What a Customer First Strategy Means Post Pandemic

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I know, you probably don’t want to read yet another article about the post-pandemic era, especially when the infection numbers in many countries are once again headed in the wrong direction!

But with people having changed their purchasing habits and perspectives due to lockdown, this seems the perfect time to reconsider your customer-first strategy.

Up until the covid-19 virus hit across the globe, almost every single organisation, big or small, recognised the importance of satisfying their customers. But most of them were only giving lip service to customer-centricity and very few were actually going beyond voicing their opinions. This is no longer possible as customers are sharing their experiences of companies and brands far more than just six months ago.

After all, what else have they to do than surf the internet all day long! According to the latest global statistics, social media usage saw an increase of 21 per cent, and news consumption has risen by 36 per cent. You can see the individual country breakdowns at Statista.

A recent NYT article clearly confirms these significant changes in behaviour in the US. Another study summarised on Forbes and run across 30 markets globally, shows that engagement has increased 61% over normal social media usage rates. Companies can no longer hide like they once did; customers are out to highlight their dissatisfaction and point the finger when they are less than happy with a product or service.

A customer-first strategy is not so hard. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is that they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. What do you think?

A customer-first strategy is not so hard; just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

And even when an organisation decides to become more customer centric, there are many mistakes that are commonly made. This article “7 Reasons for Failure When Adopting a Customer First Strategy” gives the main ones and makes a complementary read to this post.

But today’s world has accelerated the upward trend in the importance of a customer-first strategy and makes it one of the most, if not the most important one for all organisations.  It is no longer the norm or even the new-norm, of successful businesses, it is becoming the make or break criteria in surviving the pandemic. And many companies are already failing fast, although it is said that for many retailers, the pandemic only sped up their likely appearance in bankruptcy courts. For more on this I suggest you read “As pandemic stretches on, retail bankruptcies approach highest number in a decade.”

While retail is clearly suffering as purchases in lockdown went online, it is not the only industry to have been hit hard. Another CNBC article highlights others including cruises, fitness, energy and airlines. Whether or not these too were headed downwards or not, customers hold the key to success more than ever before as their spending becomes less impulsive. The 20 biggest companies that have filed for bankruptcy because of the coronavirus pandemic are listed in this article on Forbes.

 

Reasons for having a customer-first strategy

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer-first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I have found.

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
  • Walker forecast that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers 2020 Report
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co
  • 94% of consumers say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. Label Insight

These are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding them back from investing in their customers rather than (just) in the products and services they offer?

I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!

 


If you’re ready to put your customers first, then C3Centricity can help, inspiring your team, no matter where in the world you operate. Contact us today for more information on adopting a customer-first strategy.

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Marketers are too busy building brands

With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.

However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that:

“Only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.” 

 

Top 3 critical factors to marketing program success

It saddens me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:

“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and their communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and their communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. It would be good if they used it to increase… Click To Tweet

Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 2.1% in 2018, once again confirming that there continues to be no “significant” growth recorded in the past seven years! Compare this to the more than 4-6% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.

 

Ad spend growth trend

But there is some hope. A recent report from OnBrand Magazine on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.

KPIs used by marketing

However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!

Difficult skills to hire for

So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?

 

Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment

Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.

I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion, let alone make recommendations.

This was recently confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, the majority of researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.

It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed analytical skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer-first strategy in many organisations.

Customer services are seen as complaint handlers

When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!

I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this image at that time. And sadly I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which become my clients through a desire to make the much-needed changes.

You only have to take a look at the financial results of companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first: Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.

An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten Customer Service Tips for Customer Loyalty Month” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. Even if it is now quite old, I still believe the article is of immense value, which is why I mention it here. In the post, he mentions that

“According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”

The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:

  • In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
  • CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
  • The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
  • Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
  • This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%

Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

In conclusion

To answer the title of this article, a customer-first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind what must be a company-wide objective. Customer centricity can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and a true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights. But that is a small investment for the huge returns that have been proven.
And being customer centric will mean that every employee finally has the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out our website for more tips and answer our free assessment here: https://www.c3centricity.com. You will immediately see how to prioritise your actions. 

 

The New Qualities for Customer Service Excellence

The current pandemic has clearly highlighted those companies who care about their customers and who provide them with customer service excellence.

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re truly walking the talk and not just talking about customer service excellence? Many companies are and the pandemic has brought them into the spotlight.

A few years ago I was prompted to question this of the local Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom.

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

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

It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response whereas contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in nothing.

Twitter is often referred to as today's call centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response whereas contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in nothing. #CustomerSatisfaction #CustomerCare… Click To Tweet

 

What makes a great customer care centre?

Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Recent research shows that 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes or less! How good is your own customer service?

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

Usually, the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line at best, or to call back later most often.

We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then, of course, to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a callback or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.

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

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

Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help after being frustrated by long waits on their careline calls, or self-service selections that led nowhere. 

 

What makes a great customer service representative (CSR)?

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

Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a CSR should be, based upon my considerable years of working on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age (mid twenties)?

I have summarised below what I see as the most important skills of a customer services representative, which I call the 7Ps.

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

 

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

 

This article is an updated version of one that was first posted on C3Centricity in February 2013.

Did you enjoy this post and all its tips, tools and ideas?

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You’ll be amongst fellow marketers who are there to support others as well as ask for help.

See you there.

How to Improve Customer Centricity in Hospitality

The title of this week’s post might surprise you. After all, the hospitality industry should be highly customer centric, as it relies on satisfying its guests.

However, it can learn a lot from consumer packaged goods (FMCG/CPG), as I shared with industry experts at a Faculty Day of one of the leading hospitality schools in Switzerland. Having spent most of my career in consumer goods, I was invited to share what the hospitality industry could learn from the industry. From the reactions at the end of my talk it seems that the answer is a lot!

It might surprise you, but the two industries have a number of similarities. They both (should) have their customers at their heart. And they are both founded on pleasing and hopefully delighting their clients in the quality of the products and services they offer.

As the world changes, customer demands are changing too and companies need to stay current, if not ahead of these demands, in order to ensure continued growth. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity #Future #Trends Click To Tweet

 

During my presentation, I shared many ideas; here are a few of the points I covered:

 

#1. From ROI / ROR to ROE

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about the need to move from a return on investment to a return on relationships. While I agree with the importance of relationships, I believe that what we should be talking about is engagement. Despite many books touting the need for our customers to “Love” our brands, in reality, I’m not sure that any of us want to have a deep relationship with brands.

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

The relationship is based on more than just the brand. It is founded on trust and confidence in the product, the brand’s website and their engaging communications. Think Coca Cola and Red Bull as great examples of this.

 

#2. Build Relationships with Strangers

The hospitality industry is based on serving and satisfying its guests. But in today’s connected world it also needs to consider people who are currently strangers – but could potentially become guests. These may include the friends of past guests, who have heard about the hotel or restaurant and are interested in visiting it for themselves.

One good example of this, but I know many hotels are also doing it, is the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Mexico. This wonderful hotel encourages its guests to photograph their experiences during their stay at the resort and then to post them on Facebook.

This not only provides free publicity for the hotel, but also enables it to start engaging future guests before they even arrive. In addition, the posts will certainly have a positive influence on website visitors. And the guests who publish their photos, will have an even stronger positive impact on their friends and followers.  After all, they will more than likely have similar tastes and desires.

 

#3. Value is more Important than Price

Having additional control of our lives today, means that customers are re-evaluating what they are offered. They have higher expectations and are more discerning in their choices. They expect recognition at every touchpoint, even if in reality their decisions are influenced by their peers, more than by traditional marketing.

In addition, the internet enables us to compare multiple offers, so we are far less interested in bundled propositions than we once were. Today we often prefer to decide what is best value for us personally, by buying individual elements for our very personalised vacations. For example, we may overspend on experiences and then choose a more modest hotel and car rental. Each buyer will make choices upon their individual value perceptions.

 

#4. Renovation is more than Buildings

Most CPG companies have annual targets for Innovation & Renovation, sometimes 30% or more of annual revenue. They also have mid-term innovation pipelines which can include partnerships in joint ventures with what were previously only competitors. These help each partner, by building on their individual talents and enabling them to develop better products and services.

To improve customer centricity in hospitality, innovation can no longer be purely physical or rational; we need to consider more emotional and relational ways to satisfy. The Rosewood Mayakoba resort, already mentioned above, is one good example of this; check the link to see the latest photos published on their Facebook page.

The Art Series Hotels are another example of how well they excel at understanding their guests. Their unique offer is called Art Series Overstay Checkout, and means that if no guest is checking into your room the next day, you can stay a few extra hours or even days for free.

 

#5. Loyalty is never really Won

One of the reasons that I believe we need to work on building engagement and in all industries, not just hospitality, is because customer demands are constantly evolving. What satisfied them yesterday can bore or even disappoint today.

To acquire and retain our customers, we need to be constantly upgrading our products and services, so that they will be surprised and delighted. This also means that loyalty is much less long-term than in the past and lifetime value is now measured in months or a few years, rather than in decades.

Loyalty is never really won, so all industries need to work on building engagement. Customer demands are constantly evolving and we need to keep up with the changes. #Customer #CustomerUnderstanding #Loyalty Click To Tweet

 

#6. Dialogue don’t just Communicate

In today’s connected world, customers want a say in not only what they consume, but also where, when and how they are marketed to. They want the chance to inform companies about what they want to buy and expect a rapid resolution to any queries or complaints they may have.

According to a recent Edison Research, 20% of respondents expect a company to answer to their social media posts within 15 minutes, 42% within the hour! That means that 24/7 monitoring for all organisations is now essential if we are not to disappoint are most engaged customers.

These are just six of the many ideas I shared during my presentation. If you are interested in seeing the full talk, you can find it on SlideShare here.

Are you struggling to improve your own customer centricity? Whatever people-facing industry you are in, we would welcome the chance to support and catalyse your efforts. Please check out our website for more information on our training and consulting offers, and then contact us here.

This post was first published on C3Centricity in 2013 and has been regularly updated since.

C³Centricity uses images from Pizabay.com

How to Map Your Customer Journey & Overlay their Emotions

With the travel and leisure industries in turmoil at the moment, now is a good time for them to review how they treat their customers. And mapping their customers’ journey is an important step in understanding and satisfying them better.

Through the example of an experience I had with the Hilton Group, I share some important lessons about getting customer service right! These will be invaluable as countries start to open up in the coming weeks and months.

 

Background

Each year around Christmas time, my family get together for a weekend of fun somewhere in Britain. This year we met up in Bristol. As a Hilton Honors member for more than twenty years I offered to book rooms for all of us in the local Doubletree. I expected to get a better rate with my membership, and especially cheaper than those offered by the booking sites. After all, why pay a booking site when I know the hotel I want to stay in, right? Well, I booked five rooms for the weekend, as well as a table for ten in their restaurant for dinner on the Saturday evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Three Lessons Learned which Every Business Can Apply

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

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

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

Do you need help developing or updating your own customer journey map?

C3Centricity offers several 1-Day Catalyst training sessions on the topic. We can also work with your team to review and revitalise your own customer journey map.

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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
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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Is Packaging Part of Product or Promotion? Should it be Both?

Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?

If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.

If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.

 

People don’t read instructions

We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.

We all expect most things that we use to be intuitive these days. We assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions. How intuitive is your brand? Click To Tweet

 

If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.

In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they  they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.

As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.

 

People do look at packs

Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.

It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.

 

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Here are a few examples I have come across recently:


Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn’t you agree?

For more information on the support we can provide in product innovation and branding, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/training

This post is regularly updated and expanded from the original published on C3Centricity.

 

 

Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation)

I’ve just returned from a speaking invitation in Las Vegas. It was an incredible Symposium run by Sitecore and I was blown away by the importance placed on customer centricity during the whole event!

From the opening keynote by Sitecore’s new CEO Mark Frost, to the second-day keynote by Kirsten Newbold-Knipp from Gartner, everyone in this tech and data heavy conference understood that data is only as good as the use you put to it. Do you?

We are all excited by the wealth of information available to us about our customers, from the IoT as well as people’s behaviour on the internet. In fact, data gathering is no longer an issue; it is its management, analysis and above all understanding to turn it into actionable insights that is today’s challenge.

I believe that the reason most organisations today are drowning in data and thirsting for insights as I am often quoted as saying, is because they are more excited by data than people.

“Organisations are drowning in data and thirsting for insights”

And yet data usually comes from people and their acts, is analysed by people, so that businesses can have more impact on their customers’ attitude and behaviours. It is therefore vital to turn that wealth of information into actionable insights. That’s why I want to share my 7-step process for doing just that with you.

I call it CatSight™

and the acronym always causes a few giggles as I’m sure you can imagine. After all, business is a serious topic, which is why I try to find ways for us all to find reasons to laugh in all this seriousness.

I choose the name CatSight™ because I thought it is not only memorable but also has a serious relevance to what insight developers do.

Cats have an acute vision, particularly in the dark. They are good at listening because their ears turn 180 degrees. They are highly sensitive – just ask an owner how their cat reacts when they are sad or ill.

Seeing in the dark, listening skills, sensitivity and empathy for the customer are essential skills for all insight developers.

Seeing in the dark, listening skills, sensitivity and empathy for the customer are essential skills Click To Tweet

So here are my 7-steps to insight development – and note that information gathering is only step #6!

If you react to business questions by immediately running a market research project, then please read on. It could save you a lot of money and time!

Using my method, you only start spending money on running a survey in step six – and then, only if you have identified a gap in your knowledge of the situation. Many organisations don’t know what they already know and what is already available within the company that they are unaware of.

This 7-step process will save you money because you will run less research AND make better use of all the information already available within the organisation. That’s an immediate improvement in the ROI of your information gathering.

7-steps to insight development, but information gathering is only step #6! #customer #insight Click To Tweet

C = Category

Whenever you want to develop insight, the first task is to decide on the category you want to study. At first sight, this may seem obvious, but in many cases, it isn’t as clear as you might at first think.

Category identification for developing actionable insightsFor instance, suppose you are looking to launch a new juice flavoured soft drink. You may think that you are competing with other juices or perhaps other soft drinks.

In working with one client in just such a situation, we actually found that their main competitor was an energy drink! The reason was that they were both seen as being for lively, fun people who needed a kick – whether from caffeine or healthy fresh ingredients with added vitamins and minerals.

If we’d only looked at other fruit flavoured soft drinks we would have missed a whole – and large – section of category consumers.

This shows the power of taking the consumers’ perspective, especially when segmenting a market. But more about that in a moment.

 

A = Aim

Once you know which category you should be trying to understand better, you must consider what the aim or objective of your initiative is towards the customer. Are you looking to change their attitude or behaviour? Yes, of course, these are linked, but there will be one you are trying to influence more than the other.

Then you need to translate your objective into the words of the customer, or at least a description of your objective in how it impacts the.

For instance:

How can we grow the market share of Brand “A”?

This could be written as: How can we attract consumers from competitor Brand “X” who are looking for a low sugar CSD?

You will notice that the second is far more focused and will deliver more relevant results than the first.

A customer-centric objective is more focused & will deliver more relevant insights than biz objective Click To Tweet

 

How can I expand my business?

This could be written as: Which of my customers would be most interested in my new service offer and why?

This example came from work with one of my clients in the service industry. He wanted to offer something new and was trying to identify which of his clients would be most interested in it.

When we worked together, we first ran a detailed segmentation of all potential customers for this new service. By understanding each segment in detail, we actually found that he had two and not one group to whom he should be selling his basic service to. One of these groups could also be exactly interested in this new offer. Talk about leaving money on the table – he almost doubled his business overnight!

T = Target

There are many different pieces of information that make up a complete knowledge of your customers. This takes time to complete, but there are hree main areaas which I suggest to at least get basic information on:

BCG Matrix for developing actionable insights1. First thing you need to segment all category users and then choose the most attractive one.

For this one of the simplest tools to work with is the BCG matrix. I say that because it works just as well with observed facts as it does with complex measured and weighted data.

 

 

4W Customer persona template for developing actionable insights2. Next you need to develop a customer image or persona.

We use the 4W™ Template as you know, because it reminds users to find out the who, what where and why. That way no area if forgotten.

 

3. The third tool we use to better understand our customers deeply, is their journey map.

Customer journey map for developing actionable insights.This can be as simple or as complex as you like too. However I would suggest adding the emotional state of the customer at each stage, as this provides valuable information concerning pain points. These steps are obviously the ones you want to solve for your customer as a priority.

These three tools will provide you with a great foundation on which you can build both your understanding and insight development. Do you have others which you regularly use? If so, then please suggest them in the comments below. 


Ready to go deeper into these first three steps that most organisations forget? Book an online training or an in-house 1-Day Catalyst Session for your whole team in November and get a 20% discount.


S = Supporters 

No-one is an island and this goes whether you are an executive, solopreneur or corporate slave. If you work in a business, then I advise you to get out from behind your desk and talk to people in other departments. We can sometimes get so tied up in our work that we never take time to understand the wider corporation in which we work. We live on our floor, take coffee and lunch with fellow employees and never learn much news that we didn’t know already.

by making a habit to speak with your colleagues from other departments and floors, will open you to a deeper understanding of your organisation. It will give you an advantage over your colleagues in knowing what’s going on in other groups and will enable you to gather information you would be unlikely to get otherwise.

If you are a solopreneur, meetings others on a regular basis becomes even more vital. It provides you with some fresh thinking and perspectives, a friendly ear to discuss business with and a change of air for an hour or two. I try to meet up with someone for coffee or lunch at least three or four times a week when i`’m not traveling.

Getting supporters is vital to the success of both projects and business in general, so make a habit of widening your professional circle anyway you can/

 

I = Intimacy

Even if you have a detailed persona of your target customers – you do don’t you? – nothing beats getting intimate with them. Not only does this bring your data and information to life, but you may also learn new things about your customers.

You can do this by simply listening into your care centre calls or by serving in your retail outlets if you have them.

But you can also accompany a researcher while interviewing or organise customer connection sessions. If you are interested in organising these events designed specifically for getting closer to your customers then I suggest you read “Why customers are the answer to all your problems”

 

G = Gap Filling

As I’ve already mentioned, when a business wants to know their customers better they immediately think of running a market research project. Don’t do this!

Save yourself time and money by first reviewing everything your organisation already knows. Identify any gaps and only then run a survey. You will be amazed how this simple habit can save you tens of thousands every year.

 

HT = Human Truth

A human truth is a

“Fact of human attitudes & behaviour, based on fundamental human values & beliefs.”

It is vital to insight development since it is needs based and emotional resonant. It is a powerful and compelling statement that is rooted in basic human values, which is why it is valid for all your customers, wherever in the world they live.

Some simple examples are:

  • Parents want to protect their children so they grow up happy and healthy.
  • Men and women want to find love.
  • People want to feel good about their choices. (be better than their peers?)

These human truths are the basis of many of the well-known brands such as Omo / Persil, Nido, Axe / Lynx, Dulux, Heineken. When you are next watching an ad break on television, it is fun to try and identify the human truths on which they are based. The more clearly identifiable they are the better the ad will resonate with its customers.

I also suggest using this as a fun exercise in a brainstorming or other meeting of marketers in particular.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse!

So there you have it, the 7-step process I call CatSight™ which practically guarantees an insight every time you use it. 

Why not try it yourself next time you are trying to work through a marketing challenge?

If you like this process and would like to learn even more details about it, then we offer two solutions:

  1. An online course of videos and workbooks to take you through every step in detail.
  2. An in-person training in your own office. This is particularly cost-effective when you are upgrading the skills of your entire team.

For either one, we are offering a 20% discount during November, to help you assign any remaining budget before you lose it at year-end! (I’ve been there too so I understand your situation very well) Just contact us and book your session; you can even plan it early in the New Year if you prefer. As long as you pay this year, we will accord the 20% discount. How’s that for an early Christmas present?

Technology is an Enabler not a Disruptor (So Stop Using it as an Excuse!)

I was giving a talk earlier this month in which I mentioned that technology is an enabler not a disruptor of business today.

It was to the BPW Lake-Geneva (Business & Professional Women) group in Rolle, Switzerland, which was a first for me. Not because I was speaking about customer centricity as a disruptor, but because it was an all-female group. (They even turned away one gentleman who was interested in hearing me speak about adopting a customer-first strategy!)

Anyway, my talk was about identifying the category in which you are working, the benefit you provide>and the audience to whom you are offering it. These are the first three steps of my CatSight™ Process for actionable insight development. (If you would like to know more about it sign up for our free webinar)

During the presentation at BPW I talked about the fact that technology is seen as the disruptor in business today, but it isn’t. Technology is an enabler; it is in fact customer-centricity that is the disruptor today.

Technology as enabler, not disruptor
Source: Marco Pacheco
Executive Director JP Morgan

It was 

I had already been speaking about the need for businesses to prepare for the dramatic change that was coming thanks to technological innovation. However, Pacheco’s slide made me realise why I was so keen on companies adopting a customer-first strategy and running scenario planning.

His five simple examples brought it home more powerfully than I have ever done before. That’s why I wanted to share it. The summary says:

  • Netflix did not kill Blockbuster, ridiculous late fees did.
  • Uber did not kill the taxi business, limited taxi access and fare control did.
  • Apple did not kill the music industry, being forced to buy full-length albums did.
  • Amazon did not kill other retailers, bad customer service did.
  • Airbnb isn’t killing the hotel industry, limited availability and pricing options are.

In conclusion it states that:

“Technology by itself is not the real disruptor. Not being customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.”

That’s music to my ears!

Looking again at the five examples he gives, there are a number of specific aspects of customer-centricity that are highlighted. In my opinion they show the following advantages for the customer:

  • freedom of choice
  • transparency
  • trust
  • being valued

If you don’t want to see your own industry fall victim to start-ups that better provide these, then now is the time to act.

If you don't want to see your own industry fall victim to start-ups that better provide these, then now is the time to act. #startups #Business #Technology Click To Tweet

Include all these essential elements into your own business. In my opinion they should already be there and industries where they are not, are already being threatened. Make sure you’re not on the new list next year!

 

The Future of Many Industries is Unthinkable

By this I mean that change is happening so fast that it is difficult for organisations to even imagine the future. This is why I encourage my clients to develop plausible future scenarios. Only by doing so, can they be prepared for every possible risk and opportunity. Identifying one, most likely future is unlikely to deliver the variation than will no doubt happen. For more on this topic, read ”

As I mentioned at the beginning, technology is an enabler that permits industries to provide more of what their customers want. There are already many examples of ones which have been helped or radically altered by technology and science. For example:

  • Verizon data revenueTelecoms now make as much money from selling (geo-localisation) data than they ever did from selling phones and lines.

Already in 2015 data accounted for 44% of Verizon’s profits, as shown in this Adage article.

Don’t you think their business model has changed – dramatically? Are they happy they made the change? You bet; it is growing faster and more profitably than ever before!

 

  • Food companies are shifting from machine-made to do-it-yourself meal-kits. In fact, to be precise, the industry is being ever-more disrupted by start-ups offering replacements to the mass-produced, less-than-healthy products that Nestle, Mondelez, Kraft Heinz and Danone have been used to churning out.

Companies like Blue ApronGreen ChefHelloFreshMartha & Marley SpoonPlated, and Sun Basket are offering healthier and fresher alternatives.

The largest food manufacturers are trying to compete by lowering “bad” ingredients and increasing “good” ingredients in their mass-produced brands. However, take a look at what they are doing in detail >and you will see that in most cases their “improved” products are not better for us. They still have far too much sugar, salt and trans fats, despite being reduced. They still lack fresh ingredients, which we all know are far better for nourishing a live body.

 

  • Beverage manufacturers are getting into entertainment in a big way. They have always sponsored or promoted events, bars and cafes. Coca-Cola is probably the best known for this with sponsorships including American Idol, Apple iTunes, BET Network, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, and the Olympic Games.

But some drinks manufacturers are going much further and have now started including media development too. As a great example, think about Red Bull which today is seen more as an entertainment company that just happens to make a drink!

 

  • Tobacco and cigarette manufacturers have been fighting to protect, even save, their industry for decades. Andre Calantzopoulos, CEO of Philip Morris International, recently declared in a Radio 4 interview that

“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products … to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes.”

Coming from one of the largest global cigarette manufacturers, this is huge! But he is (hopefully) right. The future of the tobacco business is in heating rather than burning it, at least short term. Longer term I believe they need to look to other ways of providing personal pleasure that does less harm to the user and to their environment.

 

  • Pharmaceuticals have for years been moving investment from sickness to wellness and health. An excellent article on the topic mentions that

“The transition from current ‘high-risk, high-margin’ business model to ‘low cost high volume’ nutria business model is dependent on many factors and also advised to move into less regulated markets like animal and consumer health.”

The line between Food and Pharma is blurring as companies expand and invest in the “other side” of nutraceuticals.

The line between Food & Pharma is blurring as companies expand & invest into nutraceuticals. Click To Tweet

Which will win out in the long run? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

  • Transport. Will there even be a viable automobile business in the future? How many manufacturers will survive as the market for personalised road transport collapses?

As people move from ownership to rental, and from self-drive to driven, the industry will need to move into alternative modes of transport to make up the shortfall in their businesses. What do you think?

 

Harnessing technology to enable companies to adopt a customer-first strategy

A 2016 Forrester report shows that while 72% of businesses say improving customer experience is their top priority, only 63% of marketers prioritize implementing technology investments that will help them reach this goal!

It therefore makes sense that I include in this post some of the best examples I have found to start you thinking about your own situation.

How are you harnessing technology to provide your customers with greater freedom of choice, trust, transparency and the demonstration that you value their business and loyalty? Here are some inspiring examples and ideas:

  • Amazon uses technology to identify suggested products to their clients. Many others have followed this great example and we are now bombarded with “people like you also bought…” proposals. Like it or loath it, they do come in useful occasionally, don’t they? It also shows that the company is using your data for your good and not theirs (alone).
  • Your websites can provide your customers with a wealth of information. It can also provide a platform for them to share their tips, ideas and associated facts which would be useful to other users, as well as ask questions. Petcare, Personal Care and Homecare br>ands make use of this in particular. Check out P&G and Mars Petcare for a couple of the best.
  • Insight development today uses more than information from market research. Therefore technology is used to enable quicker and deeper integration and analysis of all the information flowing into an organisation. Machine learning adds further value by understanding the relationships between the data which may have previously gone unnoticed. Many of the global CPG companies are going this, including Unilever and Coca-Cola.
  • Social Media has become the new customer services department because replies are almost instantaneous.  Pizza Hut is a great example of this, answering any customer complaints in record time. Other brands react more slowly and then feel the wrath of their customers who are today expecting immediate answers to their questions. Make sure that’s what you offer!
  • Chatbots are providing additional resources to the already overworked customer services departments. Findings from recent research in the UK show that many high street brands offering live chat and chatbot technology consistently performed better in customer sentiment analysis.

These are all examples of ways that are already being used so you can benefit from the experiences of others. But the world is moving fast and you need to also be exploring further new territories where technology can help.

Earlier this year ZDNet highlighted five technologies that touched on technological changes that could impact customer service and experience by the year 2021. They were:

1. Two-way video

Tech priorities for customer experience

2. Augmented and virtual reality

3. Virtual assistants

4. Messaging

5. Connected devices

As you can see, all five technologies are enablers of improved customer satisfaction, which will lead to increased relationship building and trust. Customers view them as novel and useful today, but it won’t be too long before they are seen as the norm. Are you using them? If so, what experiences have you had, as I’d love to hear more about their uses?

Another recent article, this time on Jacada, spoke about the “4 Technology Trends set to Improve Customer Experience in 2017.” (See their diagram on the right) In it they highlighted ChatBots, Big Data analytics, Mobile customer support and messaging Apps.

In this article they pulled out the larger areas around how technology can help with mass connection and analysis of the resulting exchanges.

What both these articles highlight is the need for marketing to harness technology in order to build relationships with their customers. If they do so, they can set their brands apart from the competition. If you are not already doing so, then you have little time remaining to catch up before being left seriously behind.

It conclusion, it is clear that technology is an enabler and can and should be employed to improve the customers’ experience. We live in a fast-paced world where we expect instantaneous responses from brands, and information at our fingertips where and when we need it. Technology is the only way we can meet these increased customer demands, by collecting, analysing and then actioning the learnings from these contacts. 

Which of these are you working with today? I’d love you to share your experiences – good and bad – below.


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Interested in using technology to help you integrate multiple data sources and develop actionable insights? Then we should talk. Book time in my calendar for a complementary Advisory session.

What a Customer First Strategy Means Today (And Why Your Company Needs to Adopt One)

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Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and online social media shares.

Almost every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why?

A customer first strategy is not so hard. Just think customer first in everything you do. So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think the reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. What do you think?

 

Reasons for having a customer-first strategy

There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the numbers I found.

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. CEI Survey
  • 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers 2020 Report
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. Bain & Co

Those are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding them back from investing in their customers rather than (just) in the products and services they offer?

I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started initiating a move to a more customer centric organisation. NO more excuses; this has to be (OK, one of) your top priorities!


If you’re ready to put your customers first, then why not sign up and join the FREE Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement to Grow your Business Faster.

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Marketing are too busy building brands

With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.

However, an analysis run by IBM on research carried out in the UK last year by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers is feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that:

“Only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.” 

 

Top 3 critical factors to marketing program success

It surprises me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:

“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”

Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they used it to increase satisfaction and loyalty, no?

Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 2.2% in 2015, the first “significant” growth recorded in five years! Compare this to the more than 4% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.

 

ESOMAR MR industry growthTrends in ad spend

 

 

But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.

However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than a half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!

 

CMOs need more analytical skills

Marketing team skills needed

So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?

 

Market research is seen as a cost, not an investment

Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.

I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.

This was recently confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, most researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.

It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer first strategy in many organisations.

Customer services are seen as complaint handlers

When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!

I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this image at that time. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make changes.

You only have to take a look at companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first. Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.

An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten Customer Service Tips for Customer Loyalty Month” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that “According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”

The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:

  • In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
  • CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
  • The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
  • Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
  • This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%

Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer-first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

In conclusion

So to answer the title of this article, a customer first strategy needs an organisation to recenter itself behind this company-wide objective. It can make a real difference in terms of both sales and profits to those who follow this direction. But it is essential to have executive support and true commitment from every employee to think customer first.
It will take skill upgrades for both marketing and market research departments to translate the data and information gathered into actionable insights.
And it will mean every employee having the chance to get close up and personal with customers. This is the only way for them to understand the role they play in satisfying and delighting them.

Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then check out our website and answer our free mini C3C Evaluator tool here: https://www.c3centricity.com

 

The New Way to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

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

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

4. Launch before you’re finished

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

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

5. Review the category in which you’re playing

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

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

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

In conclusion, there are many reasons why innovations fail:

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

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

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

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

 

 

Do Your Shoppers Face a Purchasing Dilemma? How to Give the Right Customer Choice Every Time

I’ve just come back from a week’s course in Spain organised by the European Monroe Institute. The course was on consciousness, a thing all good marketers need to develop, especially when it comes to their customers’ choices.

The reason I am referring to this course, besides the fact that it was led by the brilliant consciousness expert Arkaitz, is because we spoke about a subject that is very relevant for shopper marketing. I did in fact already touch on something similar in last week’s post. I’m speaking about decision making and the difference between Polarity, Duality, Dilemmas and Trilemmas. For clarification, these terms refer to:

Polaritythe state of having or expressing two directly opposite tendencies, opinions, etc

Dualitythe state or quality of being two or in two parts; dichotomy, the division into two parts, kinds, etc

Dilemmaa situation requiring a choice between (equally undesirable) alternatives.

Trilemmaa situation, analogous to a dilemma, in which there are three (almost equally undesirable) alternatives.

Last week I spoke about the Trilemma as it relates to project work; in this post I want to review the different situations in which we oblige our shoppers to make customer choices and how we can make it a lot easier for them.

 

Customer Decision-making

Mark ZHow many decisions do you make in an average day? Tens, hundreds, thous ands, even more? It has been estimated that an adult makes in excess of 30,000 decisions each and every day. (>>Tweet this<<) From what to have for breakfast, to what to wear and the route we take to work, we are constantly making decisions. However, have you noticed that when you need to make a decision, having more choices is not always better? More choice can in fact make decision-making all the more difficult.

In a recent article about Mark Zuckerberg, it was mentioned that he, as did Steve Jobs, wears the same clothes every day. A sort of uniform that enables him to make one less decision that he considers to be less relevant and unimportant to the success of his business. In the post he reveals that he wears the same clothes over and over again, because he wants to limit the time he spends making “frivolous” decisions, so he can concentrate on real work. As he says:

“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services.”

Retail Decision-making

It has been proven that shoppers can end up leaving a retail outlet or online e-shop without making a purchase, when faced with too much choice. (>>Tweet this<<) This so-called “choice overload” was first mentioned in the book  The Paradox of Choice, by Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz.

Schwartz co-authored a study that supported his theory in the context of Web search  and other research has documented choice overload in contexts as wide ranging as gourmet chocolates  and retirement plans.

Choice overload is also one of the major reasons, besides price, for the success of hard discounters. They take away those “frivolous” but hard decisions we usually have to make whilst out shopping, by offering just one or at most two br ands or sizes of each article. We then have to make the choice between buying one of the two on offer, or purchasing neither (a trilemma). If you have the time, you might then go elsewhere to buy what you were looking for, but if the choice is of lesser importance or we are lacking the time, we will accept the limited choice and buy one of the two on offer (a dilemma).

Therefore choice is not always a good thing. So what can you as a marketer do to help the customer make the “right” decision in favour of your br and?

 

Know your Customers

The 4 Ws of customer underst anding

If you’re a regular here, you will know that everything you do should start with the customer and from the customer’s perspective. Underst anding their needs and desires, both stated and unstated, will enable you to better meet them. A satisfied customer is unlikely to spend time in choice and will automatically go for your product or service. You can read more about getting a deeper underst anding of your customer in another post entitled “How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?” here. 

Portfolio Management

Many retailers and some consumer packaged goods companies have noticed that consumers today are suffering from “choice overload”.

Unilever LogoBoth P&G and Unilever have done some radical pruning of their br ands over the years. They have understood that most of their business comes from just a small number of all its products. P&G has around 300 br ands today, a third less than just a decade ago. Unilever has been even more ruthless. Since introducing its “ Path to Growth” initiative almost fifteen years ago, the number of its br ands has been culled from 1,600 down to just 400.

Retail organisations too are no longer willing to offer increased space for ever-exp anding br and portfolios. They often use the “one in, one out” rule and need strong evidence to add a new line from manufacturers. This has been especially true in recent years with the increase in the number of supermarket chains offering smaller, urban outlets, such as Tesco’s Metro and Walmart’s Express. You can read more about current retail trends here.

Walmart LogoWhat both retailers and manufacturers have realised is that Pareto’s Principle is highly relevant to the success of their businesses. The “Pareto Principle” or 80-20 rule, helps a lot in reducing the number of trilemma (or worse) type decisions that shoppers are faced with.

It therefore makes a lot of sense to regularly review your own portfolio and cut the “long tail” of slowest movers. Unless you have recently launched it or have a solid recovery plan in the pipeline, it is better to delete them.

 

Product Display

Another very good reason for reducing the numbers of br ands and variants in portfolios has to do with innovation. Today’s consumers thrive on novelty and constantly dem and new products and services. They quickly become bored or are satisfied for far less time than in the past.

In response to this, many companies have increased their level of innovation and new launches. However, neither retailers nor consumers want an ever increasing choice of products to sell or purchase. Therefore it makes good sense to have a “one in, one out” policy as mentioned above.

Identifying the best products and variants to put on shelf at each retail outlet or at a minimum by region, will enable customers to make those all important choices more quickly and easily. You will make the sale and the retailer will not be faced with stock that sits on their shelves, not moving; a definite win-win-win. (>>Tweet this<<)

Coming back to the issue of polarity, duality, dilemmas and trilemmas, I hope you can see that the situation in which a customer finds him/herself at the point of sale, whether they are facing a dilemma, trilemma or worse, will have a huge impact on whether or not they purchase.

Do you have something to add to this article and the customer choices we offer when they are faced with making a purchase decision? Please add a comment below. And if you enjoyed the post, then please share it with your friends and colleagues, so they too can be inspired.

If you would like support in reviewing your br and portfolio to identify the 20% of br ands and variants that may need to be deleted, contact me here and let’s discuss your situation. I know I can help.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Unilever and Walmart in this post.

The New 7Ps of Customer Service Excellence. Are You Following Them All?

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re walking and not just talking the talk of true customer service excellence?

Last year I was prompted to question this of the Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer care versus its main competitor Swisscom. Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom on the other h and had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

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

It was more than a year ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Guy Clapperton, author of “This is Social Media” wrote an interesting post about this in 2011 and surprisingly this idea was actually questioned at the time. Today, I would argue that it is much, much more than this.

Today’s call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs. Usually the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line. We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then of course to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Edison recently ran some research showing the patience that we have or rather don’t have today, on social media. Convince & Convert published some of the first results in an interesting article showing that companies must react immediately to customers using social media. One in five expect an answer within 15 minutes and 42% within the hour. For reference, when Guy Clapperton wrote his post almost three years ago, the level was almost half that at just 25%.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a call back, or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.

Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most (>>Tweet this<<); for example:

  • Early morning or late at night for personal care products
  • Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
  • Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products

Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help before “going under”.

Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company, but should we as customers also not take the company’s perspective when reaching out to them, or at least to the poor person who gets our wrath at the end of our email or phone call?

Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a customer service advisor should be, based upon my considerable years of working on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age (early twenties)?

I summarise it as the new 7 Ps of customer services:

  1. Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person.
  2. Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question.
  3. Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did!
  4. Perceptive: Empathised, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed.
  5. Professional: He was an expert, knew his topic and more importantly knew how to explain its complex details in simple terms.
  6. Pragmatic: Worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both.
  7. Perseverant: He continued to ask and answer questions until he was sure I was happy with everything.

Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” to mention? Let me know, especially you Jimmy, if you read this.

If you need help in optimising your own care centres or customer connections then we would love to support your plans. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

No Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

This article is based upon a post first published on C3Centricity in February 2013.

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