have a high following and loyalty have found a way to consistently engage their fans and keep them coming back. They become involved and interested in the brand, the product, their website, even their communications.

Coca Cola and Red Bull are great examples of this. You should also check out another post entitles Increasing Impact & Engagement through Advertising Testing.”

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

 

#2. Building Relationships with Strangers

While the hospitality industry is based on serving and satisfying its guests, in today’s connected world, it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but who could potentially become clients.

These might be the friends of current guests, who for example the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico tries to attract. Let me explain.

 

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during a talk I gave to the faculty of a world- renowned hospitality school. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, I am happy to share it. Just email me with your details and what your biggest business challenge is currently in adopting a customer first strategy.

Are you struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to catalyse your growth. Check out our website for more information about our services and training programs, then contact us here.

5 Powerful Ways to Upgrade Your Customer Journey Maps

Mapping your customer journey is an important part of understanding and satisfying them better. Since the travel and leisure industries are still in turmoil after covid, I believe that now is a good time to review how they treat their customers. And this should include their customer journey mapping.

Through the example of an experience I had with the Hilton Group, I share some important lessons about getting customer service right! These will be invaluable as the travel industry fights to recover. 

 

Background

Each year around Christmas time, my family get together for a weekend of fun somewhere in Britain. Last year we met up in Bristol. As a Hilton Honors member for more than twenty years, I offered to book rooms for all of us in the local Doubletree.

I expected to get a better rate with my membership, and certainly cheaper than those offered by all the booking sites. Well, I reserved five double rooms for the weekend, as well as a table for ten in their restaurant for dinner on the Saturday evening.

I booked directly by calling the hotel, as I always prefer to do. I expect to be recognised for my loyalty – and if possible rewarded too! On this occasion I was proven seriously wrong!

A couple of weeks after booking and pre-paying for all the rooms, I received Hilton’s weekly newsletter offering me a significant discount for the exact same hotel and dates. Clearly their online pixels had identified me as being interested in this hotel, but they hadn’t connected this interest with my having booked directly. You can already see from this, that their customer journey mapping is incomplete.

As Hilton offer a “guaranteed lowest rate” I reached out to their call centre and was told that yes I was entitled not only to the lower rate, but to an additional 25% discount for having made the claim. I was told how to complete the claim form and I hung up ecstatic that I could save my family even more money – which we would no doubt spend in the bar before and after our dinner!

Imagine my surprise when the next day I was informed that my claim had been refused! I was notified that the guaranteed lowest rate only applied to third-party sites and not to Hilton’s own website!

Guaranteed lowest rates should mean just that! Otherwise you're just cheating the customer. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

I immediately responded and was again told that their guarantee didn’t apply to their own rates. In addition, as I had pre-paid I could not get the lower rate even if it was now being offered!

Not being one to take “no” for a final answer, I contacted their corporate customer service group again, as I felt my loyalty was not being recognized. I was once more given the same response, but this time was informed that my request would be forwarded directly to the hotel concerned – no doubt to get me off their (corporate) backs!

The hotel immediately responded saying that although it is corporate policy not to include direct bookings in their lowest rate guarantee (?!!), they would in this case give me the special offer. I was very pleased that they at least recognised the benefit of customer satisfaction and restored my faith in the Hilton group – somewhat.

That should have been the end of this story, but it’s not. Hilton surpassed themselves this time in terms of customer service, or rather a serious lack of it!

My brother called me the following week and informed me that the hotel’s website was showing that their restaurant was closed on the day I had booked it. I immediately rang them and spoke to the same person, who remembered me and assured me our table for ten people was booked. She said she would double check again just to be sure, so in the afternoon I called back not wanting any last minute problems with my family.

Surprise, surprise, I was told the restaurant was booked for a private party. What about my reservation made more than a month ago? Shouldn’t someone have contacted me? I demanded to speak to the manger, who apart from profuse apologies, said she would raise the issue in their operations meeting later that day.

She called me back that evening, to say that there was nothing she could do. It was their mistake and they would be happy to book me elsewhere in the city. I explained that my family had booked six rooms for two nights at their hotel so we could eat at their famous restaurant (my married sister had booked separately). No solution offered; an admission of fault but no compensation offered and no alternative other than to book at another restaurant! Their suggestion was their sister hotel down the road, a bland, modern affair, with no atmosphere.

This farcical situation continued during the whole weekend, but I won’t bore you with the details, as I would rather use this incident to demonstrate how Hilton (and you) can be better prepared.

 

Three Lessons Learned about Customer Journey Mapping

So what lessons can we learn from this example, even if we work in a different industry? I came up with the following points, but I would love to hear what other issue of customer journey mapping you are having; just leave me a comment below please.

Replacing a faulty product or service is what customers expect, but it's not enough! Do more to surprise & delight: these will be shared with friends and family. Click To Tweet

Customer journey mapping has become much more complex today, as the touchpoints our customers are using, before, during and after purchase, have expanded exponentially. However the process of identifying and understanding the complete journey remains essential to delighting each and every customer.

 

BONUS Ideas

1. One further element which I suggest my clients add to their journey maps is the emotional state of their customers at each point of interaction. This simple addition is a powerful addition and clearly shows where a brand needs to improve its customers’ experience. It highlights those touchpoints where their customers’ emotional state is sub-optimal and needs improving.

2. And one final suggestion that I give my clients, is to become your customer. Go our and buy what you are selling. Experience different outlets, different buying experiences, covering as many, if not all, the touchpoints. It will amaze you how much you can learn from this simple exercise. 


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If you prefer, we can also work directly with your team to review and revitalise your own customer journey mapping.

The New Qualities for Customer Service Excellence

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

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

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

Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they were renowned for putting their customers first. UPC-Cablecom, on the other hand, had until then, been trying to win customers through non-stop promotions and aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially where the internet is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by UPC-Cablecom – my perception at least, because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

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

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

 

What makes a great customer care centre?

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

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

But too often the result of all that effort is just a recording telling you to call back later as the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line.

We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternative solutions to waiting on the line. Going to the website to find a solution in their available FAQs, or to complete a contact form, or to send an email. This I find insulting since I am sure most people only call after having tried to find a solution online – anything so they don’t have to suffer these long waits!

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

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

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

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

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

 

What makes a great customer service representative (CSR)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adopting a Customer First Strategy. Even the Police Can Get it Right!

In most countries, the population have a love / hate relationship with their police. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be adopting a customer first strategy in Switzerland!

Let me explain. A few years ago they introduced a new-style speed radars in the villages around my home town. The elements are not that new per se, I know, but last week it suddenly hit me why these speed cameras seem to be so effective. It’s simple; they’re customer centric! The Swiss police have adopted a customer first strategy! And that’s why I want to share more about this story here.

 

Background

Police speed camera
Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the reasons why the Police are disliked in many (dare I say most?) countries, is because of their insidious speed controls.

Whether they are permanent fixtures as on the right, or temporary ones, we all dislike the flash that tells us it’s too late, that we’ve been “caught.”

We then wait a few days, to weeks or even months, naively hoping that it wasn’t our car that was flashed. But eventually the letter arrives asking us to pay a fine.

I think the worst of them all are the laser guns that the Police have been using for many years now. We don’t even know we’ve been flashed until the communication arrives at our home! Or we are pulled up a few hundred meters down the road.

 

Example of a customer first strategy in action with a smiley traffic radar
Image source: Alibaba

The relatively new types of radar that are being introduced in my home area don’t flash either. But that’s because we never get “caught” as such.

You see they measure our speed and give us immediate feedback. Take a look at the photo on the right; I’m sure you’ve seen such installations before in your own area.

Now if we make the assumption that all four types of equipment are to get road users to decrease their speed in critical areas – and not just to gather money as I’ve heard suggested – then the results must vary widely.

 

 

So let me share my thoughts from the perspective of a customer first strategy champion.

 

Permanent radars

Everyone quickly knows where these are located. In fact, in some countries there are warning signs and they are actually highlighted on the GPS mapping system you may have in your car.

speed radar warning
Image source: Pixabay

In some places, the permanent radars are not always functioning, as the cameras inside them are rotated between installations. It is therefore not possible to know which radars are active and which aren’t. The Police then get a multiple deterrent effect, beyond the number of cameras they have actually installed.

A driver’s behaviour when passing this type of installation, tends to be the following. The traffic is rolling along “normally” and probably over the speed limit. Then everyone brakes hard just in time to pass the radar below the maximum speed allowed. They then speed up again to continue along the road at their previous faster pace.

This phenomenon is in fact well known by the Police. In fact, they sometimes add a second, mobile radar a few hundred meters down from the permanent one, to catch those who are once again speeding!

Even the warning signs, as on the left, don’t have much impact on drivers and the speed limitation is quickly forgotten.

Whether they get caught with the first or second radar, the impact on the end customer, the driver, will be the same.

They feel angry and frustrated, which makes them less attentive, and may result in them driving more erratically. They may even speed up feeling that now they have been caught, there is nothing more to lose!

Not good for the driver nor the Police’s objective of maintaining a slower, safer speed in the vicinity. Clearly not a part of a customer first strategy!

In Switzerland they did try painting the cameras to make them stand out in a fun way. The Emmental cheese on the right used to be close to Geneva airport, but I have seen giraffes and other designs here too. Of course I have also seen other radars that have been painted, but these were done by angry motorists!

 

Temporary radars

Temporary radars have a similar function to the permanent ones, but it usually takes a day or two for drivers to become aware of their location. Their reactions will then be similar to the permanent radars, with the slowing down before and the speeding up after the radar has been passed.

This is not good for traffic fluidity, nor for slowing it down. And the drivers’ reactions if flashed will be just the same as with the permanent installations. Again, not good for making the roads safer by slowing down the traffic, and clearly not a demonstration of a customer first strategy.

 

Laser speed guns

Police laser gun
Image source: Wikipedia

These are probably the most hated form of speed control by drivers. They have no knowledge of where they are, nor even that they have been flashed. It could be argued that they are therefore not a deterrent to speeding, but a pure money-making exercise for the Police.

I admit that the Police do tend to stand in certain places where speeding is a common occurrence. Knowledgeable, local drivers look out for them when approaching the areas and adapt their speed accordingly.

But overall they are not really a device to deter speeding and therefore the associated sentiments are very negative.

Once again this type of radar would not be used if the Police have adopted a customer first strategy.

 

Speed Information

The speed radar that prompted this post measures your speed but then immediately gives you feedback. You are rewarded with a happy green smiley if you are within the speed limit. Or a red frown with a message to slow down if you are speeding.

I have witnessed people approaching these devices and slowing down whether or not they are speeding. And they don’t speed up after they have passed them either. How’s that for having a positive influence on behaviour?

Also, if the drivers are like me, they also get a feel-good feeling for being congratulated for not speeding. I find these by far the most efficient at controlling traffic speed and fluidity, but of course the Police don’t get any money.

 

 

What This Has to Do with Your business

So why is this example relevant for you and your own customer first strategy? Well, ask yourself what you really want for your business? 

In the case of the police, I am assuming that they want to reduce the speed of drivers in certain areas and make the roads safer for everyone. In this case, the customer-centric approach, which has by far the most success at slowing drivers down to within the speed limit along a larger portion of the road, is the information panel. If that is their objective, then the Police in every country should adopt these new style radars.

But if those who consider speed checks to be a mere money-making operation are right, then the Police will continue to use one of their other options. And they must accept the negative consequences on so many levels, not just on their image or speeding in their localities.

So, take a hard look at your own business actions and ask yourself what you really want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices that you know your customers wouldn’t like.

Half filled packaging – gone. False claims and promises – deleted. Getting credit card details for free trials in the hope customers will forget to cancel and you can automatically charge them for a service that haven’t specifically requested. Not any longer! These all might get you that first sale but you won’t get you happy and loyal customers who become advocates for your brand.

I dedicated a whole post to the ways that companies try to cheat their customers. If you’d like to read it click on this link and see many more ways of cheating the customer that you should avoid: “https://c3centricity.com/how-to-cheat-your-customers/”

What do you want for your business? If you are sincerely customer centric, you will stop any practices that you know your customers wouldn’t like. Click To Tweet

If you don’t want to cheat your customers – and who would as it is not a viable long-term business model? – then you must objectively evaluate your current practices. Ask yourself what you want your customers to think and feel about your brand. What are the objectives you have for your business and your customers? What changes in your customers’ attitude or behaviour are you looking to encourage? How does your brand provide a solution to your customers? 

These questions are just a small selection that we use in our highly successful 7-step insight development process that is called CATSIGHT™.

If you’d like to know more about it, or get trained in insight-development and adopting a customer first strategy, then check out our new courses in the C3Centricity Academy. You could learn how to develop actionable business insights in under two hours!

Are You Giving What Customers Want Today?

As a dedicated customer centricity champion, just like you, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want, just like you do too, I hope. In this period of great global unrest, understanding our customers has become more important than ever before.

Just a few short months ago, I didn’t think that it would be possible for customer-centricity to become any more important. But things change and now everyone is fighting to keep their businesses afloat. So the new and constantly altering needs and desires of our customers should be a top priority for all of us to follow.

To help me keep abreast of the changes, I’m regularly checking online searches for such terms as customer service, customer satisfaction and customer care. Google and Bing have become some of my best friends!

A couple of years ago, I came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post when I first drafted it. But with the incredibly unforeseen events of the past few years, I feel it deserves a update.

Already at the time, my analysis suggested a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers. Today it is clear that any organisation that hasn’t spent time putting things right, will most certainly be suffering in this post-pandemic, global unrest in which companies are trying to do business. I’d be interested to hear your own thoughts once you have read the article.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, another of my faithful friends, doesn’t have a definition for customer centricity! If you look up the term, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable.  Try it for yourself and see!

Gartner defines customer centricity as:

“The ability of people in an organisation to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations.”

It then goes on to say:

“Customer centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”

What I particularly like about this definition, is that it refers to customer understanding and the need for customers to be the focus of decision-making. It also highlights the need to create not just customer satisfaction, but loyalty and advocacy too.

Now whereas it seems to be difficult to build longterm loyalty these days, especially in B2C businesses, advocacy is essential in today’s connected world. Of course the latter means that customers are surprised and delighted rather than just satisfied, so that they are excited to share their positive experiences with others.


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Aim for Advocacy Rather than Loyalty

As we all know, it costs between 5 and 25 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain existing ones. (Invesp) Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand. But covid saw us all changing our purchasing behaviours, as we researched, compared and then bought more online. So although loyalty is difficult, it is not impossible to achieve and luckily advocacy demands the same positive experiences that once led to customer loyalty. So we should be aiming for improved customer service and experiences.

A positive customer experience increases both loyalty and advocacy. #CEX #CRM #CustomerCentricity #CustomerFirst #Loyalty #Advocacy Click To Tweet

Of course, what customers are looking for in a company has also changed dramatically. They now expect organisations to provide more than just their products and services. They expect them to care for their employees as well as the communities in which they do business.

 

Customer Experience is the New Differentiator

Retailers will need to review their bricks-and-mortar strategy as customers continue to order more online than the pre-pandemic era. McKinsey’s article on this topic “Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus” makes a good complement to this post.

Do you fix your prices to Amazon if a customer shows interest in buying something but hesitates purchasing in store? Many retail chains do this, especially in durables.

Another important consideration is making the customer’s experience as seamless as possible as their journey takes them r=from online to offline and back.

The experience you provide your customers is the main – dare I say the only? – way to differentiate yourself today. In so many industries product performance and services have become almost indistinguishable.

It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. Yes MORE for exactly the same product or service, so what are you waiting for? You can read a summary of the American Express research that was recently updated HERE.

In the post-covid reset, differentiation is going to move from products alone to increased service and care. As already mentioned, customers expect brands to support them in such hard times, but also their employees and communities. Companies who cut jobs and/or salaries while their board members take bonuses will be shunned.

What customers wanted until recently was a seamless experience from pre- to post-purchase, both on and offline. But with increased out-of-stock in physical stores and more purchases being made online, customers now want companies to support them and deliver an even better experience and service. This is definitely not the time to cut customer care departments if your organisation is looking to reduce costs!

What customers are looking for in a company has changed dramatically in just a few months. Do you know how their adapted behaviour is impacting your brand? #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

 

The Importance of Customer Satisfaction & Understanding 

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

1. Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer-friendly competitor. And this is why so many start-ups are stealing significant share from the major brands. They are super-focused on their customer.

2. Feelings are more important than fact. It’s also no longer (just) about product and service performance. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands and start-ups understand this better than anyone. And the pandemic further accentuated the importance of feelings and emotions. Many of us have become over-sensitive, even depressed, after months of lockdown and trying to follow the ongoing, constantly changing regulations. We want to feel good about our decisions and expect brands to play an active role in making our lives better.

It’s no longer about product and service performance any more. It's about how the customers FEELS about your brand. #Marketing #Brand #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

Customers have had to become more flexible in their response to constant out-of-stock situations for many categories and brands. However, there is a real danger that once they have accepted to buy a replacement brand, they may then question the need to return to the brand to which that had been previously loyal. I expect to see a lot of brand switching over the remainder of this year as a direct consequence of these forced behavioural changes.

And as if all this is not already difficult enough for businesses to cope with, the increased level of layoffs and furloughs, are forcing customers to reconsider their spending, and think about cheaper alternatives that they may never have previously considered.

3. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they truly are? Acting promptly before an issue becomes yet one more social media overnight viral sensation is essential today. Do it right and your complainers may even turn into advocates if they are delighted with the outcome.

Complaints are also wonderful (free) sources of innovation and renovation ideas. Find out what your customers are unhappy about and then propose a solution. You may even be able to charge more for it, since the new offer will better meet their needs.

Reacting promptly to your customers' complaints may even turn your complainers into advocates if they are delighted with the outcome. #Customer #CustomerService #CustomerComplaints Click To Tweet

4. Customer service is still being confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but that is no longer enough – if it ever was!

All businesses should be looking to surprise and delight their customers! After months of lockdown, customers have a short fuse and react more strongly when dissatisfied with a company or brand. We need to respond faster and more completely to demands, comments and complaints. Find more inspiring ideas on how to respond to customers in this great article entitled “The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction.”

 

The Future of Customer Service

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

I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends, although the latter has flattened in the past couple of years. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)

Source: Google

These trends suggest that companies search for how to improve their customer services and care centres, but not about how to understand their customers better or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer services should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Well apparently not, at least for most companies! They seem to be more worried about the technical side of the process of responding to their customers efficiently, rather than taking the customer’s perspective on what should be delivered.

This is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the cost of providing the service than in the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion. Do you agree? Whether you do or don’t, please leave me a comment below. This is too important a topic not to continue the discussion.

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

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

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

 

 wAAACwAAAAAAQABAEACAkQBADs

Unfortunately, as would be expected, all the more recent statistics available are from surveys conducted pre-covid, so I decided not to include them until we have a better grip on the impact the pandemic has had on people.

I then went back to Google to search for any ways that were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found over 133 million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results of doing it. While this is certainly a significant increase on the measly two million I found five years ago and the less than one million articles available just a couple of years ago, it is still extremely worrying.

The increased interest in customer satisfaction is certainly coming from a steady decrease in satisfaction levels over the past couple of years – long before covid struck. The latest results of the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) report shows customer satisfaction has been declining since mid-2018 and is now at a level last seen almost a decade ago! With behaviours changing radically during the pandemic, I will be watching with interest how the increase in online ordering and the decline in retail outlet shopping will impact these levels.

What customer want and satisfaction trends usaIt has been proven that changes in customer satisfaction are a predictor of future consumer spending. So it looks like we are not out of the woods yet, nor will be this year, if not next year as well.

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

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

 

Key Takeaways About What Customers Want

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

  1. Businesses should always provide positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to not only satisfy but ideally delight their customers. With frustration and lockdowns impacting the emotional stability of many, people are likely to react extremely positively to the slightest thing that goes beyond their expectation at the moment. Take advantage of this opportunity to solidify your brand’s reputation and that of your company too.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere technical process of customer-centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation. This means adopting a customer-first strategy of course, but also responding to the increase in contacts resulting from customers staying and purchasing at home. This is not the time to cut costs in the area of customer services, but to invest extensively to respond more quickly to requests for help from their house-bound customers. Read “What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)” for more on this topic.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer for every single business, whatever the industry, to adopt a customer-first strategy. And as previously mentioned, now that layoffs and furloughs have become the norm, it is vital that customer services remain at the heart of the business and are even expanded if customer connections increase – which they no doubt will in almost every consumer-facing industry.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most companies, especially when customers are becoming ever more demanding and verbose when dissatisfied. Frustrated customers stuck at home these days, are reacting even more quickly and negatively to being ignored or kept waiting at the end of the line when they call an organisation. After all, they have nothing much to do at home, so will concentrate on getting answers to their questions and complaints. This is confirmed by Matt Wujciak in his analysis “Global Contact Center Trends During COVID-19 Pandemonium.”

    ‘..the contact centre is experiencing an unprecedented increase in overall call volume, with a particular surge in aggressive (if not fanatic) customer inquiries.”

  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction. Responding to customers in a timely manner has become the table stakes for competing in most if not all B2C industries. And yet investment has not been increasing at the same level as the demand from customers. This has to change.
  6. Positive customer experience always increases loyalty and advocacy. It has been shown that a totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times as much revenue as a somewhat satisfied customer and 14 times as much revenue as a somewhat dissatisfied customer. Read “5 Reasons why customer experience is the pulse of every business right now” for more on this.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices. Perhaps now is not the moment to increase prices for your over-sensitive customers, but it is definitely the time to excel at providing the best possible service.

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

Customers also want companies to be more open, honest and transparent. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, the country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability.

One additional demand has surfaced this year, that for companies to protect their employees, to reduce layoffs, protect salaries and for management to show that they are adapting their own situations to match what their employees are going through. No bonuses or golden parachutes, when those below them are being furloughed or worse.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area, especially in the last six months? Please share your (success) stories below. 

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

And for more ideas on how you can understand what your customers really want today, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of customer understanding and service, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures. And yes they can be run online as well as in person.

If you would rather talk through your specific needs first, so we can personalise our support for you and your team, then feel free to contact me. It would be a pleasure to help you in these daunting times. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2018.

The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect Customers

I was recently asked to speak about how to build relationships with clients, in this case for a realtor association. In preparing for the interview, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how important it is to build a mutually beneficial relationship to respect customers.

Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. An article on Business2Community by Owen Ray says that

The tracking cookie is crumbling. Smart cookie-blocking technology led by Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) now block third-party cookies by default, and even Google’s Chrome will soon get controls that let consumers block cookies.”

If you want to understand more on the topic of cookies I highly recommend this two-part article.

Companies that are truly customer centric know that it is important to build a mutually beneficial relationship where there is something for both parties in exchanging information and services. Many businesses ask far too much of their customers, with little if anything in return. I believe this is one of the major reasons that customers today are becoming sensitive to what and to whom they give any information about their interests, habits, needs and wishes. And why cookies are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

I, therefore, thought it was useful to review the major points to keep in mind, when a business wants to collect information about its customers in order to offer products and services that better meet their wants and desires.

 

1. Ask Permission to Gather Information

This should be a no-brainer and yet I still find myself on lists to which I didn’t intentionally, if at all, subscribe! You too?

Whether you are connecting with your customers by mail, phone, email or the web, you need to first request permission to ask any questions and to gather the information you are looking for.

Not only should you ask for their consent if you are not in direct personal contact, but when connecting via email or the web, you should also double-check that permission. You have to ensure that the agreement has been given by your customer and that they are still ready to provide the information.

Being attentive to privacy when starting to build a relationship is vital and shows you respect your customers.

This also means asking them to confirm their consent not once, but twice. Double opt-in as it is known, ensures that your customer is correctly identified and that they have indeed themselves agreed to provide or receive information, or to be put on your mailing list.

Far too often I see requests where the permission is encouraged by using colourful buttons to click, or an implied criticism if you don’t, with phrases such as  “No, I have enough sales” or “No, I don’t want to save money”.

 

2. There Must be Mutual Benefit

When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them immediately. This can be as simple as offering coupons for your products, some valuable information not easily available elsewhere, a free guide or e-book on a relevant topic, or special privileges such as club membership or express shipping. Something that shows them that they were right to agree and that you value their information.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm them by asking too many questions in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, keep it simple to start with.

You can complete the information you require through several contacts over time, with the same customer. This also has the added advantage of keeping the conversation more frequent than it might otherwise have been. Ask just enough to be able to identify your priority metrics and then refine your understanding of them as you gather more information.

Your objective should be to build a long-term relationship with your customers, so don't gather more information than you can immediately use. #CEX #CRM #CustomerService #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

With so much choice available to customers today, it is our responsibility to build an engaging and respectful relationship with them. If there is no trust, there may soon be no sales!

What other ways do you show respect for your customers? Please share your best examples below. Of course, if you have come across a bad example that frustrated that, then please share it too. Let’s name and shame!

The Exciting Future of Brand Building comes from Customer Centricity

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

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

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

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

Brand Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Consumers changing behaviour

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

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

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

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

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

13 Most Inspiring Marketing Quotes and Questions to Live By in 2022

Are you like most businesses? Do you have a plan you are following that will (hopefully) enable you to reach your goals?

In order to meet them, we are often looking to make changes, large or small, in our organisation. At times like these I find it useful to motivate with some inspiring quotes from people much wiser than I. If you are looking for ways to motivate and inspire your own team, then I am sure you too will enjoy these.

This is my selection of great quotes from some of the best marketers around, together with a relevant question to ask yourself for each. If your favourite quote is not included, then please add it to the comments below the post.

 

#1.  “Strategy and timing are the Himalayas of marketing. Everything else is the Catskills” Al Ries 

This quote refers to the Catskills, a province of the Appalachian Mountains, located in southeastern New York and only 1270m high. It compares them to the Himalayas, a range that includes some of the world’s highest peaks, including Mount Everest (8,849m).

It uses this comparison to suggest that to succeed in marketing you have to afront the highest peaks of strategy and timing, and not be satisfied with scaling simple hills. In other words, be in the right place at the right time with the right offer. Simple!

QUESTION: Are you going to upgrade your marketing this year to meet this lofty challenge?

Strategy and timing are the Himalayas of marketing. Everything else is the Catskills. Al Ries #Strategy #Marketing #Brand Click To Tweet

 

#2.  “In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last” John Romero

I love this quote because it refers to knowing and understanding your customers. The best ones, however you define that, come first and your best prospects come second. If you’d like to know if you’re targeting your very best customers and best prospects, then check out the following post: How Well Do you Know Your Customers? 13 Questions your Boss Expects you to Answer

QUESTION: Do you know who your best customers are and everything you should about them?

In marketing I've seen only one strategy that can't miss - and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last. John Romero #Marketing #Brand #Customer Click To Tweet

 

#3. “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation”  Milan Kundera

This post shows the often forgotten importance of marketing to business. I know those of you in sales or operations etc will complain, but if customers don’t know and love your brands then you don’t have a business. It really is as simple as that. I also like that innovation is included, because especially today, customers have become so demanding that we need to constantly upgrade our offers to them.

QUESTION: Does your business value marketing? If not, how can you help them to recognise its value?

Business has only two functions - marketing and innovation. Milan Kundera #Business #Marketing #Innovation Click To Tweet

 

#4. “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions” Claude Levi-Strauss

Are you better at asking questions or answering them? Which is more important in your job? Why? A leader doesn’t have all the answers but should surround himself with people who do.

QUESTION: How often do you ask the right questions? What more could you ask and of whom?

The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions. Claude Levi-Strauss #Leadership #Business Click To Tweet

 

#5. “People Do Not Buy Goods And Services. They Buy Relations, Stories, And Magic” Seth Godin

As products and services get ever more similar, the brands that win are those that understand, engage and entertain their customers. Build relationships with your customers by telling stories about your brand origin, and weave in some magic that only your brand can deliver.

QUESTION: What are you doing to share your own stories and brand magic?  

People Do Not Buy Goods And Services. They Buy Relations, Stories, And Magic. Seth Godin #Quote #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet

 

#6. “A Brand Is No Longer What We Tell The Consumer It Is — It Is What Consumers Tell Each Other It Is” Scott Cook

Following on from the last quote, we need to be careful between sharing and telling. Brands should share interesting anecdotes and stories, things their customers are interested in.

QUESTION: How much of your website is made up of things you want to tell the customer? How much of it’s content are stories and information the customer is interested in knowing?

A Brand Is No Longer What We Tell The Consumer It Is — It Is What Consumers Tell Each Other It Is. Scott Cook #Brand #BrandImage #Marketing Click To Tweet

 

#7. “Make Your Marketing So Useful People Would Pay For It” Jay Baer 

The next phase of upgrading your marketing, once you are telling stories and building relationships, is to make it so useful that people would actually pay to have it. Today this includes eBooks, checklists, games, articles and memberships.

QUESTION: How useful is your marketing to your customers? Are you building loyalty by recognising and showing appreciation for their purchases?

Make Your Marketing So Useful People Would Pay For It. Jay Baer #Quote #Marketing #Customers Click To Tweet

 

#8. “Awareness Is Fine, But Advocacy Will Take Your Business To The Next Level”  Joe Tripodi

Awareness today comes in many forms. Awareness of your advertising, activities and promotions, social media posts. Is that what you measure? The problem is that all these metrics mean little if you are not resonating emotionally with your customers. And the only way you’ll know this is when people start supporting, advocating, recommending your brand.

QUESTION: What metrics do you follow to measure your marketing? When and how do your customers recommend you? 

Awareness Is Fine, But Advocacy Will Take Your Business To The Next Level. Joe Tripodi #Quote #Awareness #Advocacy #CRM #CEX #Business Click To Tweet

#9. “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be” May Sarton

No-one is like you. No-one in the past was like you. No-one in the future will be like you. You are unique with your own unique gifts and talents. So why not use them to make your business better? Treat your customers as if they were you.

QUESTION: How do you like to be treated? Use that as your guiding light for how you treat your own customers. Your business will be better off for it.

We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. May Sarton #Quote #BeOurself #Self Click To Tweet

 


If you’d like to know who you are and what gifts and talents you should be using to succeed in your career, then sign up for our free training. 


#10. “We see things as we are, not as they are” Leo Rosten

One of the biggest challenges in business is to see our brands as our customers do. Most of the time we make what we like, advertise and promote in a way that we like and develop new products and services that we like. What we like has no importance, only your customers’ opinion matters when you want to grow your business. So listen to them.

QUESTION: How often do you watch and listen to your customers? Whatever the frequency is, it’s not enough. Do more. 

We see things as we are, not as they are. Leo Rosten #Quote #Realism #Understanding #Perception #SelfAwareness Click To Tweet

 

#11. “Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life” Avinash Kaushik

Too many websites are filled with information that the brand wants to tell the customer. The best websites do the opposite. They are filled with content the customer wants or needs, and entertains along the way.

QUESTION: How good is your website at giving your customers what they want. If you’re not sure check out this article: From a Good to a Great Website: 9 Ways to Engage More Successfully

Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life. Avinash Kaushik #WebDesign #Website #ContentStrategy #Content Click To Tweet

 

#12. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” Charles Darwin

You know the world is changing and changing faster every day. The same goes for our customers. What attracted them yesterday only satisfies them today and disappoints them tomorrow. People want novelty and innovation. Make sure you are constantly upgrading your offer, but be careful to do so by adding what your customers want or desire. If you innovate based on your internal skills rather than external needs, your innovations will remain in the 95% that fail.

QUESTION: Is your portfolio filled with winners? Use Pareto’s principle (the 80/20 rule) to continuously evaluate your offers and eliminate the bottom 20%. Then add new offers that respond to customers’ needs of today, or ideally tomorrow.   

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin #Change #Intelligence #Survival Click To Tweet

 

#13. “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new” Steve Jobs

A golden oldie to finish with. This is reminder that asking customers what they want it not the best way to know what they want. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, as another os Steve’s quotes says, customers don’t know what they want until you show it to them. However, they do know very well what they don’t want and what problems they are facing when using the category.

The second reason is that people are changing so fast that by the time you make what the customer has asked for, they’re already in need of something else.

You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new. Steve Jobs #Quote #CRM #CEX #CustomerSatisfaction Click To Tweet

 

For even more inspiring quotes, do check out C3Centricity’s resources. There you can find hundreds more quotes, classified by the four foundational areas of a customer-first strategy, namely company, customer, brands and processes: https://bit.ly/3qwTFQa

The 23 Keys to Creating Raving Fans Part 1

This week we have another guest post from Alan Hale of CMG (Consight™ Marketing Group) in Chicago. Exceptionally, I am publishing it as two separate posts because its length and value deserve the detail and effort he has put into it.


I have been fortunate to have managed over 250 voice of the customer projects in B2B over the last four decades, with over 50 engagements on customer satisfaction and loyalty. These projects were across a wide variety of industries.

During this time, I have seen some great successes and some tragic failures in trying to make customers Raving Fans. Based on this experience, I wanted to share some best-in-class insights on how to make your existing customers Raving Fans.

According to industry research, acquiring a new customer is 5 to 7 times more costly than keeping your existing customers, which is why you need to concentrate on keeping your customers and making them Raving Fans.  While customer acquisition is indeed important, so is holding on to your customers and making them Raving Fans.

There is a lot of information on the media and LinkedIn about customer acquisition such as website development, SEO, ad words, effective selling and phone calling etc. Very little has been written on keeping and serving existing customers. Other industry research states reasons why accounts churn. Very seldom is the reason for defection price, no matter what the sales reps tell you. It is a breakdown in account service, the account is not being serviced at a level of their expectations.

First, let’s define a Raving Fan. The term was coined by Ken Blanchard in a book called, Raving Fans published in 1993. A Raving Fan is a customer, who is excited about your product, service or solution. Think of Apple and Tesla. These companies have waiting lists for products and sometimes have long waiting lines for a new product. They are your brand advocates and are an extension of your brand. The characteristics of Raving Fans are as follows:

  1. They are less likely to churn to a competitor
  2. They are extremely loyal
  3. They will buy more i.e. you have a higher wallet share
  4. They are more likely to buy new products, services or solutions offered in the future
  5. They are usually (not always) less price-sensitive and therefore more profitable
  6. They may give insight on possible new products, services or solutions to introduce
  7. They may refer you to other friends and colleagues and/or provide testimonials

Most of this discussion is applicable to both B2C and B2B; with the exception of the 80/20 rule which is explained later. The following discusses the issues and hurdles in creating Raving Fans.

1. Senior Management Paradigms and Expectations. Senior management has two dangerous paradigms. The first paradigm is “we know what our customers want. After all we have been doing this for many years and are successful.” Yes, but the past does not equal the future. There may be new expectations from customers and prospects. Markets are not stagnant, there may be new technologies or new competitors. Don’t act like a film manufacturer who ignored the trend to digital photos since their profit was in the development of film and prints.

The second paradigm is that “we treat all our customers equally. We use the Golden Rule.” Although this works well in society, it is bad policy in business. In business, the smarter and more strategic companies use a modified Golden Rule, “He who has the gold rules.” You need to over serve these large customers.

There also needs to be a commitment from senior management to implement the results of this process. This is “walking the talk”. It is not something else to do when there is time; this is a major initiative. Hold people accountable and make sure the results are implemented across silos. As with all initiatives and establishing cultural norms, you need senior management buy in to succeed. Otherwise it will fail like so many initiatives.

The C-Suite must drive the desire for delighting customers and creating Raving Fans deep into the DNA of the organizational culture. The customer orientation pyramid is shown in the infographic below, which illustrates a spectrum of customer treatment with Raving Fans being the ultimate goal and True North compass.

2. Validate your customer segmentation and value proposition. If these are not correct, it will be difficult if not impossible to create Raving Fans. For example, if you are selling a product with bundled service at a higher price point, and the company has its own technical support team internally, you will not be successful. If you have a brand new instrument but it is more difficult to use, you will likely fail. Ted Levitt a marketing professor in Harvard Business Review once said, “People do not buy drills. They buy holes”.

3. Under promise and over deliver. The majority of companies make promises and then fail to keep them; they over promise and under deliver. They should be under promising and over delivering. The job is to manage customer expectations as well as your performance. That means state a deadline you know you can easily meet, and then perform beating that promised time. This will set you apart from the competition. 

There is a Chinese restaurant we order from for home delivery. When we call, they always say one hour. They consistently deliver within 25 to 30 minutes. One day I asked the owner why he does this. He said, “But aren’t you happy”? When you promise to call back or give a response on a price quote, emulate the Chinese owner and manage expectations and beat your deadlines.

4. Concentrate your effort by focusing on the 80/20 principle. In business to business, there is a rule that 20% of your accounts have 80% of your revenue. So if you have 1,000 active accounts, there are 200 accounts that your business depends on. Another way to look at it is if your number one account defects, how much trouble would your business be in? Answer: Strong negative impact. Concentrate on over-servicing these key accounts. ITW has been successful in growing its business by executing this principle.

Start by listing your accounts in descending order of revenue in a spreadsheet. When you hit 80% of your revenue, you have defined your top major accounts. These are your “Gold” accounts. Next add to these accounts, large accounts that have either walked away or have significantly decreased their purchases with you. Then, add to that any accounts which you legitimately feel – not just the salesperson’s opinion – can evolve into a large account. Then finally add key target prospects who might grow into large accounts. This is who you should be trying to understand insights as well as overserve.

Next, identify the stakeholders in each account, those who use the product or service, those who specify, and those who purchase. Usually, every key account has 2 to 3 or more key stakeholders. It could be the user, the specifier, and the person who purchases. For a plastic bottle manufacturer it was the packaging engineer, purchasing, and marketing.

5. Go out and visit. LISTEN. This I believe is the absolute fundamental foundation for creating Raving Fans. You need to obtain insight which is not delivered from web surveys. This is not done by using a 3 to 5 question set on how you performed after each interaction on IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Get off your chair, go talk to them. How are we doing? How do we compare to our competitors and your best-in-class vendors? What else should we be doing? Are we a partner? (Note: if your product is insignificant, they may not want a partnership.) The customer should be talking 80% of the time. Unfortunately, this is seldom done. In our opinion it is negligent to not call on customers to determine how you can improve.

Implement the 10, 30, 90 day rule. The most important thing you can do is visit and listen to your customers. Every 10 days, once every two weeks, the CMO, VP Marketing, VP Sales and Marketing or Marketing Director needs to visit key customers. This customer listening should be 10% of their time. Other functions like engineering, new product design, customer service and billing etc. needs to visit a customer every 30 days and talk and listen to their counterpart. Ask them what improvements can be made? What can we do to make you a Raving Fan?

Senior management has a responsibility as well. Customers love senior management calling on them. They feel appreciated, heard and valued. They want to know if the visions of the two companies are aligned? Will senior management direct resources to make it happen? We believe the highest value accounts, should each be assigned to a senior manager for quarterly dialogues. Then, go visit them and listen to them. Each member of the senior management team may have 2 to 3 accounts assigned to her or him.

6. Supplement these personal interviews with other Qualitative We call these diagnostic questions in order to diagnose the current health of the client relationship, diagnose root causes for unhappiness and prescribe the key things to work on. We are a strong believer in using qualitative VOC (Voice of the Customer) discovery research to obtain insights, to understand the why’s. This can be a combination of focus groups, in-depth phone interviews, personal interviews, ethnography, and other qualitative research methodology. I honestly do not understand the reluctance to use qualitative research.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of web surveys. Pros include inexpensive to administer, quick to get feedback, and helps make the qualitative data more robust or even statistically significant. I have had numerous discussions about statistical significance. If you are surveying 80% of your sales in a B2B setting like 200 accounts out of 1000, you are not statistically significant on a pure number of accounts basis, but you are sampling 80% of your revenue. Which is more important? Of course, it is the 80% of sales. B2C service providers have a difficult time understanding this concept.

Web surveys are easy to fill out but do not provide the insight, and the why’s, with or without artificial intelligence. When you add qualitative questions to web surveys, a few things occur. First, very few respondents take the time to fill the information out. Second, they use two or three words with little elaboration. Sure web sites can count how many times responsive is mentioned, but if a respondent says they get back to me quickly, the association with the word responsiveness is not always picked up and categorized. And please stop telling me a word cloud is an insight. It is not. It is a picturesque way of showing the frequency of words cited.

When you do qualitative research, it is like peeling the onion to get to the issues that matter most. An example. What is your rating for our delivery? It is a 5 on a 10 scale. Why? The truck is late. Can you further explain? Yes, the truck misses the two-hour window. Why is that an issue? We have a small loading dock and lots of trucks. How can the client deal with this better? It would be great if they called when they are running late. This is called proactive communication.

There is a place for web surveys, but only after the qualitative is done, at least for B2B research. We actually like to use them as a way of collecting information from the non-key accounts. From a B2B perspective, spend the research dollars where it has the most impact – your largest accounts. In B2C with millions of customers, like bleach or toothpaste, it might make sense to start with quantitative to tease out opportunities where you then utilize qualitative research to dig deeper.

7. Use a mix of NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSat (Customer Satisfaction). There has been a lot of bashing of NPS lately in magazines and posts in business social media, mainly claiming it is not actionable. Well if you use it wrongly, it won’t be actionable. I hear comments like we have a 27% NPS, now what do we do? Who knows? If you did not get the reasons behind it and how to improve, all you have is a number. If you try to use a hammer on wood screws, it won’t work. Don’t blame the tool. In our opinion, NPS is a great tool to have in the marketing toolbox.

NPS is very valuable because it measures the relationship using the personal risk of recommending. It measures the overall relationship and not a specific transaction. The NPS number is a benchmark as well as a check on your progress on improving the relationship over time. The real value is in determining the insights, and crafting actionable tactics and strategies FOR EACH KEY ACCOUNT that will drive the number up. We are a strong believer in NPS and have used it to predict accounts that will churn in the future as well as those who will buy a lot more in the near future.

These are the first seven keys to creating raving fans; the remaining 16 will be shared in Part 2 of this post, which will be published next week. Make a note to come back here to read it.

Are Smart Things Really Smart or is it Just Smart Marketing?

Earlier this year I wrote about the impact of AI and ML on digital marketing. The article is called “AI and ML are Taking Digital Marketing to the Next Level.” In it, I compared the positive and negative implications of technology for customers and companies alike.  So this week I wanted to write about the impact of smart choices for business in general.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smartwatches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. But are they really that smart? 

The reason for my question is that an article entitled “Taking ‘Smart’ Out Of Smart Things” by Chuck Martin 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”.

We seem to be surrounded by smart things: smartwatches, smart clothing, smart cars, smart houses and smart appliances. But are they really that smart? Click To Tweet

 

The Age of the Customer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In one of their older Customer Experience reports Forrester claimed that we are now in the Age of the Customer. This was music to my ears when I first read it, because as you know I’m a customer champion. However, The World Economic Forum reported a few years ago that we are now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolutionwhich is blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.

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 are becoming less and less important 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. This will mean understanding what technology can and can’t do and then building our skills in the latter. 

 

Smart Data

In researching for this post I also found that “smart” is being attributed to many, many new areas and no longer just people. And this is thanks to the increased use of data, or as we now like to term it Big Data, and algorithms to analyse it all. 

Data gives us information about what to do, or more precisely, AI now controls many of the processes in which we are involved. Although humans are still smarter (for now?), machines can tell us things that we didn’t know, couldn’t work out for ourselves, or if we could, not as quickly.

AI and ML can recognise patterns in the data and then apply their “learnings” to future processes. You can read more about “What is Smart Manufacturing?” in this article from Industry Week.

It’s not that Big Data is smarter. While we certainly have more information and should be able to make a smarter use of it, unless we ask the right questions, it won’t make us any smarter!

Big data isn't smarter data. While we certainly have more of it and should be able to make a smarter use of it, unless we ask the right questions, it won't make us any smarter! #BigData #SmartData #Smart Click To Tweet

 

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 have to take during an average day.

Of course, those with fitness bands on their wrists, like myself, may just continue to do things manually for the increased statistics on our activity counter. We are also in constant competition to do better than we did yesterday. This article makes a good read on the topic.

But the average “Jo or Joe” 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 2019 CMO Pulse survey,

“As the champion of the customer, it is not surprising that CMOs cited customer centricity as their top strategic priority. What is concerning, however, is that while more than a third of the CMOs (35%) cited customer centricity as their top strategic priority, only 10% spend most of their time on optimizing the customer experience.”

Why? It’s simple:

“Customer centricity is the top priority for CMOs, but it is a significantly lower priority for the C-suite”

This might explain how CMOs are spending their time:

“67% of the CMOs surveyed said (they were) either driving revenue or driving strategy. The survey also found that 41% of CMOs see strategic thinking as the top capability gap they are focused on developing in their direct reports.”

So if you’re in marketing you’d better start honing these skills and not just your digital marketing, before the robot takes your seat! Smart people will realise and take action; the less-smart will wait and see. Which are you?

 

Smart Marketing is Responsible Marketing

If you do a Google search for smart marketing, you’ll get a lot of articles suggesting to use the old SMART objectives so popular with HR. You know, SMART is the mnemonic for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or relevant and time-based. And while these criteria can be just as applicable to our marketing goals, I think we deserve something a little more modern and relevant for today’s world, don’t you?

It’s wonderful to see that over the past decade, we’ve seen a huge increase in businesses becoming more responsible. Whether that is by looking after their employees better, supporting the region in which they are active, or through improved ecological and sustainable practices impacting the whole planet, companies have now recognised the importance of their place in the world beyond merely financial.

The current pandemic has now provided an additional opportunity for businesses to become even more responsible and show empathy as well. A great article  on Business2Community entitled “5 Ways to Do Smart & Responsible Marketing During COVID-19” summarises five ways companies can practice empathetic marketing:

  1. Adjust Marketing Campaigns and Scheduled Content Timelines
  2. Evaluate Your Imagery and Language
  3. Don’t Capitalize on the Crisis
  4. Be Positive, But Not Ignorant
  5. Highlight How Your Brand Can Help

But the pandemic will be over, eventually, so we need to consider continuing to practice responsible marketing in the years and decades to come. But what does that mean exactly and what will it mean in the future? I was fascinated to see just how many companies claim their marketing to be responsible, but then put a different meaning on it.

Perhaps for obvious reasons, the pharmaceutical industry talks about it more than do any other industry. For Merck, it simply means being ethical. But under that title, they include a lot of actions. These include reviewing all marketing materials, addressing violations to their standards and regulations, training their employees regularly, and limiting direct-to-consumer advertising. For a pharma company, the last one is particularly noteworthy, since many Europeans find the US approach to be somewhat shocking.

Bayer takes responsible marketing much further, highlighting the integrity of its marketing and sales in term of four commitments:

  • “To Comply with Laws, Regulations and Good Business Practices”
  • “To Be Honest and Reliable”
  • “To Listen Attentively and Communicate Appropriately”
  • “To Care about People, Safety and the Environment”

I love these statements, as they clearly apply to their employees as much as they do to their customers, clients, consumers. I also believe they sum up very well what responsible marketing should be all about.

If you work in B2B then I highly recommend your reading the article “Smart Marketing during the Covid-19 pandemic.” It’s full of both ideas and examples. In fact, even if you work in B2C I still believe you will find it useful for sparking new ideas in your thinking too.

 

So that’s my take on smart and responsible marketing. What do you think? What challenges and opportunities will smart things bring to marketing and business in general? Please add your comments below and let’s start a wave of smart discussions!

 

Winning Customer CentricityThis post includes concepts from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. 

It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

Want a discount code? Then email me at [email protected] and get the book almost half off!

 

Why UX Design is Vital to User Satisfaction and Ongoing Job Security

One of the greatest changes that the current pandemic has prompted, is the increase in the use of technology. From smarter homes to an improved online experience, people have a lot to gain from the situation. This is why UX design is vital to satisfying our customers’ demands and needs

To be fair, the trends were already there, covid just speeded them up. Recent reports have shown that:

  • 62% of consumers shop online more now than before the pandemic (Bazaarvoice)
  • 36% of consumers shop online weekly since covid, up from 28% pre-pandemic. (Digital Commerce 360)
  • 29% currently shop more online than in person, while 35% do both equally. (Digital Commerce 360)
  • Ecommerce accounts for 16.1% of all US sales, compared to 11.8% in Q1. (US Department of Commerce)
  • BOPIS (Buy online pick-up in-store) surged 259% YoY in August 2020, as many shoppers are concerned about the safety of in-store shopping. This is a 59% increase in August over July! (roirevolution.com)
  • 12% more time is being spent on digital this year. (Merkle)

Clearly, things have changed dramatically and businesses, both B2C and B2B are scrambling to catch up. Here are some thoughts about what is important to know when trying to meet our stay-at-home customers’ changing desires:

 

FROM TEXT TO VOICE

Most of us have grown up with text communication, but Gen Z, those born after 1996, are more comfortable with voice. They are less formal but far more impatient than previous generations.

They expect Alexa, Siri, Cortana and similar voice-activated personal assistants to be available whenever they have a question. With this type of search expansion into daily life, being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough. You have to be the number one answer to their questions!

Being on the front page of Google is no longer good enough; you have to be the number one answer for voice-activated, personal assistants. #Voice #VoiceActivated #SmartHomes Click To Tweet

 

AI IS NOT ONE TECHNOLOGY

Despite what digital marketers may have hoped, AI is not the solution to all our problems. It is simply a series of technologies addressing various current and future customer needs.

Unlike normal analytical processes, using AI needs developers and users to start with the end in sight. Knowing what we are looking for, rather than waiting to see what the analysis brings us, requires a very different thought process and skill set.

The questions asked become as important as the answers received, if not even more so. Therefore it is advisable to make them the best questions you can possibly ask. Your digital marketing has everything to gain and nothing to lose by better understanding these new customer’ demands and how technology can be used to meet them.

Unlike normal analytical processes, using AI needs developers and users to start with the end in sight. Knowing what we are looking for, rather than waiting to see what the analysis brings us, requires a very different thought process and… Click To Tweet

 

AI IS NOT 100% ACCURATE

AI is still in its infancy, despite great leaps forward in some areas in the past few years. For example, language translation is still far from accurate today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Anything that moves us toward increased customer satisfaction from our digital marketing efforts is great. However, we must understand their limitations and not be fixated on perfection.

One of the biggest challenges is siloed data – still! It is easy to see that the more information sources we integrate, the more accurate our platforms are likely to become. But until we finally break down our internal silos AI will not be able to deliver to its full potential.

Anything that moves us toward increased customer understanding and satisfaction from our digital marketing efforts is a great improvement. #CRM #CEX #CustomerCentricity #UX Click To Tweet

 

TAKING THE ROBOTS OUT OF PEOPLE

Robots are not new. Henry Ford was one of the first to realise the advantage of taking robots out of humans. In other words, gatting machines to do the boring, repetitive tasks done until then by people.

Today we need to consider the digital workforce as also an HR challenge and not (just) a technical one. Humans are not upskilling and progressing as fast as robots are. This is the real cause of any work losses that may happen as automation rolls out.

Humans are not upskilling and progressing as fast as robots are. This is the real cause of any work losses that may happen as automation rolls out. #Robots #Upskilling #Automation Click To Tweet

 

THE FUTURE OF WORK

Now that I’ve touched on the elephant in the closet, that of job losses, let’s talk about employment. The future is not so much about replacing workers, as in expanding and amplifying their work through the use of AI. And again the trend will only be amplified as businesses look to make serving their customers safer.

The future will be a world of work plus AI, not work minus AI. When, not if, robots take on many of our current tasks, people will need to supplement their knowledge with soft skills, ones that AI can’t replicate, at least for now. This is why I, like many others, refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence.We are not replacing people but increasing their capacities in many areas.

We should probably refer to AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial intelligence. We are not replacing people but increasing their capacities in many areas. #AI #Digital #Intelligence Click To Tweet

One area that will certainly need a tremendous amount of human input is in speech analytics. You probably don’t realise it, unless you’ve learnt another language or two, but speech has enormous diversity in the ways to say the same thing. Just ask any owner of Alexa, Siri or Cortana! Sometimes their responses are hilarious, at least at first, but these quickly become irritating when you can’t make yourself understood.

For me, this is when I am trying to get my BMW to call someone. The proposed people are rarely the person I am wanting to speak to and more frustratingly, the list of names have nothing in common with either the spelling or pronunciation of their name. Perhaps it would be easier if I spoke German!

If robots are to understand humans, then the alternative expressions need to be programmed in, before being understood. Although machine learning may speed our progress, the foundations must be identified and created by humans.

 

AI AND CARE CENTERS

Most businesses have customer service departments and many are jumping on the bandwagon of requesting AI. However, most don’t really know why they need it! The case for AI has to be put into terms of its business impact and relevance in order to be valued beyond mere “modernisation.” Just ask anyone who has chatted with a bot or gone round in circles clicking numbers on a self-service phone line! So many corporations today have increased their technology but have not improved their customers’ satisfaction.

AI is already proving to be of great value in following and analysing customer service connections. A supervisor can’t listen in or read every exchange, but AI can. However, as previously mentioned, understanding speech is still in its infancy, especially when it comes to sentiment. An agent will quickly sense when something is wrong or an answer is unsatisfactory, even when the customer is saying everything is alright.

 

CUSTOMER JOURNEY

The sequence of events that led to the customer’s connection, is just as important as the call to customer services itself. This is where total integration of all touchpoints is vital. The customer already sees them as such, but most companies do not. This leads to irritation when a customer must repeat their details and experiences with each new customer service agent.

It could be so easily eliminated, by simply integrating multiple data sources and then assessing the customer’s “effort” in getting the answers they are looking for. The greater the effort has been, the quicker a solution should be found and ideally, it should be more than the customers expects. This would be when surprise and delight become absolutely essential.

I believe that not taking the customer’s perspective here is the root cause of this less than satisfactory situation today. Once again, adopting a customer-first strategy is the answer.

Not taking the customer's perspective is the root cause of many less than satisfactory situations. #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet

 

If you would like to know just how customer centric you are, complete our complimentary assessment and get a detailed report of the areas of greatest opportunity for you.C3C Evaluator

 

DEVELOPING CHATBOTS

Customers in developed markets already have far more interaction with AI than they probably realise. However, when developing chatbots it is important to allow for far more variation in the words people use than we usually think of. The challenge is not only understanding the variations in vocabulary, but also the jargon, colloquialisms, spelling mistakes, acronyms and alternative expressions. This is one area where I believe we still have a long way to go in UX design.

Instead of aiming for perfection, by brainstorming all possible variants, our time would be better spent in identifying the 20% of variations that cover 80% of the cases. Ideally, we should first collect the information on the words people use and the way that most express themselves when speaking about a topic. Only then should we analyse what the company is most likely to receive and integrate the additional phrases. Perfection is once again the enemy in progressing the use of chatbots.

We also need to be transparent about when chatbots are being used. It may be a good idea to make them respond in a friendly way, but pretending to actually be a human is not a good idea. Customers will eventually understand that they are exchanging with a chatbot when the responses they are getting do not meet their expectations. That can only lead to frustration and perhaps even irritation that they have been cheated in some way.

 

AI TAKING DIGITAL MARKETING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

There are three main areas to consider where marketers are facing challenges that I believe can be helped through the use of AI:

  1. Digital marketing has made our communications’ media choice even more challenging. There are far more channels than ever, many being used concurrently, especially by the under 35’s. For example, it is rare for people to watch TV these days without either their smartphone or the internet catching their attention too. They will frequently switch from screen to screen and not only when the ads come on.
  2. The second challenge for marketing is that there are far more brands vying for attention online. The relative cheapness of advertising on the internet means that those brands that didn’t have sufficient budget to access traditional media because of their high costs, can now communicate directly with their current and potential clients online.
  3. Customers are more demanding and expect real-time responses to their questions, and ever-shorter delivery times for purchased goods.

AI and ML can improve digital marketing through predictive intelligence, content curation / creation, dynamic pricing, and especially by improving the customers’ overall experiences. I think that digital marketing is best used as an amplifier of traditional media, and when connections need to be more individualised, relevant and timely. This is not always the case, so it is important to choose wisely, rather than diluting efforts.

 

It is indeed exciting times for marketing with all the opportunities that technology, AI and ML offer us, to connect with and engage our customers. However, we are still faced with many of the same challenges we’ve always had.

Essentials such as knowing and understanding our customers more deeply, and removing the siloed information hubs within an organisation, remain critical. 

Without finding solutions to these, digital marketing will perhaps be cheaper in terms of investment but could become a more costly exercise and perhaps less effective. What do you think?

This post is an updated version of one first posted on C3Centricity in February 2019.

7 Ways to Deliver Awesome Customer Service

How can some companies get customer service so wrong?!

This week I have a longer post than usual, but one that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud.

It describes one recent personal example of disinterested client support, from which I have drawn seven learnings for everyone wanting to deliver awesome customer service.

I can’t understand why any organisation would still have trouble offering superior customer service when there are so many great examples they merely have to copy. (JetBlue, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Zappos) In fact, Mark Earls wrote a great book on exactly this topic, called “ Copy, Copy, Copy” which is highly recommended.

My story this week is just one example of how some companies still struggle to accept that the customer is right, even when they’re wrong! Not that I was wrong in this case (at least I don’t think so, but I’ll let you be the judge of that).

However, they certainly gave me the impression that they believed I might have been trying to cheat them in the information I provided in my emails. They were never satisfied with what I sent, even when it was what THEY had specifically requested!

Perhaps they were just dragging out the process in the hope of not having to “pay up”. You can see for yourself below, or just jump to the seven learnings at the end of the post, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself.

 

BACKGROUND:

Many years ago I bought a TomTom guidance system to help me navigate the streets of American cities. Although I love to drive  and feel just as much at home on a ten-lane LA highway as the two-lane Swiss autoroute system, I decided it was time to stop making so many impromptu visits to unplanned US destinations!

A few years on, I thought that it could also help me in Europe, even Switzerland, when trying to locate a new client or contact. (My car is almost fifteen years old  and isn’t equipped with a GPS!) I, therefore, added Europe to my online account, since my unit couldn’t keep both in memory at the same time!

Last May I replaced the European maps by my American ones as I was visiting Florida that month. When I tried to reinstall the European maps in September, they had somehow disappeared from my account. I contacted TomTom customer service to ask how I could get my maps back and this is how our conversation went over the pursuing three months – with their worst English mistakes removed or corrected for better comprehension, but their own font bolding left in. (!)

 

THE EXCHANGE WITH TOMTOM:

Me: Hi there, I contacted you in May about changing from European to US maps. I now want to change back and the maps are no longer on my account! Help please!!!”

TomTom“Dear Denyse, … As per your account details (…), I am sorry to inform you that, I could not see any map of Europe being active on the account in the past. Hence, I am unable to see any European map details. Hence, if the map had come pre-installed with the device, I request you to please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) so that I can activate it on your account. If you had purchased the map of Europe, then please provide me the scanned copy of the purchase receipt of the map so that I can activate it…” (We already exchanged a few months previously and anyway didn’t they READ my email?!)

Me: Here attached please find the invoice concerning my purchase.”

TomTom:Denyse, many apologies, but it seems the purchase invoice is not attached in the correct format since I am unable to open it. Hence, I request you to please send me the scanned copy of purchase receipt in PDF format so that I will be able to view it and help you accordingly.” (They can’t open an email with an image when they had originally asked for a picture of the box?! OK, well it’s true it wasn’t in pdf format!!!)

Me:Apologies for my delay in responding but I have been busy with trips – without my TomTom! As requested, I attach a PDF of the invoice.”

TomTom: Denyse, I would require the purchase receipt of the map of Europe that must have been provided to you after you purchased it. If you are unable to find the receipt of the map, please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) to check the device details.”

Me: Please find enclosed the invoice for the Europe maps that have disappeared from my account after replacing them with the US ones for a trip…”

TomTom: Denyse, we are unable to find the invoice of the map on the attached documents. I would request you to take a screen shot of the entire invoice or the part which has the order number and the date of purchase and the details of purchase.” (They can’t read the email that THEY sent to me when I made the purchase and now want a screen shot!)

MeThis is already what I attached to my previous email. Here it is again.”

TomTom: Denyse, the attachment that you are sending us is the screenshot of the email that you have received from TomTom. I would request you to send us the invoice which is sent as an attachment in PDF format with the email. Kindly download the invoice on your computer and while replying to this email, please attach the PDF file on your reply.” (Isn’t a screenshot what they asked for?!!)

Me: Is TomTom just trying to irritate a long-standing customer? I have replied to each email with the requested information  and each time you come back asking for a different format. You have the order number, the date, the item and the relevant item code of the maps I purchased directly from you online; what difference does the format of the document have? This is how the attachment appears on a Mac, which obviously you are not aware of, so I resend you the attachment as a pdf.”

This last exchange seemed to wake them up! Finally, they accepted that they had all the information they needed to confirm that I had indeed purchased the European maps, so they could once again reactivate them!

It took three months to get what I had requested, which could easily have been shortened to about three minutes if their customer services had had access to our previous email exchange – I am here assuming that they didn’t, because otherwise I would be extremely “disappointed”.

 

THE SEVEN LEARNINGS:

This is a great case study, as it shows numerous errors that so many organisations are still making in terms of customer care. These are the takeaways that you might want to consider in order to avoid similar long drawn-out – and resource-wasting – exchanges with your own customers.

So these are the seven learnings that I took away from this incident. Basic? Yes sure, but instead of just saying to yourself “I know this” ask yourself “Do we do this – always?”. It is surprising how many of the basic elements we forget to check as we advance in experience –  and years!

If you have other examples of frustratingly poor but easily resolved customer service mistakes, then please share them below. We all need a laugh from time to time, especially as more and more of us are in quarantine because of covid-19. And learnings from others are so useful in helping us avoid making the same mistakes ourselves.

 

Need help in upgrading your own customer services? Check out our website for inspiration and then contact me here: https://c3centricity.com/contact

 

Customer excellence roadmap in the book Winning customer centricityThis 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, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

 

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