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Today’s Toughest Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logo
Image source: Amazon.com

I have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want

"to be the Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

Although they don't specifically mention exceeding their customers' expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn't trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

One recent challenge for Amazon is the claimed increase in fake reviews. I myself was once asked to give a five-star rating in return for a total reimbursement of the cost of the product. Needless to say, I immediately returned the item and informed Amazon.

This practice seems to be particularly common for articles coming from China, although I am sure it is becoming a widespread behaviour as companies realise the importance of high customer ratings. In fact, there are now even platforms for checking the validity of reviews, so hopefully things will improve in the near term. If you would like to learn more on the topic, then I suggest you read this great article on cnet.

Zappos

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

Just like Amazon, Zappos too has made customer centricity the heart of their business. Their mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their "WOW Philosophy," is "To provide the best customer service possible."

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that

"We believe that customer service shouldn't be just a department; it should be the entire company."

That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is

“To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer's expect today - the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. 

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

Apple

Apple targets customer satisfaction
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video way back in 2014 Tim Cook talked about being "better." While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

Over the past four years, we have seen clear evidence of Cook's vision coming true. In an interview for Fast Company earlier this year, he was asked what makes a good year for Apple. His reply?

"For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year."

How many organisations would look different if we used these same criteria!

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

 

Brompton Bikes

Brompton bikes offer exception customer satifaction
Image source: Brompton Bikes

The final example I want to share is from the UK and shows how even retail can become an essential part of delighting the customer. The brand is Brompton Bikes, a folding, city bike.

They understand that it is no longer sufficient to provide an excellent product and an easy way to buy them or to order online. Brompton have realised that their retail outlet needs to be an integral part of the brand experience, if they want to not only satisfy, but delight their customers.

Now while that may not in itself be that new, Nike and other trainer brands have been doing this for a while, it is the first time I have seen it done for durable goods.

What Brompton have done particularly well, is to understand their urban buyers' lifestyle. They have been able to become an integral part of it, by not only providing transport, but also an easy way to buy accessories, get repairs done and even to park safely while their customers visit the adjacent shopping mall. In other words they have made their brand a solution for city dwellers.

 

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level, by offering more than mere customer satisfaction:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is becoming ever more difficult to do this these days, it is definitely worth the effort in order to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. Brompton have achieved this by deeply understanding the lifestyle of their customers. As Maya Angelou is famed for saying

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

  • Strive for better in everything you do, Never be satisfied with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee's objectives to ensure your products and services not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.

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

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

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

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

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The 6 Best Ways to Show you Respect your Customers

More than one year after the introduction of GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, I wondered what has changed. And more importantly, I got to thinking about customer privacy and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship whilst also respecting it.

Customers don’t want to be automatically segmented and followed as they go about the web, viewing different sites. A recent article on Business2Community by Owen Ray said 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 who 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. Too many businesses ask 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.

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 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 consent; if you are not in direct personal contact, but 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. It 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.

 

2. There Must be Mutual Benefit

When your customer has agreed to provide information you need to thank them in return 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 everything in one go. Since your objective is to build a long-term relationship with them, you can complete the information you require through several contacts 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

 

3. Make them Feel Special

More and more CPG companies and brands now offer a loyalty program, especially to their higher-value consumers. These provide more targeted privileges and even give the opportunity to preview new communications or product concepts. In general customers love to give feedback and it has the benefit of building a closer tie to the brand as they feel ownership of those launched.

This is probably one of the more intimate and bigger win-win relationships that can be developed with your customer. But it does take a dedicated team within the company to manage such a club, as these customers are naturally the most demanding for services and constant information updates. So only set one up when you know you can satisfy their needs, as otherwise they can feel frustrated when they perceive they are not getting the attention they think they deserve.

Over the past couple of years, we have started to see new types of member offers. Sephora launched a members-only social platform, which encourages shoppers to share beauty tips and advice, and to comment about any new products bought, not just those from their stores.

Nike has taken things to the extreme by opening an entire members-only store concept, Nike Live, in Los Angeles.

Both of these provide exceptional recognition to their members, making them feel a part of an exclusive program, which is exactly what they are!

 

4. Keep the Relationship Fresh

Once you start building the relationship with your customers, you must continue to interest them by offering news, information, photos, videos or articles of interest. This can be quite a strain on internal resources, so you may want to (also) consider including user generated content (UGC) on your website.

Not only does this ensure continuously updated content, but also involves the customer in what is shown, so that it remains relevant and of interest to them. People love to post and comment, so include message boards, tip sharing platforms or photo albums, whatever is relevant to your targeted customers.

Beauty, fashion and petcare brands were amongst the first to make use of UGC, as they are in very visual industries. Who doesn’t want to share a photo of themselves when they are looking especially beautiful, or show how cute their cat or dog is?

One great example comes from L’Oreal. Their DermaBlendPro brand encouraged users to share photos or videos of how the brand had transformed their look, by hiding disfiguration or tattoos. They clearly understood that happy customers make the best brand ambassadors, and this was clearly proven by the thousands of entries and immense buzz the brand received on social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

 

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5. Ask their Advice - Frequently

For your customers to appreciate how much you value them and their business, involve them in it, by asking for feedback on how you are doing. If you have new ideas or plans, share details with them or enable them to vote for new flavors, concepts or advertising ideas.

You can also enable them to preview the ads or products before everyone else, but do make sure you provide them with some great information about it too, so that they can share it with their friends and family members. This will make them feel like the special and valued customer they are, and also help you spread the word - for free!

 

6. Always Offer a Simple Way Out

Once you have made the connection with your customers, recognize that they might change their minds at any time and want to unsubscribe from your club or mailing list. Make this as quick, simple and pain free as possible. This shows respect for your customer and their time, and also enables them to leave with a positive opinion of you and the brand. You never know, they might change their minds and stay after all, or come back again in the near future.

From making the unsubscribe link in tiny font to pale and almost illegible, to using button colours to mislead, many brands think that this will stop people from unsubscribing. It may, but it is more likely just to irritate them and label your communications as spam.

Even large companies get this wrong. Apple may provide full details of all the different ways to connect on their contact page, but it is laid out in an overwhelming block of text that is so off putting I doubt anyone hunts to find the information they need.

Apple shows how not to respect your customers

Another example used by Swiss airlines and their parent company Lufthansa almost had me agreeing to give all my information, not just the necessary data to make my experience more comfortable. Their coloured button draws the eye and without reading you could end up making the same mistake I almost did.

No way to respect your customers

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!

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How Can You Provide Better Service For Your Clients?

How Can You Provide Better Services For Your Client? This is a great question isn’t it? It was asked recently on Quora and I answered it, as I do many that are posed on topics such as brand building and customer understanding.

But this question is I believe very different from most of those asked on Quora. That’s because it is one that every company, product, service and brand should be asking!

The answer is actually in the question itself if you look closely.

 

Provide Better Service

Firstly what is better service? Is your clients’ perspective the same as yours? And better than what or whom? Whenever a comparison is made it is vital to understand with what it is being compared.

To answer that, we need to understand what is important for customers. What is essential and can’t be forgotten, and what else would delight them and make them not just satisfied, but delighted and maybe even surprised. That’s a lot to ask I know, but even that is not enough!

We also need to ensure that we are better than our competitors, assuming that they are to what we are being compared. You’d be amazed how many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they are. We need to understand the exact category in which we are competing so that we can also identify the major competitors. Let me give you some examples.

Are dried packet soups competing with other dried packet soups? Or also with canned soups, or boxed soups, or homemade soups, or even sauce mixes? Depending upon the answer to each of those questions, the competitive set is going to be vastly different.

Depending upon the category you identify as being the one in which you are competing, your competitive set is going to be vastly different. Are you sure about yours? #Brand #Marketing #Competition Click To Tweet

Once you know with which other brands you are competing, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. You should be able to identify one thing at which you excel in order to have a reason for customers to buy your offer rather than a competitors.

Now it is obviously difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than every other competitor in the category in at least one area. That should be our USP or unique selling point. It should be what we are known for and hopefully also the reason people buy what we have to offer.

It is difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than our competitors in at least one area; that's our USP or unique selling point. #Brand #Marketing #USP Click To Tweet

To identify this, we need to know our competitors very well and understand why their customers buy them rather than us. Is there anything about these customers that we could satisfy better than they are? Is there anything about our competitors that their customers are still dissatisfied about? Is there something we can offer that our competitors can’t? Then when we have found it (them), all we have to do is to make sure our current and potential customers know.

Here are some great examples:

TOMS: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One®

Target: Expect More. Pay Less.

Avis: (We’re number two.) We try harder.

Southwest Airlines: We are the low-fare airline.

FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

M&Ms: The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

Domino’s Pizza: You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.

In most of these cases the USP has also become the brand and communication slogan. What others can you think of? Add them in the comments please.

 

Deep Customer Understanding

The second part of the question is answered by not just knowing but also deeply understanding our customers. By that I mean not just knowing their demographics – they are men 18 to 24, or housewives with young children at home, but a much deeper intimacy with them. I use what I call the 4Ws when learning about Group of customers. WHO they are;WHAT they buy, consumer, read, watch, surf etc,; WHERE they buy, consume, read, watch, surf etc; and most importantly of all WHY? Why do they choose the category, the brand, the  pack size, the shop, the time, the location, their hobbies, etc?

Once you know who your customer is (and potential customers too) and why they are buying your brand, you will know exactly what better service means for the. Then all you have to do is deliver – beyond their expectations. That is what makes better service great service.

Hopefully this short yet still detailed answer inspires you to now go out and do it for your brand. Enjoy the journey!

What Customers Want Today. (And How to Give It To Them!)

As a customer centricity champion, just like you I hope, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers want.

I’m always trying to understand exactly what their preferences are today, and where these may be going. My regular searches online include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer Centricity

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction! Unbelievable isn’t it?  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to online resource for understanding terms is  businessdictionary.com, which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.”

It then goes on to say:

“A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition somewhat limited since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric for any and every business:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs ten times – if not even more – to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep a current one. Therefore strong loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut if they can’t. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”  HERE.
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you differentiate your brand? By your customer care, that’s how. And knowing exactly what your customers want. 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 why are you waiting? You can read a summary of the American Express research that reported this finding HERE.

I would also add that to summarise what customers want today, it is a seamless experience from pre to post purchase, both on and offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction, build loyalty and create raving fans.

 

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:

  • Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the 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. It’s no longer (just) about product and service performance any more. It’s about how the customer feels about your brand. Niche brands have understood this better than anyone.
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 are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today and your complainers may even turn into advocates if delighted with the outcome. Complaints are also a 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 since the new offer will better meet their needs.
  • 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. All businesses should be looking to surprise and delight their customers! Find more inspiration on this in “The Revolutionary Marketing Challenge is Not Customer Satisfaction.”

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. However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below)

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Well apparently not, at least for most people!

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than 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 comment below.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. 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 latest 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 I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found almost 100 million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. While this is certainly a significant increase on the measly two million I found just a few years ago, it is still extremely worrying.

The increased interest in customer satisfaction is confirmed by the latest results of the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) report. It shows customer satisfaction is stable after showing steady growth since the beginning of last year. That was the latest turnaround after more than two years of disastrous declines.

Customer satisfaction shows what customers want
National ACSI Q1 2018 USA

It has been proven that changes in customer satisfaction are a predictor of future consumer spending. So although we can rejoice at the return to higher levels, the latest stagnation suggests average future spending growth at best.

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

“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.”

In the UK, which leads Europe in terms of customer satisfaction, levels also rose for the first time in four years, reflecting a more positive economy. However, that was before the Brexit vote and before the exit! I am looking forward to seeing whether the Brits’ optimism continues this coming year.

 

Key Takeaways

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 a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to not only satisfy, but ideally delight their customers.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation, by adopting a customer first strategy. Read “What a Customer First Strategy Is (And what it’s not!)” for more on this.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer for every single business, whatever the industry.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most companies, especially when customers are becoming ever more demanding and verbose when disatisfied.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience always increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

In summary, 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 open and transparent. They want immediate, if not instantaneous, answers to their questions and criticisms.

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. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

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 in the past year or so? 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 C3C Evaluator™ quiz and find out exactly where your greatest opportunities lie. 

For more ideas on how you can understand what your customers want even better, 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.

If you would rather talk through your specific needs first, so we can personalise the course just for you and your team, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. The featured image at the top is from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.”

13 Inspiring Marketing Quotes (And the Actions You Can Take)

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What habits have you become so comfortable with that you don’t even notice or question them? With today’s fast-paced world, businesses need to be constantly adapting and preparing for the future.

These thirteen marketing quotes (plus a bonus one!) are amongst my favourites of all time. They will hopefully excite and inspire you to consider what changes you need to make to become even more successful through a customer first strategy.

As is the tradition at C3Centricity, there is a recommended action for you to take for each quote. How many will you complete?

#1. “There may be Customers without Brands, but there are no Brands without Customers.” Anon (>>Click to Tweet<<)

This has to be the most important marketing quote to remember for all of us wanting to be more customer centric. It’s also one of my favourites, as I’m sure you’ve realised!

Brands depend on customers and if companies remember this, then they can only succeed. If however they get so tied up in their products & services that they forget their customers, they may enjoy their work but their brands will always be vulnerable to competition.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Watch the Customer First Strategy Webinar HERE

 

#2. “Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets.” Nido Qubein (>>Click to Tweet<<)

One of the biggest mistakes marketing can make is to not appropriately define its target audience. It is understandably hard for a brand manager to accept that he can’t please all category users and that his target sub-category is smaller than the total category he thinks he could attract.

By trying to please everyone, we end up pleasing no one! So bite the bullet and reduce your target category size by being more precise in selecting and describing your audience.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Learn the essentials of targeting HERE.

 

#3. “The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” John Russell, President, Harley Davidson (>>Click to Tweet<<)

If they aren’t already included, then every employee should have regular customer connections added to their annual objectives. Whether they are the CEO, an Executive Vice-President, a machine operator, sales clerk or brand manager, they all need to understand how their day job impacts the satisfaction of their customers.

Customer connections also inspire new thinking, can identify previously unknown issues and excite everyone to think customer first in everything they do.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Sign up below for the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar.

 


For more ideas about getting to know your customers, join the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement to Grow your Business Faster.

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#4. “If you use standard research methods you will have the same insights as everyone else.” David Nichols (>>Click to Tweet<<)

When was the last time you revised your market research toolbox or refined your insight development process? It’s a rapidly changing world both technologically and societally-speaking. The methods you use to observe, understand and eventually delight your customers should be moving as fast, if not even faster, to stay in touch with the market.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Attend a 1-Day Catalyst session reviewing all your market research methodologies and metrics. Find out more HERE.

 

#5. “The structure will automatically provide the pattern for the action which follows.” Donald Curtis (>>Click to Tweet<<)

There has been a lot of discussion about the new roles of the CMO, CIO and the creation of a new CCO (Chief Customer Officer) position. Perhaps it is time for your organisation to review its structure and see if it is still optimal for the business of today, as well as of tomorrow.

As mentioned above, the world is changing rapidly and you need to keep abreast of these changes to stay in the game. Who wants to find themselves the equivalent of the Kodak or Borders of 2017?

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Develop plausible future scenarios to prepare for possible opportunities and threats. Contact us HERE.

 

#6. “Customer Service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the entire company.” Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos (>>Click to Tweet<<)

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes from a man I truly admire, for truly “getting” customer centricity. Their slogan is even “Powered by Service”! As already mentioned above, every single person in a company has a role to play in satisfying the customer.

Zappos have an integration program for all new hires – including the EVPs – that incorporates time at their call centre answering customer queries. What a great way to show a new person what the company is really about.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Why not start a similar introduction programme in your own company and organise regular customer connection sessions? We can show you HOW.

 

#7. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Marketing roll-out plansToday’s customers are very demanding which has prompted many companies to increase their innovation and new product launches. However, it has been shown that renovation is as important as innovation in keeping customers satisfied (find links to relevant articles HERE).

Instead of forcing your marketing and R&D to meet certain percentage targets of new launches, most of which will be destined to failure according to latest statistics, why not review your current offers with new eyes?

If you truly understand your customers, you will quickly find small changes that can make a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty, when you take their perspective. And as an added bonus, if it solves a frustration of theirs, it might even bring you increased profits, since the perceived value will be higher than the cost.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Download the free "Secrets of Innovation" eBook by completing the form on the right-hand side of this page.

 

#8. “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos (>>Click to Tweet<<)

In the past, most companies were more concerned with the reputation of their brands than they were with that of their company, other than with investors. As consumers become interested in knowing and adhering to the policies of the companies behind the brands they buy, it is vital to manage your image from both perspectives.

In addition, if your company is the brand as is the case of Coca-Cola or Red Bull, then this is vital to follow very closely. The same applies for any organisation that is considering adding their company name more prominently to their packaging.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Review whether there are differences between your company and brand images and whether they are complementary. And book a 1-Day Catalyst Training Session to ensure you are measuring the right metrics to optimise your images.

 

#9. “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Chinese Proverb (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Today’s customers often have more complex paths to purchase in many categories than they did in the past, so thinking of the simple awareness to loyalty funnel becomes less relevant.

In order to understand the purchasing of your brand, think information integration, as customers are becoming as savvy about products as they are about themselves. They seek out information based on the size of their budget and take the time needed to make what they consider to be an informed decision.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Check whether you are in every relevant touchpoint with appropriate information for them. Learn more about optimising your communications HERE.

 

#10. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Winston Churchill (>>Click to Tweet<<)

If your world has changed then so should the metrics you use to manage the business. Annual reviews of your KPIs should be made, if not even more frequently.

Also, review last year’s business results in comparison to the metrics you have been following. Were you correctly assessing the environment, the market and customer behaviour? If not, then it's probably time to update your KPIs.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Review and refine your KPIs. Find out more in Chapters 37-38 of "Winning Customer Centricity."

 

#11. “The fear of being wrong is the prime inhibitor of the creative process.” Jean Bryant

Do you embrace entrepreneurship in your organisation? What happens when someone fails whilst trying something new? The more accepting you are of relevant trial and error exercises, the more likely it will be that your employees will share their more creative ideas.

If failure is punished, then they will be reluctant to try or even propose new things and your business will stagnate. This is a great time to review your ways of compensating creativeness as well as how you share learnings from failures.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Download the FREE "Secrets to Actionable Insights" below.


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#12. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.” T S Eliot

Do you ever take decisions based on information or knowledge? If so then perhaps you should reconsider your insight development process.

While information and knowledge are essential to a deeper understanding of your customers, it is only when you have integrated everything you know and understand about them, that you can begin to develop insights that will positively impact your customers’ behaviour.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Sign up for a 1-Day Catalyst Training Session on "Insights to Action" or "Insights to Impact." More information HERE.

 

Storytelling#13. “If you can’t sum up the story in a sentence, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Garr Reynolds

Taking the decision to share information and understanding in a new way through storytelling, will have a profound impact on the way your employees think and remember the essential understandings of your customers.

Before every presentation ask yourself what is the one sentence that sums up everything you want to share.

If you can't come up with one, then perhaps you don't know what you're talking about, or perhaps you just need more time to practice.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Read Chapters 45-47 in "Winning Customer Centricity."

 

So there you have thirteen marketing quotes that will excite and inspire most people. And because I promised you a bonus if you read to the end, here is one more which aptly sums up all the others.

It is the one message out of all these marketing quotes from Charles Darwin which remains vital to remember in this awesomely changing world we live in.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, it is those most responsive to change”

If you have your own favourite marketing quote that inspires you to change your business practices in 2017, then please share it below. We would love to hear from you and we promise we'll add it to our growing library of quotes, with appropriate credit to you. (Fame at last!)

For even more inspiring marketing quotes, why not check out our website library? it's regularly updated.

C³Centricity used images from Denyse's book "Winning Customer Centricity" in this post.

Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees

Your customers only really care about themselves and your product’s value to them!

I’ve been a customer champion for most of my career. But with the likes of Richard Branson saying it’s employees first, customers second, my confidence was beginning to slide a little.

Thank goodness, therefore, for some new research from Global RepTrak® that has finally confirmed what I have always believed. Customers care about themselves first and foremost! Everyone else comes second.

Dale Carnegie spelled it out really well when he said:

“People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.”

People are interested in themselves - morning, noon and after dinner. Click To Tweet

It was the below chart that I first saw on MarketingCharts.com that alerted me to this work by RepTrak™. (I highly recommend signing up for their daily charts by the way; they’re a great source of facts and inspiration!)

 

Customers care most about your product's value
Click to enlarge

 

The article that accompanies the chart is a great read too. However, I wanted to take a look behind these numbers and try to understand why some influencers have been pushing employee centricity.

 

Products And Services Are Key

The first four factors of reputation shown in the graph above are all product related. Therefore it’s clear that customers think about themselves first and foremost. They want satisfaction and therefore it’s a product’s value that matters most. I think that’s normal, don’t you? They are looking for a solution that meets their needs and a company that stands behind what they offer.

Great customer service won’t make up for a terrible product or service offer. So every organisation needs to ensure that what they propose is the very best they possibly can.

Great customer service won't make up for a terrible product . Click To Tweet

However, it is also true that the quality and value you offer depends to a large extent on the excellence of your employees in delivering it. If employees are not motivated to give their best, then what they deliver will be sub-optimal.

This is why it is essential that everyone within a company understands their role in satisfying the customer.

One of the quickest ways I have found to achieve this is by providing regular access to the customer. Once an employee sees and understands what they can do to increase satisfaction, they are much more likely to do it. After all, it’s absurd to think that they would want their employer to fail, isn’t it? In fact, I have seen a genuine excitement around customer connections whenever I have introduced them within an organisation.

If you’d like to organise your own customer connection sessions then I highly recommend reading “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

 

Employees Are An Important Touchpoint

I think it was P&G who coined the phrase “the first moment of truth” in referring to the beginning of the shopping experience. I would, therefore, add employees, at least in retail and other consumer-facing industries, as being a close second. However, the vast majority of products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with their customers. (sadly true even today, which is why I encourage regular customer connections as I mentioned earlier.)

Most products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with customers. Click To Tweet

Now it’s true that service industry employees matter to the customers, but even now I’m not convinced they come first. I still think customers will judge a hotel, a restaurant or an airline based primarily on the product’s value, just like any other industry. However, it is obvious that loyalty is impacted by and depends upon the services offered.

Loyalty in the service industry will be impacted by & depend upon the services offered. Click To Tweet

Shep Hyken wrote a great piece on this topic called “Customer Service Means Never Saying Never (But If You Must, Say It In A Different Way)” which I highly recommend. In it, he talks about the customer NOT always being right, but concludes with the old customer service saying:

“You’re not trying to win an argument. You’re trying to win a customer.”

As he says “You really can’t win an argument with a customer. If you “win,” it means the customer has “lost,” and you could end up losing the customer.”

That is why it’s important to hire the right people and then give them sufficient freedom to solve almost any issue for the customer. If you force them to follow a rulebook of acceptable answers, then you will limit their authority to satisfy the customer. They may actually end up saying “we can’t do that” to the customer, which is sure to irritate them and won’t exactly encourage loyalty! After all, isn’t that what customer service is all about, protecting the business’s current and potential customers?

Customer service is all about protecting the business's current & potential customers. Click To Tweet

 

Companies Should Be Ethical

Going back to the RepTrack report, it is interesting to see that ethical and fair practices score above average, yet treating employees fairly and rewarding them appropriately score well below average. Again this confirms that it is what directly impacts the customer that matters most to them.

An organisation’s impact on society matters more to customers than their fairness to their employees. In other words, it’s the higher order practices of corporate social responsibility that enable the customer to feel good about spending their money with the company.

In fact, recent research shows that CSR has a direct impact on customers’ purchase decisions, especially for women.

Corporate Social Responsibility has a direct impact on consumers’ purchase decisions. Click To Tweet

Customers are interested in CSR

 

Employees Are Still Important

Coming back to Branson’s position about the importance of employees, there is one of his comments that I do support. He said in an Inc interview that

“Unhappy employees can ruin the brand experience for numerous customers.”

“Unhappy employees can ruin the brand experience for numerous customers.” Richard Branson Click To Tweet

Clearly, this is an extreme situation and management should do everything to treat their employees well; that just makes good business sense. Unhappy employees will impact your product quality and the motivation of others, not just that of your customers.

There have been many examples to confirm this, such as incidents involving FedEx, United Airlines and Domino’s to name just a few. Click on their names to remind yourself of these famous customer service disasters.

More recently the automobile industry has been facing numerous scandals of emissions and fuel economy frauds. It seems that Volkswagen was not an isolated case and since then Opel, Chevrolet/GMC/Buick, Daimler, Fiat/Chrysler, Mitsubishi and most recently PSA and Renault have been scrutinised. Whether these were coordinated, isolated or employee driven is still to be ascertained.

I understand that when you’re in business, your goal is to sell products and services to your customers and make money for your shareholders.

Business sells products & services to customers & makes money for shareholders. Click To Tweet

However, why don’t employees ever ask the question about the impact of their behaviour on the customers? And if that customer was their wife, daughter, family member or friend, would that make a difference? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t; as human beings, we should want to treat every other person fairly. At least that’s what I believe.

One of the best ways to better understand your customer’s needs is to look at their purchase journey and especially their emotions at each step. I recommend reading “Do You Know Your Customer Journey Map & the Emotions Overlay?” for a review of this topic.

So in conclusion, our customers – and we are all someone’s customer – care firs and foremost about your product’s value to them. Will it answer their needs? Will it be the solution to their problem? I therefore don’t see how there can be any doubt that customers matter more than employees. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. It’s just as conflictual and complex as the “chicken or egg” question if you ask me!

 



 

Forgotten Facts & Fantasies of Customer Delight

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve just returned from a three-week visit to Peru. I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at IIEX-Latam in Lima and decided to take time off to visit the country after the conference. How glad I was that I took that decision, because I discovered that Peruvians are experts in customer delight!

PeruPeru is an understated yet remarkable country that deserves a more amazing reputation than I believe it has today. While its image is dominated by Machu Picchu, this wonderful l and has so much more to offer visitors. From the sprawling cities of Lima and Arequipa to the rugged desolation of the high altitude desert plains and the humid cloud forests, I quickly fell in love with the country and its people.

Of course, my mind is never far from work and I realised that I was so enamoured by this country because it’s people have customer centricity down to a fine art. They are happiest when they are delighting their visitors. Let me share a few of the surprising experiences I had on my trip –  I’m not referring to the amazing l andscapes – and which I hope will inspire your own customer centricity!

 

You’re welcome

Nowhere is this truer than in Peru. The North Americans may be quicker to wish you a good day, or to ask how your trip was, but they don’t really expect nor hear your answer.

It is the opposite in Peru. They go out of their way to ensure you are happy, even when you can’t speak their language.

A warm welcome is something you show your customers, consumers, and clients. (>>Tweet this<<) It is not a simple phrase repeated without depth or substance. It is caring about how you can deliver customer delight. So how do you show your customers that they are truly welcome?

If you have a digital presence and have an opt-in form, then this is by sending back a welcome email immediately, introducing yourself and thanking your customer for signing up. You’d by amazed in this day of simplified automation, that not all websites have this welcome programmed within their sales funnel!

GoldfishAccording to research conducted last year by Microsoft human beings have an 8-second attention span these days. And yes that’s shorter than a goldfish! But more than 70% of consumers expect a welcome email when they subscribe to your offer, according to BlueHornet. So why disappoint a third of your customers before you’ve even started your relationship with them, by not thanking them? Another reason to respond rapidly is that real-time welcome emails see more than 10x the transaction rates and revenue per email over batched welcome mailings according to Experian.

Another way of welcoming your customers’ business is by providing additional value. We all know how Amazon remain the first and best at this with their recommendation engine. But there are many other organisations working with recommender systems, including Netflix, social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and retail giant Ikea

Do you have something similar to offer your customers? Whether it’s an additional free offer, or a paid product or service, your customers are connected, so make use of their engagement to provide even greater value. And speaking of value:

 

We value your business

The evidence of just how much Peruvians appreciate their visitors again comes down to the warmth of their welcome. But they go even further; I felt that I was treated with real respect. Nothing was ever too much trouble and apologies abounded for even the slightest mishap. The hotel front desk couldn’t immediately answer my question? Profuse apologies, not a canned “sorry to have kept you waiting.” The restaurant waiter had to make me wait thirty seconds to provide something? Profuse apologies and perhaps even a small extra such as a drink or special treat.

QueueOn my first day, I spent the morning getting a local SIM card and changing money. Now I agree that back home these two tasks would have taken me about thirty minutes, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed them nearly as much. They would have been chores to accomplish as quickly as possible. I would have tolerated the queues and been irritated by the time lost waiting to be served.

Not in Peru. In the bank, I was treated to a comfortable sofa, coffee and a TV channel to watch, as my name moved quickly up the waiting list on the large central screen. In the phone company’s retail outlet, I was shown to the front of the line as a “valued new customer.” And then, of course, I got the traditional apology for being kept waiting. None of the tiring, st and-up queues we find in most cities.

How do you show your customers that you value their business? (>>Tweet this<<) I hope not merely by saying that you do – if so, reread the previous point again! Don’t you get irritated when calling a company to hear those automated “your call is important to us” messages before being put on hold for ten, twenty, thirty or more minutes? So why would you think that your customers accept such “lies”? You’re certainly not proving that they are important to you. Find ways to make their wait more comfortable, if not enjoyable. Read ” Changing perception: Simple ways to improve your customers’ waiting experience” on Business.com for some great suggestions from Sarah Pike.

 

We want you to be delighted

There is still a lot of talk about customer delight and satisfaction, but there really is a huge difference. Satisfaction is meeting the minimum st andard of service. Delight happens when people are both satisfied and surprised by the level of service or quality you provide. If you can’t provide an alternative solution such as automatic call back, chat or email response, then at least give the caller an idea of how much time they need to wait. It would be even better if you could suggest a better time for them to call back when lines would be less busy if they prefer, rather than making them merely wait. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated is not a hollow rule for businesses to think about customer delight and service. (>>Tweet this<<)

In Peru, after every interaction with someone, I was always asked if there was anything else I needed. Again not the automatic response upon the completion of a job, but a real desire to provide more than just satisfactory service.

So what are you offering your customers? The lowest acceptable service level at the highest price possible? Do you even know what would delight your customers? When did you last check how their dem ands have changed? We are all excited by novelty, but it makes customer delight difficult to maintain if we don’t have our finger on the pulse of the market. As one of the young digital marketers I follow says “you can never go wrong by offering true value.” (I’m speaking about Neil Patel of course) (>>Tweet this<<) So don’t target anything less than surprise and delight; satisfaction is no longer enough. (See ” The new challenge of marketing: Customer satisfaction is not enough!” for more on this topic)

 

Enjoy the ride, not just the destination

Belmond Group LogoI am sitting on the Andean Explorer as I write the first draft of this post. It is part of what used to be known as the Orient Express Group, which recently changed its name to the Belmond Group because it offers more than just train services. I mention this group because they have customer delight in their blood. You could say it’s old-fashioned in today’s world and I, unfortunately, would agree.

According to Wikipedia, “slow” lifestyles first emerged in the slow food movement. It emerged in Italy in the ’80s and ’90s  as a reaction to fast food, emphasizing more “traditional” food production processes. Too often today we race from one action or experience to another. Think about all the photos you take which mean you never really see the places you visit until you get home and review the slides. What a waste!

I recently experienced just such a regret myself after a flight over the Nazca Lines. I have a few blurry images taken through the scratched windows of the small plane on which I flew. A fellow traveller told me that his pilot told him not to take any photos but to admire the view. I so wish I had done that. What I had expected to be the highlight of my whole trip, turned out to be just an uncomfortable scramble to see all the figures as the plane banked steeply, first in one direction and then the other. The photos on Internet are far better than any I could have taken!

This train ride is another example of luxuriating in a “slow” experience. You could take the luxury coach service from Puno to Cusco and arrive four hours earlier. But you would miss the experience I am having. I actually don’t want the ride to end! Do your customers feel the same about your product or service?

 

We want you to feel comfortable

Cruz del surOne of the many surprises in Peru was their transport system. They rely primarily on coach services between the major cities, but they are unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else around the world.

The value for money is outst anding. Your luggage is taken from you when you arrive, similar to airport check-in; no hauling your bags on and off the train or coach. Meal service is a three-star affair, not the snacks that most airlines offer today. Cozy blankets and pillows are provided, together with headphones and a personal entertainment system. And the seats, oh the seats! They would put every airline business class to shame! They recline to a comfortable sleeping position with plenty of space for personal belongings.

Starbucks LogoSo how do you make your own customers feel more comfortable? Today’s customers will pay for experience, not for commodities. Which are you offering? With the similarities of products and services today, customers remember how you make them feel, far less than the price they paid. This is why we happily pay five dollars for a cup of coffee at Starbucks or five to ten times the economy price to fly Business or First. Improve your customers’ experience and they will happily pay more. (>>and%20they%20will%20happily%20pay%20more%20[tweetlink]%20%23CEX%20%23Customer” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>Tweet this<<) According to Oracle, 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience, but 82% of customers have left a company because of a bad customer service experience. These are HUGE numbers to be ignored at your peril! 

 

We know we can do better

Almost every tour I went on, every guide I had to show me around and every hotel or restaurant I went to, asked me to complete a short survey if I could spare the time. And when I say short I mean short. They rarely if ever went over one page. Just a few, essential questions and a request to comment on what they could have done better to make my visit even more enjoyable.

How many of your own customer satisfaction surveys ask only the essential, actionable questions? Even if you collect answers, do you make regular use of their analysis to improve your customers’ experience? Every business could benefit from following what their customers think of them and I don’t mean by simply tracking your NPS! (Net promoter score) Apart from its now questioned validity, are you even sure that this metric is relevant to your industry? If you’ve never compared your results to sales trends, do so; you are likely in for a shock!

Of course, not everything is perfect in Peru. There’s a lot of rubbish along the side of the roads in the countryside. But there are also a lot of recycling bins everywhere. They are trying hard to educate the locals that the country depends on tourism and as such they must value and protect their own country, as much as the visitors do.

My trip in Peru was truly a “once in a lifetime” experience. Hopefully, the ideas from my experiences have inspired you to make some changes in how you treat your own customers, whatever industry you are in. 

I’d love to hear about any “ah-ha” moments you had while reading this post. If you have further thoughts on how we could all increase customer delight in our businesses then please share them with the thous ands of readers here. Thanks a lot.

And finally, if you know you could be doing better in terms of customer delight, take a look at our and-evaluation” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>1-Day Catalyst training sessions and contact us for a quick chat about how we might support you.

 

What do Customers Really Want Today?

As a customer centricity champion, just like you, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand exactly what customers want. My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer centricity

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

My other go-to source for definitions is  businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.” 

It then goes on to say

 “A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs ten times if not even more, to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”  HERE.
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you stand out? By your customer care, that’s how and knowing what your customers really want . It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. You can read a summary of the American Express research that found that  HERE.

I would also add that what customers really want today is a seamless experience from pre to post purchase, as well as both on and offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction and build loyalty.

 

The importance of customer satisfaction and understanding

There is no denying that customer centricity is important. However some companies are (too?) slow 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 the 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. It’s no longer (just) about product performance any more.
  2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today.
  3. Customer service is confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but they should be looking to delight them!

As mentioned before, 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. I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends.

However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below with service in green, care in blue, satisfaction in red and understanding in yellow)

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Apparently not.

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days. So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

 

According to the latest 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, but most other industries continue to ignore what their customers really want. You can see the full Infographic overview above; click on it to see the full-sized original.

I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found more than  two million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. Again, extremely worrying.

US Customer satisfaction
National ACSI Scores, 1994 to Q1 2016 (0-100 Scale) (PRNewsFoto/American Customer Satisfaction)

 

According to the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) June 2016 report, customer satisfaction has finally increased for the first time in over two years.

However, as Claes Fornell, Chairman  and founder of the ACSI says:

“By and large, the overall customer experience for goods and services purchased and consumed in the United States is getting worse.” 

In the UK, which leads Europe in terms of customer satisfaction, levels also rose for the first time in four years, reflecting a more positive economy. However, that was before the Brexit vote! I am looking forward to seeing whether the Brits’ optimism continues this year.

 

The Key Takeaways

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 a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to satisfy, but ideally delight.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most industries, especially when customers are becoming increasingly dem anding.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver delight, will see their reputation improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want answers to their questions and criticisms. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, their country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

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 in the past year or so? 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! If you need help in catalysing your organisation in customer centricity and aligning your business to what your customers really want today, C3Centricity provides 1-Day training on many relevant topics. See more about them and download the summary brochures HERE.

When Hospitality is Not Hospitable. 5 Learnings for Every Industry

I had lunch last week with one of my ex-colleagues. We decided to try a new restaurant close to where she works. It’s only been open a month, and it shows. This hospitality outlet certainly has a lot to learn about customer centricity!

I was able to share our “adventure” with the proprietor when his manager (naively?) asked us if we had enjoyed our lunch. I don’t think she expected all the comments we made. However, she quickly called the owner over, who was extremely interested in listening. He heard our detailed description of our time there with patience and encouragement, asking lots of questions as our tale unfolded.

I therefore, thought I’d share our experiences as they are useful lessons for anyone who wants to be more customer centric. Whether you are in hospitality or not, putting the customer first makes good business sense.

 

Restaurant arrival

Welcome your customersThe restaurant is situated in a new shopping precinct and therefore still has to increase its awareness and make a name for itself. This is important, as many of the issues we had should have been sorted out during the first month since they opened.

It was a warm, sunny day and the restaurant had two attractive terraces laid out for lunch. No-one was there to greet us, so we went inside and asked to be seated. I should mention that we were relatively early and only three other tables out of the more than 40 were occupied.

The Maitre d’ showed us to a small table for two, squashed between other larger tables. When I asked if we could have another table on the edge of the terrace, my request was met with disapproval. The restaurant was not full  and they obviously didn’t expect to be on this midweek lunchtime. Only about a half of the tables were laid out for lunch. I therefore, requested again that he accommodate our desire. He grudgingly accepted, adding that we’d have to move if someone else wanted the table! Of course we would!

 

Our order

As we sat down the maitre d’ asked if we would like an aperitive. We said no, but I ordered sparkling water and my friend still water. One of the waiters quickly came back but with a liter bottle of sparkling water. Being thirsty, my friend graciously accepted to drink the sparkling water. In fact, it was poured out before she could say anything.

I hadn’t seen my friend in many months, so we had a lot to discuss and catch up on. Therefore not surprisingly we took time to choose amongst the multitude of dishes, which were all new to us. Our final choice was not facilitated by the menu being on a tablet. It was already difficult to read outdoors. In addition reviewing and deciding amongst the many dishes involved multiple clicks. We had to skip back and forwards to make our choice amongst the many different and somewhat arbitrary subgroups.

Customer choiceIf only someone had thought about their clients’ needs, the menu would have been laid out far more logically. (>>Tweet this<<) For example, the subgroups included both main and starters displayed together and were based upon ingredients.

This meant going up and down each subgroup until one had an idea of what were the choices for starter or the main dish. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there were also daily specials listed on a separate tab!

One of the advantages of using a digital menu is that it can be changed with the click of a button. There is therefore, no reason for this complex system – unless it was designed to ensure every client saw every dish.

From our perspective, it just made for a frustrating waste of time. Lunches are generally pretty time sensitive and we only have a limited window to eat out and return to work on time.

Our meal presentation

Customer satisfaction is primeAfter the mishap over the water, we were not really surprised when the wrong main course dishes were presented to us. Or rather mine was correct but my friend’s was not what she ordered. Instead of removing the two dishes, mine was left in the sun – a salad! – while hers was sent back to the kitchen. Ten minutes later her dish arrived and again was not what she had ordered!

By this time we had finished our starters and my salad was getting warm. So my friend pointed out the mistake but again graciously accepted the dish. (I should mention that she is a lovely lady and far more forgiving than I would have been!)

 

Our bill and payment

As the meal had taken rather longer than we had planned, we were keen to leave as soon as we had finished. We asked for the bill, twice, only to be presented ten minutes later with what looked like a credit card, but no explanation. Five minutes of h and-waving finally got someone to explain what to do with it.

Customers queueing to payThey apparently have a shop associated with the restaurant and therefore encourage people to visit it before paying. Thus no bill for just the meal! The idea of offering for sale everything we had just eaten might be a good one, time will tell, but it did not facilitate our departure.

Luckily one of the more experienced waitresses offered to show us where to pay – in the shop! This was neither expected nor obvious as it is hidden from the view of those in the restaurant.

I can only imagine the joy of queueing up behind shoppers after a meal! I certainly don’t want to st and in a queue to pay; I want someone to come to my table for this.

 

Our discussion with the owner

Listen to your customersAs I previously mentioned, we were lucky enough to get the chance to share all our experiences with the owner. He was most apologetic and gave us a hefty discount.

However, what I appreciated even more, was the chance to share our experiences, to help this new restaurant to quickly improve. He is a true professional and asked many questions about what had happened, to better identify where improvements could be made.

 

Underst anding the problem

The hospitality industry is both simple and complex for customer centricity improvements. Simple because you get direct feedback from your clients through their choices and comments. Complex because it is like a show and different people have differing perspectives and preferences. That is why restaurants have menus. But they need to be laid out for ease of choice rather than for ease of cooking or stock taking.

Where every business is similar, is in the fact that the customer has expectations which must be met to satisfy, and surpassed to delight. (>> Tweet this<<) Which do you aim to do?

In the case of this restaurant, I believe the main issue came from the staff who had been hired. They were clearly inexperienced or had not had explained to them the importance of the customer. Perhaps their previous jobs were in a local bistro, which might explain their lack of attention to detail. The restaurant is perhaps in rural  surroundings but the owner is definitely highly experienced and professional. He has a long learning curve to make with his staff for them to be at his level. He’d better make it happen sooner rather than later. Customers rarely go back to a restaurant – or br and for that matter – when there is so much choice today.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group is famously quoted as saying:

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”

This is certainly true for the hospitality industry, but less so for many other businesses in my opinion. For many companies, I believe that the customer has to come first. What do you think?

 

Learnings for everyone

  1. Hospitality needs to be hospitable, but so does any customer facing business. Everyone feels self-conscious when entering into a new environment. Make it easy for them to feel at home. Welcome your customer as a good friend or even family. (>>Tweet this>>) Apple and Walmart are outst anding in this, and both Samsung and Staples announced new ways of welcoming more people into their stores.
  2. When your customers speak, listen (>>Tweet this<<). In our restaurant experience, none of the staff really listened, let alone tried to underst and our situation. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – literally – is a great way to better underst and them.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for your customer to choose you. (>>Tweet this<<) Are your different line extensions easy to recognise? Can your customer quickly choose between the different variants? Do you have too many br and names and sub-br and differentiators? I know of some br ands that have five to seven on one pack! Three should be the absolute maximum. Brogan & Partners wrote a great piece on sub-br anding you can read HERE.
  4. Make it as easy to pay. Once a customer has made the choice to buy what you have to offer, payment shouldn’t be a further pain point. According to a Business Intelligence report over 70% of online carts are ab andoned. While you can’t walk out of a store without paying, you can leave without buying! (>>Tweet this<<)
  5. Welcome criticism and comments as the gifts they are. (>>Tweet this<<) The only way to learn and correct your mistakes is by knowing about them! Don’t manipulate satisfaction levels to meet your objectives. Attain them by truly satisfying and delighting your customers.

These are all obvious steps to being customer centric but sometimes we get so caught up in our br and that we forget about the customer. Which of these five is your weakest point and what are you doing about it?

The 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 true 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 in this case I was wrong (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 Switzerl and, 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 Amercian 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?! 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 THEY sent to me 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 screen shot 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 screen shot 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.

  1. The customer is right and has a valid request.  This should always be assumed until such time as it is proven otherwise. After all, this is the premise of the legal systems in many countries and for good reason. However, an article in the Huffington Post last year questioned this well-known customer service quote, first coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London. In today’s fast-paced world, I believe that a customer’s satisfaction should always come first; comment below if you disagree.
  1. Respond as quickly as possible; time is of the essence in helping the customer to perceive the incident as positively as possible, especially after a negative experience with a product or service. According to Forrester Customers want companies to value their time. Customers want companies to value their time. #CEX #CRM #Customers Click To Tweet 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
  2. Take action just as soon as you have the minimum information that will enable you to do this. According to the 2002 Mobius Poll, 84% of customers are frustrated when a representative does not have immediate access to their account information. If you need further details to complete your files, they can be gathered from your happy and satisfied customer once a solution has been found. They will also be in a better frame of mind to answer any other questions you might want to ask.
  3. It is important to ensure that your care center personnel speak and write the language of the customer as fluently as possible. In the above case, it is clear that the responses are from an offshore country using standard scripts. This does not make the customer feel important let alone cared for and in my case, frustrated that I was not being listened to or understood.
  4. Give your customer services personnel authority to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation or verification with managers. Give your customer services personnel authority to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation #CRM #CEX #CustomerService Click To Tweet Working to “standard” procedures for every case, often delays the customer getting full satisfaction as quickly as possible.
  5. Even when the issue is resolved, the customer can still be left with a negative feeling about the whole experience, especially if it has taken considerable time and effort on their side. And remember that it is likely that they will share their negative experiences with far more people than they would have done, had the incident been dealt with in a speedier fashion. (See James Digbys original post and the updated statistics on customer satisfaction online)
  6. Aim to surprise and delight not just satisfy your customers. Although your customers may be looking for the resolution of a problem when they first reach out to you, there is an opportunity for you to surprise and delight them with much more. If they complain about a damaged product, don’t just replace it, provide a complementary sample of another product or a discount coupon for them to purchase it. If they are unhappy with your service, offer an immediate discount and not just a rebate on future services. The latter can be perceived by the customer as their being pressurised into a further purchase, something they are unlikely to be ready to do at the time of the exchange. According to McKinsey’s “ The moment of truth in customer service” 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Make them feel great!

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, and learnings from others are so useful in helping us avoid making the same mistakes ourselves.

If you would be interested in joining a webinar on any of the topics listed then please add a comment below. We will be sending out invitations shortly.

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 here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private  FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?

4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

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

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

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

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

As I am often quoted as saying:

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

So where do you start?

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

1. Identify a C-suite sponsor

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

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

2. Make every employee aware of the priority initiative

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

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

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

or

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

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

3. Identify your categories

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

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

4. Identify the category users

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

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

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

5. Choose your category segment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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