Lady on customer service phone

Five Essentials of Customer Service Excellence

Recently, I took a very early flight with British Airways (BA) out of Geneva airport and once again, BA staff demonstrated their excellent customer service.

That morning Lionel was on duty and I appreciated the fact that he allowed me to have a quick coffee in the club lounge even though he had already called the flight. The rule in such circumstances is not to admit lounge access to passengers once the flight has been called. It was refreshing to be treated as an individual and not as just a part of the mass of passengers taking that early morning flight. Allowing me to have a quick coffee before dashing to the gate certainly made my morning and my own speed in doing so enabled him to empty the lounge as he was required to do without too much delay. What has this got to do with your own customer service excellence? You’re not in the airline business? Well in my opinion, quite a lot; let me explain.

All over the world people are moving from rural to urban areas, and they are challenged with living a crowded life, with little chance to be alone let alone to be treated as an individual. This has created an increase in the perceived value of space and individualised service. (>>Tweet this<<) People today desire and actively seek out that little bit of extra service and recognition that means so much to them. In the case of Lionel, he apparently saw me as a low risk and that he could trust me to have the quick coffee I so desperately needed. I am sure such behaviour wasn’t specified in his customer service manual; he took the initiative himself. Isn’t it time you let your own customer service people free to best serve your customers?

Call Centre Scripts

In most companies interactions with  customers are carefully scripted. The call centre metrics are designed for operational efficiency rather than customer satisfaction. Time per call is targeted down and calls per advisor are constantly being targeted up. Last year I shared the story of a CEO who had decided to throw away the scripts for his customer service personnel and to trust them to satisfy the customers in the best way possible – for the client! I am sure you can see how satisfaction went up, for both the advisors and the customers.

In an excellent post by Dave Paulding of Interactive Intelligence on the dos and don’ts of call scripting, he summarised the results of some research he conducted amongst a panel of experts as follows:

  1. Use scripting sparingly on inbound contacts, whether by phone of email
  2. Pre-written statements for online use. It can be useful to have a bank of pre-written statements with pertinent information in them, to insert into text, This particularly important when health, safety or legal issues are discussed.
  3. Don’t read out scripts for outbound use, to avoid mechanical and impersonal responses. However many find it useful to have key words and phrases written down as bullet points to act as an aide-memoire when speaking with customers.

 

Employee satisfaction

Time and again research has shown that employee satisfaction is closely linked to customer satisfaction. If customer service personnel are valued and respected, then they will respect and do the best they can for the customer. In an excellent article by Iwona Tokc-Wilde in Raconteur, she gives several new examples of organisations where everyone from the CEO down is involved in satisfying the customer. They are given the freedom to do whatever it takes and this responsibility makes for happier employees. No matter which level you are at within your own company, when did you last talk to customer service personnel? When did you last engage with customers directly through your call centre, online or through email? Everyone should do it. Regular connection keeps your finger on the pulse of customer change and provides an amazing amount of information and ideas.

In another article, this time on Entrepreneur, entitled “30 Ways to Show your Customers they’re Always Right” they include some great phrases your care centre personnel should learn and abide by, to keep your customer happy. These include:

  • “How can I help?”
  • “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
  • “I will keep you updated.”
  • “I will deliver on time.”
  • “It’ll be just what you ordered.”
  • “I appreciate your business.”

These should not be said without the conviction to follow-up and deliver what is promised. For instance, on-time delivery means just that, if not even earlier, as Amazon often does! Keeping your customer updated means that you will get back to them, even if it is just to say that you are still working on the issue. Knowing that they have not been forgotten is a wonderful emotion for customers and confirms their importance to you. They are more likely to accept waiting without any build up of negativity in the meantime until a solution is found.

Rebecca Brown of SalesForce added a further three phrases, that I particularly like for reducing customer frustration; they are:

  • “I have your information right here”
  • “What do you think?”
  • “Help me help you”

These additional ideas work because they recognise the importance of the customer to the company and avoids them getting frustrated when they have to repeat their issues over and over again. These phrases also build the spirit of teamwork to resolve the issue and empowers the customer and employee to work closely together without being on different sides.

How do you Train your own Customer Service Advisors?

If throwing away your call centre scripts is too far for you to go, at least for now, but you could do with improving your care centre operations to make them even more customer centric, I have a few more ideas for you:

  1. INVITE: How are you currently inviting your customers to connect with you? On your pack or in your advertising? Is the invitation clearly legible and does it offer your customers a choice of channels that they can use to connect? You should want as many connections as possible with your customers, so openly invite them wherever they will have the chance to see it. Some of you will certainly see this as a risk; more contacts equal more complaints, no? Well yes – hopefully at the same proportion as currently – but wouldn’t you rather know if your product or service has problems so you can quickly resolve them?
  2. LISTEN: Advisors should listen attentively to what the customer has to share: it always amazes me how often they try to interrupt the customer in their explanation of why they called. Perhaps this has to do with the call-time targets that have been set. Why not replace them with satisfaction targets? Let the customer talk until the reason for calling is fully explained and they feels that the advisor has really listened.
  3. RESPOND: If your care centre has scripted responses and you can’t throw them away, at least give your advisors permission to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to respond and satisfy your customer. Your customers have taken time and effort to reach out to you, so don’t disappoint them. Surprise and delight them with your response and generosity. Don’t just offer them a replacement product or coupons; everyone else does that. Add samples of new products, send the replacement by express mail, or offer an additional, usually paid service for free. What more can you do for your customer, so their problem turns into a positive story that they will share with friends, family and even the world if they are active on social media?
  4. KEEP LISTENING: Don’t assume that the first thing your customer talks about is the real reason for their call or connection. Sometimes there are other things that would be useful for you to know but you never get the chance to hear them because your advisors are ending the calls too quickly. Perhaps you customer believes you wouldn’t be interested so never calls about their ideas or suggestions. Before ending the connection, why not ask if there is anything else your customer wants to share of talk about with you. More information in this area is always better information.
  5. ASK: Only when your customer is fully satisfied with your responses and has no other things they want to share, can you broach the subject of whether or not they would be willing to answer a few questions for you. If they are, keep it short and if necessary arrange for a follow-up call for more. Please don’t go through your full segmentation questionnaire; just ask the three to five questions that will help you know them better.If they are not, respect their decision.

In summary, to satisfy customers, make sure you invite them to connect with you, then listen, give employees the freedom to respond appropriately, and then listen some more before asking anything yourself. Your customers’ surprise and delight turns any problem into a reason to share their experience as positive advocacy.

These are my steps to customer centric excellence for care services. Which are the most important in your opinion? Do you have any others you would add? I would love to hear from you if you have.

Need help in improving your own customer care? Let us help you catalyse your customer understanding and connection; contact us here for inspiration.

C³Centricity sourced images from Dreamstime.com for this post

This post is an update of one that was published on C³Centricity in December 2011

Customer satisfaction just works better

For Greater Customer Satisfaction, Should Marketers Answer Their Needs or Desires?

In 1943 Maslow proposed his theory about people’s needs in a paper entitled “A theory of human motivation”.

He used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence to describe the pattern of needs that motivate people. At the time he didn’t present it as a hierarchy, nor as a pyramid, but that has become the accepted representation these days.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

While the hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology, management training and psychology instruction, it has largely been supplanted by attachment theory in clinical psychology and psychiatry. However since attachment theory is concerned with how people respond to hurt, separation and threat within relationships, it has less relevance for marketers.

All brands, products and services should be designed to satisfy their target’s needs, so Maslow’s hierarchy seems a good framework to use, when defining on what your offer will be based.

If this interests you, and it should especially if your business is global or geographically spread as I will explain below, then here are the three steps for doing so.

1. Satisfying: Firstly identify which of the five needs your brand or service is looking to fulfill. Remember different brands within the same category can play to differing needs, especially in terms of their communications. Whilst it is generally accepted that the lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed, there are exceptions.

Think of consumers in poorer countries who will buy a TV over proper shoes and clothing for their children. In such cases status and in particular consumer emotions are playing an important role, but more of that later.

2. Resonating: Next develop communications for your target audience by incorporating solutions to their relevant needs. These will obviously resonate more quickly and easily with them than pure product or service information alone. They may also be more emotional and will therefore have greater impact on them.

Here are some good examples that I have seen in recent years of easily identifiable needs being addressed through advertising.

- Knorr’s packet soup in the UK, based on needs of food, safety and love. See video

- Cartier’s corporate campaign from last year, which marked its 165yrs, was appropriately named “L’Odyssée de Cartier” and is clearly based on esteem and self-actualisation.

 – Omo washing powder, one from a long series entitled “Dirt is good”, based on safety and love. See video

- Peugeot car, based on self-esteem and status: See video

- UK back seat safety belt buckle-up campaign, based on safety. Warning, the ending is violent! See video

Interestingly, all these are examples from a few years ago. Although newer examples are available, they are not as obviously based primarily on need states as are these ones. I believe one reason for this is the increase in the level of pure emotional content of current advertising. In fact all the above examples use emotions as well in addressing the needs they are looking to answer, which is perhaps why they performed better than many.

We find much more content today that addresses primarily desires rather than needs. One reason for this is that marketers have finally realized that people often buy out of desire and not because of a need alone. However, what makes it difficult for marketing to respond, is that people find it easier to speak about their needs or what they don’t want, than their desires.

Henry Ford apparently already knew this when he said:

“If I had asked people what they wanted,

they would have said a faster horses”

He resonated with them by providing a solution to their need of travelling more quickly, but in an exciting new way. A more recent quote with a similar sentiment comes from the late Steve Jobs of Apple. People often claim that he was against Market Research, but that was not true. He was in fact only against market research in which questions were simply being asked of consumers, an nd marketers were then responding directly to the answers given without further thought. As he was quoted as saying:

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups.

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” (>>Tweet this<<)

I believe he understood that it was better to respond to a consumers desires than to their needs. Look at Apple’s advertising; it has almost always been resonating emotionally rather than merely rationally with its target customers. As a typical example, check out their ad from last Christmas, a real tear-jerker called “Misunderstood“.

However, I know that many good examples of needs-based advertising do still exist. If you yourself have any representing identified human needs, then it would be great if you would share them in the comments below.

3. Going Global: Another advantage of using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to position your brand / service, is that the same needs are felt by all human beings. That is why these communication ideas are often referred to as “Human truths”. This means that you are more likely to be able to successfully roll out such a campaign regionally or even globally, than if you were basing communications on local specificities alone. The examples above, although mentioned as being from certain markets, were actually all regional or global campaigns.

So coming back to the question asked in the title of this post, the answer is BOTH. To guarantee satisfaction, your customers must feel that you really care about them, truly understand their needs and that your offer also resonates with them emotionally. If you are successful in doing that, then your communications will be understood without any effort on their part. It will be so obvious to them and they will simply identify themselves with what is being shown. Furthermore, an emotionally charged ad is more likely to be shared with their friends on social media. An important additional benefit that is particularly appreciated today.

If you believe that your communications are not appropriately addressing your target customers’ needs AND desires, then please contact us. We have some great case studies from some well-known brands that we can share to inspire and support your own improvements. You will also be excited by the unique methodology we use to understand the meaning your customers take away from your ads.

This post is based on a much shorter one that was first published on C³Centricity in September 2011.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

Halloween scares & solutions for marketing

Halloween Scares & Solutions for Marketing

Halloween is coming, even earlier than usual this year, judging from all the retail displays already in the shops! Although it is now more associated with children dressing up in scary costumes and demanding “Trick or Treat”,  it is actually a Christian remembrance of the dead on the eve of All Saints’ Day.

So what does that have to do with marketing? Apart from the obvious effort of many companies to include the pumpkin shape, flavour or aroma in almost every product they make, at least in the US, marketing too has its scary moments doesn’t it?

What scares you marketers the most, or to put it another way, what keeps you up at night? One of the most recent studies on the topic, issued a few months ago, comes from The Marketing Institute (MSI) and was summarised by David Aaker of Prophet as seven issues, which he divided into three tiers:

TIER ONE: The hot topics

  1. Understanding customers and the customer experience with particular emphasis on the impact of social and digital.
  2. Big data and analytics, with how they will impact predictive modelling and the marketing mix.

TIER TWO: The other concerns

  1. Following on from the opportunities of Big Data, the next concern is Marketing Accountability and its ROI.
  2. Developing marketing excellence and the new skills required such as visualisation and storytelling.
  3. Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology and linking it to CRM
  4. Creating and communicating enduring customer value and how to measure it in the social environment.
  5. Developing and delivering integrated marketing

TIER THREE: Previous concerns getting under control

  1. Innovating products and services
  2. Global marketing
  3. Segmentation
  4. Optimizing social contracts

What I find interesting from this and similar studies that I wrote about last year, is the overlap between many of these challenges. Marketers are really concerned about the wealth of information that they have on their customers and how they can manage to turn it all into insights, for more profitable actions and engagement. I therefore thought it would be useful to summarise the “so whats” of all these current challenges and propose actions that will help marketers get these issues under control, so they can change their scares into solutions:

Understanding the customer experience

SCARE: With the exciting new worlds of social and digital taking up much of the thoughts of marketers, they are struggling to find ways to think integration, but that is the only way to understand today’s customers. 

SOLUTION: Starting from the customers’ perspective makes looking at the bigger picture much easier. Instead of thinking single channels of communication, think connection and engagement. (>>Tweet this<<). Instead of thinking purchase and loyalty, think advocacy. Creating value for the customer goes way beyond providing a product or service these days. (>>Tweet this<<)

Knowing what to do with data

SCARE: We have gone from an information rich environment to complete data overload. This challenge definitely keeps a lot of marketers up at night. They feel as if they have to use everything available but at the same time are also aware that they are incapable of doing so.

SOLUTION: The answer lies in the old “eating an elephant” solution. Rather than worrying about what is not being managed, marketers should review what they already have, and only then decide what else they could use to help answer all their questions. There is so much information available today that we can’t work with it all, but we can ask better questions that can be answered by analysing this data. Start with the right question and then use the data you have to answer it. (>>Tweet this<<)

Engaging customers

SCARE: Every brand has some sort of web presence today. Whether that is a website, Facebook page or Twitter account, most companies have rushed into social media without a detailed understanding of why they are there. If this is your case, it’s time to take a step back.

SOLUTION: How are you connecting with your customers today, both offline and online? The two should be complementary. However if there is too much overlap and you are doing the same on both, then you are wasting your money. You are also wasting your money if you don’t know why you are online in the first place! (>>Tweet this<<)

I had a client once who wanted help in updating one of their websites. In running a first analysis of all their websites, I found that more than 80% of them were being visited by less than 30 visitors a month! We cancelled all those websites and invested the money in the remaining active ones, improving both their ROI and the engagement with their customers. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your own web statistics?

Marketing ROI

SCARE: Marketers are scared for their budgets and even more so for their jobs. With the rise in the importance of technology and IT, marketers need to move from branding and creativity alone, to embracing data and analytics much more than they have done in the past.

SOLUTIONBecome friends with your CIO and see IT as a support of rather than as a threat to your budgets. Yes managing new technologies and data analysis will need more investment, but that won’t (shouldn’t) come at the expense of brand building. In fact with the increased power of the customer and the number of channels on which to reach them, marketing needs increased budgets to be where and when the customer demands connection and information. (>>Tweet this<<)

Acquiring new skills

SCARE: As already mentioned, marketers must get comfortable with large amounts of different data. They also need better ways to analyse and make sense of it all, often in near real-time. This is a challenge in itself, but the new skills they have to acquire don’t stop there. They also need to turn their information into actionable insights and then share them with the rest of the business to gain acceptance and impact.

SOLUTION: Your market research and insight colleagues are the best people to help in making sense of the data and developing actionable insights. It will be the marketer’s job to share these with the rest of the business in a more creative way. Visualisation & storytelling are the new must-have skills for today. No longer can you expect PowerPoint presentations to excite and engage your C-suite executives – if they ever did!

These are five of the most pressing current scares of marketing and some simple solutions to address them. Are you challenged by something else? If so, add a comment below and I’ll help you find a solution. Or if you prefer, you can contact me here.

C3Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

 

 

Innovative companies have breakthrough ideas

How to Innovate More Creatively

I was recently on a trip to the US; a transatlantic flight on a Boeing 747, my favourite airplane – apart from the Seneca II that I used to own. Anyway, the reason I love long-distance flights is because they cut us off from everyday life, although unfortunately no longer the phone nor web these days.

They therefore provide us with a very rare commodity; some precious thinking time. How do we ever get that otherwise? Speaking personally, my brain seems to be constantly under pressure from the challenges of work, family, friends – in a word, living – so I love it when I need to get on a flight, the longer the better.

I watched Transcendence on this flight; it’s about the moment when the human brain and technology become one. I love science fiction (SciFi), because it frees the mind to dream and to be far more creative than the “normal” working environment ever allows.

After the film and lunch were over, my mind turned – of course – to business and how I could set my past, current and future clients free too; how to make them more creative as well as more customer centric. So this is what I came up with, far above the clouds and worries of my everyday world.

The future is in our hands

We are all wise after the event, but how do we become wise before it? In my opinion, by setting free our thoughts about the future and our creativity. Many companies have an innovation group, but rarely do they set them free, to think big, to think out of the box.

In fact in many cases, they are literally put in their own boxes, separated from the business for which they are supposed to be innovating. Whilst the intention of this separation may be laudable – it is claimed that it provides increased freedom  – it generally doesn’t work, because the group’s creativity is not grounded.

Despite their incredible creativity, even science fiction writers are grounded; their stories are based on facts, a progression from current actualities to future possibilities. I am not suggesting that innovation be limited to the mere renovation of today’s products and services, but rather that they be based upon a realistic progression of today’s realities, rather than pure hypothesis. In particular, they should be developed out of current sociatal trends, behaviors and needs.

Trend following isn’t creative

Are you following trends? Are you happy with the information you are getting from your supplier? We all love to look at new inventions and products from around the world, but just think about what useful and actionable information you are really getting.

I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you are almost certainly getting exactly the same suggestions as the tens, if not hundreds of other clients your supplier has. Reports aren’t generally personalized, or only minimally, so whatever ideas their reports might spark, are likely to be sparking in every one of your competitors minds too!

So if trend following won’t help your innovation, what will? My answer would be many things; isn’t that good to know?

Develop your trends into future scenarios

Trends do not provide you with a competitive advantage, especially for innovation, so you need to first turn them into future scenarios. There are (at least) two ways to do this.

Firstly you can combine the trends and form what are often referred to as axes of uncertainty. When crossed, these form four (or more) new worlds for you to then define, describe and develop. Your possible actions in each of these scenarios can then be identified, so your business is prepared for all major possible risks and opportunities.

“We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond” Marcel Proust (>>Tweet this<<)

The second way is by identifying the major trends that may impact your business and then letting a Science Fiction writer describe the world that could develop. It is not so much a matter of being right as being provocative, the more the better. That’s why SciFi writers are amongst the best people to stretch our thinking. They have the creativity to go far beyond what most of us would think about, even when stretching our thinking. After all, the point of future scenarios is to prepare business for the future, not to predict it (>>Tweet this<<)

Visualise the future

Once you have developed your scenario – or two – you should visualise them to increases buy-in and sharing. This can be through a simple presentation, descriptive profiles or more exciting animations and videos.

Lowe’s has been one of the companies at the forefront of such visual development, using virtual reality to develop The Holoroom to show what SciFutures‘ science-fiction writers had developed. The room puts consumers into a new world where they can see their own new world, at least of their home after their planned renovation.

Other industries that are quickly developing new virtual worlds for customers include car and plane manufacturers showing future travel options. Car purchasers can also experience their new cars before actually buying them and can help in the development of cars that more perfectly meet their desires and needs.

Innovating outside the box

In too many cases innovation is built upon reality and a company’s current offers, in other words are renovations not innovations, just a step change from what we have today. New products developed using scenario planning tend to be faster, clearer, more efficient, longer-lasting and overall more attractive.

Technology makes what was even unthinkable just a few months or years ago, a reality today or in the very near future. Everything is moving faster and faster, so businesses must do the same. As this is rarely possible, they must already think the unthinkable today, so that they are prepared when it actually happens tomorrow. (>>Tweet this<<)

Are you ready for the brave new world  that is estimated to be just ten, twenty or at most just thirty years from now? That’s when the point of singularity is estimated to arrive.

If you would like help in improving your own innovation process, or in developing a future scenario for your organisation, please let us know; we would be excited to inspire you.

C3Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

Do you use ad testing as a go, no go decision?

Should you Test your Advertising? If so, What, When and How?

 

One of my clients recently asked me a very interesting question, which I share here, as I am sure that you too have asked it from time to time. It was this: “Should I test my advertising and if so, when and how?”

Depending upon whether you work on the client side, in a media agency or are a creative in an ad agency, you will have certainly answered this in a different way. So let’s review all the pros and cons and decide what is right – for you – in different circumstances.

 

Should you test advertising?

If you work on the client side and ask your colleagues in an advertising agency, most of them would probably scream NO and that’s not surprising! Countless teams have suffered at the hands of market research and the over-testing of their creative.

In the past sixty years or so, there have been many different metrics invented, with the intention of evaluating which of a client’s communication concepts would best meet their objectives. And that for me is one of the biggest challenges to ad. testing. Should you test a campaign or each individual ad? Should you test an ad built to increase awareness in the same way as one built for encouraging trial, purchase, repurchase, loyalty or advocacy? My answer would be a very Swiss “It depends”.

Firstly you have to be clear about why you are advertising in the first place, and what your campaign is trying to achieve. It still amazes me how many companies develop new campaigns simply because that’s what they do each year. Hopefully each new campaign has a link to the preceding one, but even that is not always obvious. Therefore start by being very clear with whom you want to communicate and why – and share that information with your ad agency.

 

When to test

A lot of companies have a standard process of testing ads before airing. Whilst this could be admired, it often results in multiple ad developments. The feeling is that more is better. If you test two, three or more ads, you can then choose the winner to air. What’s wrong with that?

Well, in my opinion, quite a lot. You’ve just wasted a lot of time, money and energy in developing multiple ads, when you know you’ll most probably only use one in most cases. It’s time to think differently and spend your valuable resources more wisely. Once the ad agency has developed a number of campaign concepts or ideas that meet your carefully defined objectives, then that is a better time to test.

Don’t wait until you have gone further and produced animations, final prints or complete films before testing. If you wait until that late a stage in the development process, you are also more likely to designate a “winner” when in fact they could all be good – or bad! Working with concepts will help identify the real winning ideas you have, which can then be developed into a final version or two for copytesting – if you must, but more of that later. The earlier you test, the more resources your ad agency can concentrate on the most relevant concept(s), rather than diluting their efforts to give you the wide choice you usually demand. No wonder ad agencies don’t like copytesting!

 

What to test

Another reason for testing concepts rather than finished ads, is to ensure that they can be turned into a campaign. I have witnessed many terrific, so called “big ideas” that were superb as they stood, but which it was impossible to visualise other than in the single form proposed. If you show your early work to consumers, they might even be inspired by the story of an idea and suggest other ways to show the concept you have developed and thus you get an indication of the campaignability of the idea.

For regional and global campaigns, there is often the added complication of the translation of the idea into other languages. There are many concepts in English that don’t or only poorly translate into other languages. English is a wonderful language that is particularly appropriate for advertising, because of the ability to make wordplays, or use idioms, acronyms, slang, compound words and other wonders of its grammar. In addition the English language is known for its extensive vocabulary, which is especially useful in advertising copy-writing. Whereas in another language you might only have one or two words to express a particular meaning, English may have five or six, each with subtle differences.  If you’d like to see some great examples of advertising messages “lost in translation” (>>Tweet this<<) check out this fun article from Business News Daily.

 

How to test

Depending upon their “standard” processes, most companies will tend to use the same methodology, with no regard for the reasons for doing so. Are you used to copytesting all your developments in order to pick the “winner”, or to get airing approved by management? Some clients I know must score in the “top quadrant” on the usual copytesting impact and persuasion metrics in order to use an ad, even though there are valid reasons to accept lower scores on one or other of the metrics, depending upon the campaign’s objectives.

Some of the best – and most useful – campaign testing I have ever seen, was done qualitatively. But that alone won’t work unless you then allow the creatives, market research and insight groups to discuss the results together – ALONE! It was exciting to share consumer opinions with the creatives and they found it equally stimulating to share their ideas and get feedback based on real consumer input. Whoever said that creatives don’t like testing are wrong; they just dislike judgemental, sometimes disrespectful and bland numerical results with little if any depth of analysis.

A powerful testing methodology I have had the privilege to work with is the unique one proposed by PhaseOne. Their scientifically based, proprietary technique, is based on over thirty years experience of academic work and real-world validation. Their knowledgebase includes an extensive foundation including analytics in human behaviour, anthropology, culture traits, entertainment, education, communications and marketing. This enables them to accurately explain how your target will react to your messages and even more importantly the reasons why, without actually speaking with consumers. In comparative testing versus standard copytesting, their technique has been shown to give similar outcomes, but with greater depth and understanding of the reasons why consumers react to an ad as they do and not just the what. If you’d like to hear more about this unique methodology, especially if you’re having trouble speaking with your own target customers due to legal or confidentiality issues, I’d be happy to share some case studies.

 

In summary when it comes to testing your advertising:

  1. Know with whom you want to communicate
  2. Know what your target audience wants to hear
  3. Know why you are communicating, what the message is that you want to send
  4. Know which concept(s) have the most resonance with both your target audience and objectives, and why
  5. Know how the concept(s) will develop into a campaign across media
  6. Know how you are going to communicate, the most relevant medium and channels for your target audience

Can you answer all six questions before pre-testing you own ads? If so, well done; if not, perhaps it’s time to review your testing process.

 

Where testing came from & where it’s going

In conclusion, a few words about the future of pre-testing. Although advertising testing supposedly started in the mid 1800’s, it was in the 1950’s that performance metrics became the holy grail of clients, ad agencies and media sellers alike. From Day-After-Recall, to persuasion, and brand linkage to moment-by-moment systems, it wasn’t until this decennie that the importance of emotional rather than rational responses to advertising gained support. Today, emotional analysis has become widely available and customers’ reaction to the ads are measured, usually on the six universal emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger) plus neutral. Whilst it’s still early days in understanding the connection between emotional reactions and brand impact, things are moving fast. C³Centricity is now offering facial coding as part of its services, whether for adding to market research projects or for the development of original promotions and point-of-sale activities. One such case study is available for download on the C³Centricity Members area here. (Free to join)

Interestingly, when I was doing research for this post, almost all the more recent articles I found were about the testing of online advertising, comparing PPC and positioning, of the usual paid, earned and owned media. However, with around two-thirds of budgets still being on traditional media – at least for now – and Statista showing that consumers still trust it more than new media,  it seemed appropriate for me to concentrate on that here and leave online for a future post.

Also, I have covered only pre-testing here, yet I know many companies who are satisfied with running only post-tests. They admit that it is because they never have enough time to pre-test their ads which, at least to me, highlights a clear lack of concept testing in the first place. Hopefully I have explained why I think it is important, no vital, for clients, media and ad agencies alike, to do more of it. At least it will provide more material for those development discussions – before it’s too late!

Do you agree? Have I forgotten something? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post

 

Developing actionable insight is the true source of business growth

The Ultimate Guide to Developing Actionable Insights

One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.

Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into understanding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.

Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.

#1. Be precise in your objectives

Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired change in your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive brand purchasers to buy your brand instead.

Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department (>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and understanding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.

Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or brand, including for example:

  • R&D, who can bring understanding of available internal & external technical skills
  • operations who can share current defects and development aspects
  • sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to understand people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company

#3. Review all available information & knowledge

All organisations have far more information than most employees realise (>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.

Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge.  You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the understanding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:

  • go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you understand the decision making process of your target customers.
  • compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their brand’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one hand? If your product is used in certain demanding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your brand. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#5. Fill the gaps

Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into understanding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review (>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.

#6. Develop the insight

At this stage, you will certainly have a better understanding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.

You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

Man taking the six steps to actionable insight

These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.

From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in understanding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website at: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand/ as well as available trainings at: http://www.c3centricity.com/training-and-evaluation/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi.

Cannes Lions Award

Award Winning Communications are Powered by Insight & Customer Understanding

This time last month, many marketing and communications professionals had just returned from Cannes, France, where they had attended the annual Lions Awards Festival. They are now back in their offices and have probably been comparing their own communications to this year’s winners and wondering what they can do to get one of these coveted prizes in the near future.

For the rest of us, we are also looking at the winners, but more for gathering learnings on how to make our own communications more creative and impactful, without any ambition of winning a Lions one day.

That is why I decided to review a selection of the Press Lions Category and analyse how they might appeal to their target customers. I found three dominant themes running through all the prize-winners, some of which even incorporated several of them in one single campaign. If you’d like to see all the winning ads from these campaigns they can be found in the AdWeek article linked above.

1. Simple & clear messaging

We are all in a hurry these days; we have far too much to do and so we no longer read with as much attention as we did in the past. Today we just skim headlines and articles, and quickly decide whether they’re worth digging into in more detail or whether to pass over to the next one. It is therefore essential that ads communicate their message in a way that is quick to read, understand and capture. Examples of this from amongst the print winners:

Harvey Nichols – Grand Prix Campaign

Harvey Nicols insight built communicationsThese are clean, simple ads showing nicely packaged but cheap seasonal gifts, because you decided to  #SpendItOnYourself, as the campaign is entitled. The eye is naturally drawn to the simple red words, since the articles themselves are white on a white background. The reader gets the message and immediately thinks whether they too could give such items, but then also reflect on why they don’t spend (more) on treating themselves. This feel-good reaction makes for good recall of the campaign as well as the positive image transfer to Harvey Nichols.

Zwilling J. A. Henckels – Gold Lion Campaign

Zwilling insight built communicationsRather than saying how sharp these high-end knives are, this is illustrated by the incredibly thin slices of different foods shown in the campaign. The thin slices are then overlapped to show the shape of the blade and the text below is kept in the form of the handle. The artful design of the whole ad further complements the idea that these are special – definitely not cheap – knives, for connaisseurs only.

 

2. Emotional resonance

The UK was one of the first countries to use shock tactics in their road safety and other public service campaigns. Stimulating people’s emotions is guaranteed to get ads noticed and remembered, but it doesn’t all have to be negative.  Examples from amongst the winners:

Shanghai General Motors / Buick – Gold Lion Campaign

Buick ads built with insightThese ads show real people who have been injured in road accidents, holding up the signs that the drivers that hit them had ignored. The tagline “Signs are there for a reason” is clear and simple, and the images of the injured people emotionally impactful. The reader immediately thinks about occasions when they too have driven recklessly, but were lucky enough not to have injured anyone. The impact of the visuals remains long after the reader has turned the page.

Volkswagen – Gold Lion Campaign

Volkswagen communications built on insightA completely different and definitely light-hearted approach to travel is taken by Volkswagen in this winning campaign. They show how getting from one place to another can be fun in these playful, product-free ads. The visuals appeal as the viewer takes the extra few seconds to understand it and then takes away the message that driving a Polo GTI is fun too.

 

3. Confirming intellectual superiority

In today’s overcrowded urban areas, people look for ways to differentiate and prove themselves, whether physically or intellectually. This is one of the reasons that gaming has become so popular in all age groups. Finding the hidden signs in an image or understanding a play on words in an ad can increase the engagement, provided of course that they are neither too difficult nor too easy to solve. Examples from amongst the print winners:

Jeep – Gold Lion Campaign

Jeep communications built on insightsThis campaign includes ads that are both a play on words and images, doubly clever. Jeep shows images of animals which, when inverted became different animals or birds. The tag line “See whatever you want to see” refers to both this as well as to the advantage of the Jeep to place the driver higher up, with better visibility.

Penguin Group China – Gold Lion Campaign

Penguin communications built on insightAt first you might find these Penguin ads rather crowded and confusing, and therefore you don’t immediately “get” the joke – I admit it took me a few seconds!. But look carefully and you will see penguins holding microphone booms in otherwise classical illustrations of well-known literature. The ads are for Penguin’s new audiobooks and are a clever and amusing way to communicate the novelty.

To sum up my findings from this quick analysis, the winners have three points in common:

      • Their messages are clear and simple to understand
      • They connect emotionally with their audience
      • They offer the viewer something in return for their looking at it

All these ads clearly demonstrate that working with customer understanding and insight increases the likelihood that your communications will resonate with your target customers. Now we need to wait until next year to see how well these ads perform in impacting the sales and images of the brands. Which of these will be the real winners of Cannes? I would love to hear what you think.

If you would like in improving your own communications, or in understanding and engaging with your customers, whether using traditional or new media, then why not give us a call? Let us catalyze your own communications with some of our unique tools; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Forbes and AdWeek in this post.

The new marketing man is a brand manager

Are P&G Right to End Marketing?

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion around P&G’s decision to change marketing into brand management.

The consumer products world closely watches whenever P&G announces changes, whether to their strategy, marketing or in this case their organisational structure. As this AdAge article (herementions “P&G seems well out in front of the rest of the marketing world — or what used to be known as the marketing world — on this”.

As businesses have become more social, there have been a lot of articles about marketing. Some have spoken about the need for marketing and IT to get together, if not even merge in some way (See this Forbes article). Others have proclaimed the end of the CMO’s position altogether, including the infamous piece by IMD’s President Dominique Turpin “The CMO is Dead ..… Welcome to the CCO. Then there have been even more articles challenging marketing to show their worth and suggesting metrics to prove their ROI (See Fournaise 2011 study of 600 CEOs or Forrester’s Marketing Performance Management Survey).

The fact that there have been so many different pieces on the topic over the last year or so, suggests to me that marketing is still vital for and extremely attractive to business, but that it is in desperate need of reinventing itself. I believe this is behind P&G’s move.

At the end of last year I wrote a post proposing what I thought would and wouldn’t change and what needs to. Six months on, in light of P&G’s announcement, I thought it useful to review my list:

What will change

  • Marketing can no longer work alone in a silo; it needs to become more collaborative and more commercial or business oriented. It can no longer remain fuzzy and hide behind claims that its ROI is difficult to measure.
  • Understanding customer service opportunitiesThe sales funnel will be (has already been) replaced by the purchase decision journey, which will be a multi-layered, flexible representation of the route to purchase. For more on this, read “How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Customer Loyalty”.
  • Advertising and messaging TO the customer will be replaced by valuable information made available FOR the customer. In line with the longer sales journey and multiple online consultations, communication will become more informative, more useful, more timely.
  • Local will no longer be geographic but “Native”. Whether it’s language, habits or interests, customers will be targeted on their similarities that will rarely, if ever, include geographical proximity.
  • Mobile web consulting will become the norm, so brand sites need to become adaptive. Content will aim to inform, educate and entertain first and foremost, rather than sell, and websites will become flexible and adaptive to the differing screens and customer needs.

What won’t change

  • The customer is still the king, but content joins the ranks in almost equal position, needing more respect and value, and less commoditisation. For a great post on this read “5 Ways Content Marketing Must Change in 2014”.
  • Recommendations will remain a vital part of choice and decision-making, but they will no longer come from just friends and family. They will come from organised collection – think TripAdvisor or Angie’s List – or from (self) proclaimed experts through their Blog posts and faithful followers.
  • Customer (consumer) understanding remains vital and in fact the need for understanding will even increase as customers will be in constant evolution.

What must change

  • We are all swamped with messages and information and yet – perhaps because of this – our attention span is declining. Messaging must become shorter and simpler as people use headlines to decide whether or not to stick around.
  • In addition to the increased need for informative content, it will need to engage as well as (or is it more than?) inform. Storytelling will become an essential skill for marketers, both internally and externally.
  • Wearable technology will totally change our where and when decisions of messaging. The customer will not only be in charge of what messages are received but when to be “visible” to receive them.
  • The old marketing funnel to advocacyHaving changed the sales funnel to a path to purchase, the usual loyalty funnel no longer works. The simple path from awareness to loyalty will be replaced by a constant and consistent battle for trust. What’s more it will never be truly “won” as customers continue to be fascinated by novelty.
  • Marketing can no longer depend on creativity alone. It won’t be enough, as if it ever was, and marketers will need to get (even more?) comfortable with their BigData and its usage.
  • Customer understanding will come from multiple sources and market researchers will become understanding analysts responsible for turning the unstoppable flow of information into the organisation, into palatable morsels of digestible stories.

Although I didn’t predict P&G’s change, it does in fact address most of the above, by combining four functions under the new title of Brand Management: brand management (formerly known as marketing), consumer and marketing knowledge (their name for market research), communications and design. At least by combining these groups under a single leader they will be forced to work less in silos and there should be more and better collaboration. Only time will tell if this move will be successful.

Do you think P&G’s change is the right move? Will you consider doing something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are, or aspire to the “old” CMO or marketing roles. 

If you need help in adapting to the new world of marketing, why not work with one of the new breed of marketers? Someone who combines cultural sensitivity with creativity and technical know-how; a catalyst for the change your organisation needs. Contact us here and let’s discuss your needs.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

Getting better customer understanding

How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?

How well do you know your target customers? I mean really know them? Are they men, women, young, old, Fortune 100 companies, local businesses? If you can at least answer that, then you have the basics, but how much more could you know about them? Can you answer the following twelve questions?

I was recently working with a local service company who was looking for help with their online presence. They were keen to get more active on social media and had asked for advice about the best platforms, optimal frequency of publishing and possible content ideas.

However they were in for a surprise. Rather than getting straight onto the “sexy” topic of social media, I started by taking them through the basics of target customer identification. Lucky for them that I did! When we had finished the exercise, we had found five different targets for them to target, rather than the mere two they had been addressing until now. This clearly would have a huge impact on the where, what and how they communicated online. The 4 Ws of customer understanding

These are the twelve questions that enabled us to brainstorm, identify and then complete a better and more complete description of their target customers. Their use also resulted in clear differentiated segments for their services – three more than they had originally thought! How would you like to double your own market potential? Read on:

  1. WHO DEMOGRAPHICS: OK this is usually a “no-brainer” and is how most organisations describe their customers. Not really original and definitely not competitive, but still the essential foundation.
  2. WHAT THEY USE: Whether you are offering a product or service, you need to know what your customers are using today. And not only for your category, but in adjacent categories too. What do they use – if anything – if your product / category is not available?
  3. WHAT THEY CONSUME: Here we need to understand what types of information and media they are consuming; what do they read, watch, listen to in their spare time. Which social media do they use, what websites do they consult on a regular basis?
  4. WHAT THEY DO: How do your customers spend their time? What type of lifestyle do they have? What are their hobbies? What do they do all day, and in the evening and at weekends?
  5. WHAT THEY BUY: This is where you describe their current category purchasing habits. How frequently and what quantity do they buy? Do they have regular buying habits? Do they do research before buying or repurchasing? Do they compare and if so how, where, why?
  6. WHERE THEY USE: Is the category consumed in home, in work, on vacation? With friends, with their partner, their children, with colleagues? Are there certain surroundings more conducive to consumption? What makes it so?
  7. WHERE THEY BUY: Do your target customers have certain places and times they buy? Is it an habitual or impulse purchase? Is it seasonal?
  8. WHERE THEY CONSUME: Today “consume” covers not just traditional media but new media as well. From where do they get information about products? From manufacturers, friends, family, colleagues? Do they access it online, in print, on radio or TV, at home or on the road? What websites and people do they follow, listen to and value the opinion of? What interests do they have in general and concerning the category?
  9. WHERE THEY SEE: One reason to target a specific group of customers is so that you can better communicate with them. Where are they most likely to be open to your messages; what media, what times, which days?
  10. WHY VALUES: What values do your customers have that you are meeting with your product or service, and explain why they are using it? Do they have other values that are not currently addressed, either by you or your competitors? Do these values offer the possibility of a differentiated communications platform or product / service concept?
  11. WHY EMOTIONS: What is the emotional state of your customers when they are considering a purchase or use, both of the category and the brand? Clearly identified emotions enable you to more easily resonate with your customers through empathising with their current situation. You are more likely to propose a solution that will satisfy their need or desire when their emotional state is precisely identified.
  12. WHY MOTIVATIONS: What motivates the customer to consider, buy and use their category and brand choice? Emotions and motivations are closely linked both to each other and to the customer’s need state. By identifying the need-state you want to address, you will be better able to understand your customers and increase the resonance of your communications.

If you can answer all twelve of these questions in detail, then you certainly know your customers intimately. But before you sit back and relax on your laurels, remember that people are constantly changing and what satisfies them today, is unlikely to satisfy them tomorrow. Therefore you need to keep a track on all four layers of your customer description to stay ahead of competition, as well as to satisfy and hopefully delight your customers.

As mentioned above, by answering and completing a detailed description of the target audience for my client, we were able to identify a couple of new segments that my client’s services could address. Although their demographics were similar, their emotional and need states were quite different. This gave us the opportunity to respond with slightly different service offers for each group.

If you would like to try out this exercise for yourself, we have some useful templates that we make available to C³C Members. Why not sign up and get access? It’s FREE to join.

For more information on better identifying and understanding target customers, please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

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

Checking the 7Ps of outstanding customer service

Which of these 10 Customer Centricity Steps are you Missing?

Last Saturday was the start of Summer in the Northern hemisphere and the weather certainly confirms this, at least for now! Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our journey to Customer Centricity.

Organisations need to take a step back occasionally and review how their plans are going. What changes do they need to make to ensure they meet their objectives over the remaining six months of the year? So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can take to get further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many brands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Understand your primary target

Knowing precisely who the customer is for each of your brands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Boston Matrix for improved customer centricity and segmentation evaluationAction: Review the target audience for each of your brands and ensure you have information on their “4Ws”. In other words the Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so. If you would like to learn more about targeting, check out this post.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer. This can be by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shop and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage. It’s time you started turning them into future scenarios or use future prototyping. (Contact us here to learn more about this)

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your brand and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges. Alternatively, why not try Sci-Fi Future Prototyping? (Contact us here for more information)

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Most organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow band of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, branding, services. Check last week’s post for more details about innovation.

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their brand images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor brands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into understanding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

As the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says:

“What gets measured gets managed” (>>Tweet this<<)

Besides brand image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait for them to start declining. Once they are, it will be much more difficult to reverse.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers”  (>>Tweet this<<)

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C³C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

This post is based on one that was first published on C³Centricity in July 2013