Marketers need to show your customer care

How Marketers Like You Are Fully Benefiting From This Awesomely Changing World

I’ve just returned from a trip to California, USA. All you marketers who follow me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, will have seen some photos of the various places I visited, from San Jose in Silicon Valley near San Francisco to the huge sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles.

I was there to attend a conference on how business people, not just marketers, can break through our self-limiting behaviours. I also took the chance to catch up with a few C³Centricity partners. All the experiences were mind-blowing or rather mind-stretching, and it is this idea which prompted today’s post. How we marketers can break through our well-established but self-limiting thoughts and behaviours to make our businesses shine.

Heart-centered versus Customer-centric

The conference I attended was a great opportunity for me to meet many other people from around the world, who want to make their businesses more heart-centered. You know that I am a champion of customer centricity, so you might be wondering what the difference is between a customer-centric and a heart-centered business. After my three days in San Jose, I would say that in my opinion, not much. I believe it is difficult to think customer first without it also involving the heart; at least, it should.

As we try to put our customers at the centre of our organisations, it is through a concern to satisfy and delight them. A heart-centred business would probably go further to ensure that what they do also benefits non-customers, or, at least, doesn’t harm them.

Creating shared value for smart marketersCreating shared value has become a strong commitment of many of the leading global players in the consumer goods market, with Vodaphone, Google and Toyota leading the way according to the Forbes “Change the World” List. If the topic inspires you then you might also be interested to read an article on “Innovation and Creating Shared Value“, which I was invited to contribute to the latest issue of the Journal of Creating Value.

But back to businesses; which is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric, or are you not even there yet? (>>Tweet this<<) Do you think customer first but forget about those who are not yet customers? If so, then here are a few current habits that some companies have, which show how customer centric they are – or not:

  • Asking credit card details for a “free” offer. This information would only be of use to charge the client and is a “trick” often employed by companies making time-limited free offers, in the hope their clients forget to cancel within the allotted trial period. Customer-centric businesses would only ask for such information once the customer is committed to purchasing the offer.
  • Requiring full details on a contact form when the customer just wants to ask a question or download something. This information rarely provides value to the customer and is a real turn-off for many. Customer-centric businesses avoid asking more information than they need for immediate action. For them, building a strong relationship with their customer is more important; the additional details can be gathered as the relationship develops.
  • Offering helpful suggestions of other products or services that may be of interest when a customer buys something. Yes, this does benefit the company too if the customer buys additional offers, but win-win service is customer-centric too. These recommendations use a technique called affinity analysis (sometimes called basket analysis) and although Amazon wasn’t the first to use it, they are by far the most well-known marketers to do so.
  • Providing positive experiences the customer hasn’t paid for and doesn’t expect. This can be upgraded products or shipping, samples or additional products or services included with their purchase. This benefits the customer by adding an element of positive emotional connection to the business. It also benefits the business as it can lead to a better company image and greater loyalty.

Creating Plausible Future Scenarios

As I mentioned in the introduction, I caught up with a few of C³Centricity’s major partners in California. One of them, SciFutures, in Burbank, gave me my own experience of the future in a hands-on way, which was awesome! During my last visit, they let my try out the Oculus Rift VR glasses. While it was interesting, the stilted imagery did not enable me to fully embrace the new world I was watching – a roller coaster they had warned would make me sick – which of course it didn’t! Not only did I not fully engage with the scenes shown, I was underwhelmed by the potential of using the experience for marketers.

HTC Vive for smart marketersFast forward to less than one year later and I was blown away but the HTC Vive and Amazon Echo / Alexa experiences they gave me. The HTC glasses enabled me to integrate into a world of endless possibilities. They invited me to become an artist and although I am not very creative, this tool enabled me to create incredible 3D images which I could view from every angle.

Amazon Ech Alexa

 

The Amazon Echo / Alexa unit, which is the first step towards a smarter home that I would certainly like to make, sat quietly on the shelf until an order was issued. Whether it was to estimate the drive time to my next appointment – which is vital when battling the impossibly heavy traffic in Los Angeles –  to requesting to listen to a specific music or to add an item to my shopping list, “she” was an always-on assistant that I can’t wait to have for real in the not too distant future.

Besides these fun experiences, we also discussed SciFutures’ work with major multinationals in developing and more importantly, showing, the possible future developments of the home, the financial sector and multiple other industries.

I am always living in / dreaming about the future, so you can imagine how exciting our discussions were. (If you are in need of some new perspectives on your own industry in order to be better prepared in this fast-changing world, then let me know and we can start creating an inspiring and exciting future scenario for your business)

Self-limiting Thoughts and Behaviours

At the beginning of this article, I said that I had been inspired to review the self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that slow our progress and that of our businesses. I, therefore, want to end with a list of them, which I developed during the conference and in the days following it. I would love it if you add your own ideas in the comments below.

  • Beliefs are created out of our own, personal experiences and we rarely realise that some of them are not truths. Tony Robbins said that “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.”  (>>Tweet this<<) While reviewing the following list, I suggest we dwell on our own thoughts and behaviours and make 2016 the year we made changes that will empower us. Both we and our businesses will flourish if we do. 
  • The word “can’t” is far too often used these days, when in fact we most likely mean “won’t make the time” or “aren’t interested“. We should be more honest with both ourselves and our co-workers. Explaining our reasons for our behaviour or lack of enthusiasm is valuable information for future exchanges and learning. “Honesty is the best policy,” said Benjamin Franklin more than three hundred years ago and yet we have still not learned the lesson! (>>Tweet this<<)
  • The word “should” often precedes the use of the word “can’t”. For example “I should do that but I can’t find the energy”. Again we need to be honest in admitting the real reasons behind both why we “should” do something and why we won’t. And again a better self-awareness and understanding.
  • We love to give rather than to receive. We love to provide support and help but hate asking for it ourselves. This is a crazy situation that most of us find ourselves in more often than we would like to admit? We like others to be indebted to us, as it gives us a (false) feeling of power. Keep this in mind and endeavour to make your life one of balance; to give and receive.
  • Shakespeare said it best in his play “As you like it”, Act II, Scene VII:  “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” (>>Tweet this<<) What are you playing it? Relationships are built on trust and authenticity, both in the personal and professional circles. Are you pretending to be someone you are not, or to know something you don’t? If so, the stress of being “found out” will take it’s toll eventually, one way or the other. Being our authentic selves is the only way to expand, grow and flourish. The same is true for brands.
  • “Procrastination is the thief of time” (>>Tweet this<<) is a mid-18th century proverb which means that if you delay doing something, it will almost certainly take longer to complete later on. The best solutions to procrastination include making lists, breaking down large or unattractive tasks into smaller, more achievable steps, and making the work time-limited. Making progress, however small, is better than none at all. (>>Tweet this<<).
  • Often one of the reasons for procrastination is perfectionism. We set such impossibly high standards that we know we’ll not meet, even before trying – so we don’t try. Life is for learning and as I said previously, any progress is better than no progress. Imperfection is human; embrace your humanness and learn from your failures. Edison is quoted as saying “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”.  (>>Tweet this<<) So ask yourself: “Are you learning to fail or failing to learn?” Hopefully, it’s the former! (>>Tweet this<<)

These are just a few of the many self-limiting thoughts and behaviours that many of us have and which make our lives more difficult than they need be. I was motivated by the conference I attended and I hope that my sharing these ideas has inspired you too to change, but without the need for the travel and resource investments I myself made!

My final comment on self-limiting thoughts and behaviours is a quote from that conference; “Fear is the only thing that gets smaller as we run towards it.” Hey all you marketers, are you ready to run towards your own fears and succeed in this awesomely changing world of possibilities?

If you’d like to read more on this topic then I would highly recommend you follow Steve Aitchison at www.steveaitchison.co.uk, as well as read a recent guest post there by Kathryn Sandford called3 Strategies to master the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back in life.” Enjoy!

Please share your own ideas and let’s support each other to be more authentic in 2016. If you haven’t already done so, please join the C³Centricity Members Group on Facebook, where we share ideas and support each other in becoming more heart-centered and customer centric.  

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

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?

Smart people will become more customer centric and analytical

Are Smart Things Really Smart?

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

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

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

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

The Age of the Customer and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Things or Lazy People?

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

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

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

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

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?

 

 

Customer service

The 7 Essential Differences Between Simply Responding to Customers and Providing True Customer Service

A longer post than usual this week, but one that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud!

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

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

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

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

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

BACKGROUND:

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

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

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

THE EXCHANGE WITH TOMTOM:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SEVEN LEARNINGS:

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

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

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

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

The short 6-qn survey on future blog and webinar topics is open until the end of this month, so you still have time to respond – AND to win one of the FIVE FREE consultations that are up for grabs.

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

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

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?

15C-Customers in your vision

Best Marketing Quotes of 2015 & their Implications for Your Business

Happy New Year to all C³Centricity Readers!

First some exciting news for you. We are updating the Members area of our website, with a whole new look and feel. There will also be more content with a great new series of webinars to watch, and new templates, presentations, case studies and videos for you to review and download.

We are planning to launch the series of webinars in a couple of months time, so look out for further details and a personal invitation to get the chance to see it before everyone else.

You can help us to make it perfect by completing a short 6-question survey. This will ensure that we prioritise the subject areas of most interest to you. And you might just WIN one of the FIVE FREE consultations which we are offering in appreciation of your time. (we’re feeling really generous because it only takes 2-3 mins to complete!)

If you are not yet a C³Centricity member, then please drop me a line and request an invitation to join the private Facebook group, where members can exchange thoughts and ideas in the meantime. We are also linking all the previous material from the members’ area to this private group, so it’s worth joining!


And now to this week’s post…

As we get back into the swing of things and review our work objectives for the year, a little extra inspiration can be a welcome extra push. This is why we all love to read marketing quotes.

The quotes we have chosen here will make wonderful additions to your reports or presentations, inspiring everyone who hears or reads them. And the specified implications for each one, make timely reminders of what should be in your marketing plans for the year.

#1. “Marketing used to be about making a myth and telling it. Now it’s about telling a truth and sharing it” (>>Tweet this<<Marc Mathieu, Global SVP of Marketing at Unilever 

IMPLICATIONS: Everyone uses social media to connect with and share their experiences about brands. It therefore makes sense to provide them with the information they will want to exchange with others. For example, if customers have issues that they announce online – social media has become the immediate complaint centre for many people – then it is vital that brands both respond and resolve the issue rapidly. If they do, then this potentially negative comment can be replaced by more positive ones as the customer continues to share their experiences.

Have you recognised the need for increased personnel to manage social media as well as the call centres, and the importance of specific training to enable them to respond without scripts? Read “The New 7Ps of Best Practice Customer Service” for more information on customer service excellence.

#2. “Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart” (>>Tweet this<<) Joe Chernov 

IMPLICATIONS: Which are you preferring in your daily work? Customer centricity is no longer a choice, it’s an essential of every business today. (>>Tweet this<<) You can only make your customers look smart if you understand them deeply and know what is important to them. To check if you truly understand your customers , read “How well do you know your customers?” for more on this topic.

#3. “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is” (>>Tweet this<<) Scott Cook

IMPLICATIONS: Are you regularly following your brand image? Even if you are measuring it, a brand’s image can change fast these days, especially when it is active on social media. Therefore, it is even more important to track conversations online and engage your customers in this way to keep abreast of any modifications in their perceptions of your brand. If you’re not sure about your own brand measurement, see “What does your Brand Stand for. Ten Steps to Perfect Image Following” for more on brand image measurement

#4. “Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first” (>>Tweet this<<) Wendy Piersall

IMPLICATIONS: Where do your customers go looking for information about your brand? A majority of them probably use Google, Bing, Yahoo or one of the other search engines. (See “The Best Search Engines of 2016” for some great alternatives to the big three) Do you know how your customers find answers to their questions? If the information is not on your brand’s website, then you have little control over what they learn. If your customers are active online then you must be as well, providing them with what they need, where and when they go looking for it.

#5. “Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day”(>>Tweet this<<) Beth Comstock

IMPLICATIONS: I know as well as you do, that marketers work hard, but you can’t look after your current offering without also preparing for the future. Customers never stay satisfied for long, so innovation is the only way to keep them loyal. How are you innovating? If you are only making marginal changes to size, perfume, packaging or services, then these are

If you are only making marginal changes to size, perfume, packaging or services, then these are not innovations, they are merely renovations. While these may keep your customers happy in the short term, you cannot rely on them alone. Read “Never succeed at innovation” to learn how to avoid the mistakes so many companies make when they try to innovate.

#6. “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in” (>>Tweet this<<) Craig Davis 

IMPLICATION: Do you remember to be available to customers where and when they need you, and not just where and when it suits you? Quote #6 is a reminder that on social media as well as our brand websites, we need to publish information that our customers want to read, rather than the news we want to share with them. Ideally, these should be the same, especially if you are truly customer centric and know and understand your customers intimately. If you’re not sure how well you know them, see if you can answer these “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers”.

#7. “Commit to a niche; try to stop being everything to everyone” (>>Tweet this<<) Andrew Davis 

IMPLICATIONS: There is no try only do, as John Green wrote in “The fault in our stars”. In marketing, we need to be committed to our customers and do everything possible to surprise and delight them. In order to succeed in that, we need to have chosen the right group of customers who will be both interested in what we have to offer, and of interest to the business in terms of sales and profit. To learn more about the art and science of segmentation, read “Essentials of segmentation and some simple alternatives”. This post will help you start identifying your best customers, even with no budget!

#8. “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” (>>Tweet this<<) Dan Zarrella

IMPLICATIONS: Marketing has generally been considered more art than science but the arrival of Big Data has changed this. Marketers today must be as comfortable with data as with creativity, and have a global rather than local appreciation of their customers. After all, there are few geographical boundaries for customers these days, since we can all buy things from almost any country we like via the internet; country frontiers have been surpassed by linguistic ones.

Therefore brand managers need to be aware of what is going on with their brands throughout the world. How do you manage this information sharing in your own organisation?

#9. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” (>>Tweet this<<) Bill Gates

IMPLICATIONS: Hopefully by now, regular visitors to this blog have come to appreciate that complaints are a gift. They enable you to identify problems before they become too serious and also provide an opportunity to get to know your customers better and even surprise and delight them with your response.

People who complain are often expecting a “fight” but if your care centre personnel remain calm and do everything they can to quickly correct the issue, and their service even goes above and beyond what the customer expects, then it is highly likely that they will share their experience with friends and colleagues. Just as we share negative criticism, surprisingly positive outcomes to a complaint, merit even more sharing.

How are your own customer service personnel being trained to respond to complaints? Do you yourself listen in or even man your call centres to get close to your own customers? If not, you should, because there’s no better way to understanding their issues and it might just provide you with an idea or two for brand renovation or an innovative new product 0r service.

#10. “Marketing is a race without a finishing line” (>>Tweet this<<) Philip Kotler 

IMPLICATIONS: This is a great quote to end this list and a superb reminder that our work is never done. This doesn’t mean leaving the office late every evening. It means recognising that the hours you put in don’t count as much as the value you deliver; to your company, your brand, but above all your customer. (>>Tweet this<<) As long as you think customer first in everything you do, you will always make the right decision. See Winning Customer Centricity for 50 ways to put your customers truly at the heart of your business each and every day.

These are just ten of our most loved marketing quotes of the moment. If yours isn’t among them, please add it below. You can find loads more inspiring quotes in the library of the C³Centricity website on vision, understanding and engagement.

Is training on your objectives for your team this year? If so then we’d love to support the initiative with our 1-Day Catalyst sessions on insight development, innovation and brand building, to name just a few of the topics we cover. We can also develop proprietary sessions to your own specifications as we already have for numerous businesses around the world. 

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

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

Storytelling in business

Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story

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

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

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

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

 

Make me Care

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

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

SOURCE: CopyPress

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

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

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

 

Take me with you

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Intentional

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

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

Let me like you

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

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

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

(Surprise and) Delight me

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

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

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

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

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

For more on brands please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ or contact us here for an informal chat about how we could support your own brand building efforts or provide fun training days.

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

Customer service

How a Company Reacts to a Crisis Says a Lot About its Customer Centricity

In the UK, there was a recent, highly publicised significant and sustained cyber-attack on the Telecom company Talk Talk’s website.

According to the news as I write this, it seems that a fifteen (!!!) year old Irish lad and a 16-year-old Brit may be responsible. They might have been able to steal information such as names, addresses, passwords and other personal information including bank details. The phone and broadband provider, which has over four million customers in the UK, said that this information “could have been accessed, but credit and debit card numbers had not been stolen”. This was later corrected and Talk Talk admitted that such sensitive financial information had also been obtained.

When the news first broke, Talk Talk tried to play it down. When people requested to cancel their contract, they were told they would be hit with a hefty £200 cancellation fee! That’s really adding insult to injury isn’t it?

As a result of the ensuing outcry, they later amended their position, saying that they would only waive termination fees for customers wanting to end their contracts if money is stolen from them. The local Consumer group Which? called the offer the “bare minimum”.

“In the unlikely event that money is stolen from a customer’s bank account as a direct result of the cyber-attack [rather than as a result of any other information given out by a customer], then as a gesture of goodwill, on a case-by-case basis, we will waive termination fees,” the company said on its website.

Am I dreaming? Goodwill gesture?!! My brother is one of their soon to be ex-clients and I, therefore, followed the handling of the whole case with interest.

What Talk Talk did was ignore their customers’ feelings. As a result, they are provoking their customers to cancel their contracts as soon as they come up for renewal. That is certainly what my brother will do. If on the other hand, they had said that people had up to a month, or three or six months, to cancel their contract if they so desired, then I’m sure that many would have waited before taking such a rash decision.

That would have given them time to calm down, and they might even have forgotten or forgiven the incident by the time their contract came up for renewal. By forcing people to stay, they are also forcing people to leave just as soon as is legally possible. This is just another example of a short-term gain for a long-term pain / loss.

As if that isn’t enough, reporters facing imminent deadlines, will often go with what (little) information they have about the situation. They can’t wait hours or days for the company to craft an appropriate response that will assure that its image remains intact. As a result, damage is done incredibly quickly to a business as well as to its image when such incidents are handled badly. A good reason for organisations to be prepared for any and all eventualities, by using scenario planning. See “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything” for more on this topic.

 

What Talk Talk should have done

As all good crisis managers know, what Talk Talk should have done is to follow best practice procedures. When a crisis happens especially when it directly involves the customer:

  1. Admit the problem.
  2. Detail exactly what has happened.
  3. Say what you are doing to put it right.
  4. Empathise with customers and offer a solution.
  5. Explain what you will do so it doesn’t happen again.

These five simple steps are known by all PR professionals and yet when a crisis happens the reaction from so many companies appears panicked and chaotic. It is as if knowing what to do doesn’t ensure a company does what needs to be done. (>>Tweet this<<) In this case, it doesn’t even look like Talk Talk has thought through and prepared for such an eventuality – even though this isn’t the first time it has happened to them! Being prepared is half the battle. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

Learning from Mistakes

According to an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, this is Talk Talk’s third major security breach in the past year! When asked whether such sensitive financial information was encrypted, Talk Talk’s CEO, Dido Harding, said: “The awful truth is, I don’t know”. What is shocking is not only that it has happened before – several times – but that the head of the organisation has not taken steps to ensure such gaps in her organisation’s security were corrected.

Every business and every person makes mistakes occasionally. It’s what we do after making a mistake that makes the difference. As Bruce Lee is famously quoted as saying Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” (>>Tweet this<<) 

Excellent leaders and great businesses admit their mistakes quickly and with courage. They see them as a chance to learn and to grow, rather than as an excuse for ignorance and denial. As a recent article in Forbes mentions, “A company in crisis is an opportunity for change”. (>>Tweet this<<) A business should take both short-term and long-term actions as quickly as possible. Doing nothing is the worst reaction to a crisis, as it opens the way for even greater criticism and exaggeration. As already mentioned, journalists love a good story and if you don’t provide it, they will create it with what they’ve got.

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them” Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel

Being Customer Centric

I spoke about customer centricity in the title because I believe that companies who are thinking customer first, will react appropriately in a crisis. Taking the customers’ perspective will mean that they will do what’s best for their clients first and foremost. They will address the issue for their good, and only then address it internally. Therefore, all businesses which are in the habit of thinking customer first are more likely to do the right thing first.

There are many organisations that have reacted inappropriately in a crisis and their business has suffered, in some cases to the point of closure. Another recent crisis, that of Volkswagen, highlights just how far a company will go to win the approval of its clients. It shows that although they may have understood the importance of their customers, in this case at least, they exaggerated and lied to win their approval. Both such practices will almost always be discovered sooner or later because too many people are involved in keeping secrets. Customer centricity may not be easy, but it’s the right way to conduct business in today’s informed world.

When faced with a crisis, a customer-centric business follows the 5-step process mentioned above, to empathetically respond first to its clients, and then to the press and relevant authorities. It’s a clear sign that the organisation has the right priorities.

If you’d like a useful checklist about what to do in a crisis, I highly recommend the one which Forbes published a few months ago in their article “You have 15 minutes to respond to a crisis; A checklist of Dos and Don’ts.”

Have you prepared several future scenarios to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges your organisation may follow? If not, then let’s discuss possible solutions. Contact me today here.

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. The Audiobook version, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, was published last week.

Customers in your vision

Marketers, Do You Know Everything You Should? From the 5Ps to the 7Qs.

Marketing is a great profession. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for most of my career. From the outside, they are seen as the department that comes in late, parties every night and gets to talk about advertising at conferences in exotic places. For those in operations or finance, they don’t seem to be that serious; they just appear to be always having fun. I’m sure you’ve heard such comments yourself.

Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on some occasions. So is all that hard work paying off? If you work in marketing, you certainly know the 5Ps and hopefully you also check them regularly for your brand. However, the problem with them is that when you find an issue that needs your attention, you don’t always know immediately what to do. So I suggest you answer the following seven questions instead. They all explain what to check and why. And if you can’t respond completely to each one, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!

Q1. Who are your customers?

I don’t mean just their demographics. I mean who they really are; what, where and how they use or consume your brand. And especially why. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble. See “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona. You can also download a free, blank template at C3Centricity.com/c3cmembers.

Q2. How are your customers changing?

Hopefully you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did didn’t you? It’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change. Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends on your customers’ opinions and behaviours? Do you know how these trends will develop and impact the market in five, ten or even twenty years from now? 

There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:

  • Kodak LogoKodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
  • Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
  • Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
  • Blockbuster LogoSony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for many years.
  • Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumer demands for home delivery.

The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (>>Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already planned for?

Q3. What does your brand stand for?

I don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers, or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does this image align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow changes in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact the image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (>>Tweet this<<)

You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:

  • McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family oriented and fun, casual dining.”
  • BIC LogoBic disposable pens, lighters, razors offer “high quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”

Q4. How are sales and distribution?

I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices?

If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (>>Tweet this<<)

Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?

I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does its value compare to its current price? If you are not pricing it correctly, then you are leaving money on the table.

If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.

Either way you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (>>Tweet this<<)

Q6. Are you using the right channels for communicating?

Many marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.

If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.

Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary

Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.

Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.

Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not use the above 7Qs rather than just the 5Ps? It will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.

If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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!

Market research & Insight's new role is customer centricity champion

How to Use Marketing Quotes to Inspire and Catalyse Action

Posts which include quotes are amongst the most shared on social media. Everyone seems to love them. This is because they are short, simple and often inspiring. They also usually fit conveniently into the 140 word limit of Twitter posts.

C³Centricity is no exception; our marketing quote posts are always the most popular, year after year. In fact it has become something of a tradition to share a post of the recent and most inspiring marketing quotes during the Summer and Winter vacation breaks.

Here are some we have found recently and love. As usual, we also add our ideas on how they can inspire action in your own organization. We know you will love them too, as you can add them to presentations and reports to inspire and catalyse needed actions and changes.

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”(>>Tweet this<<)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 24th & current President of Liberia 

IDEA: If we don’t aim for the stars, we might just end up with a handful of dirt! Customers want to believe that you can bring them the best experience they can get for the price they are willing to invest. Remember it’s value not cost that really counts. With consumers quickly sharing their experiences online these days, the true value of your products and services is known almost immediately after launch. Make sure yours are worth it, and why not even a little more?

“Marketing used to be about making a myth and telling it. Now it’s about telling a truth and sharing it.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Marc Mathieu, Global SVP of Marketing at Unilever.

IDEA: It is almost impossible to pretend to be what you are not. As mentioned above, customers share their opinions – quickly – so be the best you can be and proud of it. Aim to go beyond satisfaction to customer delight. Read more about this concept in “The New Marketing Challenge“.

“IncreasiSegmentationngly, the mass marketing is turning into a mass of niches.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired

IDEA: Gone are the days of mass marketing. Customers today expect you to understand and speak to them as individuals. This can only be achieved through a deep understanding or their needs, desires and hopefully dreams as well. Use the 4W™ Template and watch the video series about this topic – both available for download in the members area – to ensure you are going deep enough.

“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world you are one.”

Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer for the Content Marketing Institute

IDEA: Customers aren’t listening as they used to. There is so much “noise” today that they turn off to anything that is not  useful, interesting and relevant to them personally. Make sure you’re sharing what the customer wants to hear and not (just) what you want to tell them.

“Your website is your greatest asset. More people view your webpages than anything else.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Amanda Sibley, Campaign Manager at Hubspot

IDEA: Do you spend as much on improving your web pages as you do on your advertising testing? If not, you’re probably wasting your online spend, or most of it. Eye-tracking linked to facial coding for emotional analysis, will quickly tell you what needs to be changed, in all your communication platforms.

“What you prefer or what your designer prefers doesn’t matter if it’s not getting you conversions.” 

Naomi Niles, Brand Strategist

IDEA: Apologies to the C-Suite, but your ideas don’t matter that much anymore. OK you still get to approve the budgets, but think customer first when reviewing product marketing, concepts and communications, rather than expressing purely your own opinion, please.

“The key ingredient to a better content experience is relevance.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Jason Miller, Senior Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn

IDEA: Just because it’s worked for another brand, doesn’t mean it will work for yours. Start with your customers; is it relevant for them? If it is publish; if it’s not, rework it or forget it! Despite what many online articles may lead you to believe, not everyone wants to watch babies or cats all day long, unless you’re following Gerber or Friskies.

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”

Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson.

IDEA: Listening is the new skill that marketers need to learn – quickly! No longer can you talk to customers, they now talk to you and they expect you to listen – really hard!

Storytelling in business“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.”

Jay Baer, Speaker & Author

IDEA: Make the customer the hero of your story and not your product or service. We all dream of being a hero, so why not grant it if you can? This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak about what you have to offer, of course not. Rather, you should show how your product or service fits into the lives of your customers and makes them easier, simpler or more enjoyable. Remember too, that showing is better than telling. (>>Tweet this<<)

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” (>>Tweet this<<)

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the US.

IDEA: There is so much information out there, that customers have (too much) choice as to who and what to believe. Make sure you are that one – every time!  It’s customer value that counts, not what the value is to you, to share your information with your customers.

“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”

Andrew Davis, Author of Brandscaping

IDEA: Even if the world has and continues to change, it remains built on trust. We spend money on products and services that we trust will deliver the experience for which we are looking. Your content  should provide the reason to believe and help build that trust.

These are some of our favourite marketing quotes of the moment. You will notice that many refer to social media this time. We believe that advertising and customer connection has reached a tipping point, where mass messaging is replaced by relevant, useful information that is also time relevant. Have we missed your favourite? If so, please add below.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes images from Denyse’s first book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

Customer service

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

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

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

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

1. Retail connections

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

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

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

2. Secondary connections

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

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

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

3. Website connections

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

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

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

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

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

4. Sharing connections

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

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

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

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

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

Customer service

4 Marketing Essentials for 2015: What You Must Do Differently to Excel

As you will have seen, if you’re a regular follower here, I was in the US last month, catching up with a few partners and clients. We discussed their marketing priorities for 2015 and what they still needed to accomplish to meet their annual targets and objectives.

At the beginning of last year I wrote a popular post you might have seen, on the marketing essentials for 2014 and how marketers could meet the needs of the new, more demanding customer. Eighteen months on, a lot has changed. That is why I decided to review my last post and update it here, with some suggested actions.

Also, June is the ideal time to review annual plans, and decide what needs to be stopped, started or changed in the coming six months, before the vacation period is upon us.

Social Media versus Email

Last year we saw a lot of articles discussing whether, with  social media’s popularity, digital (email) marketing wasn’t losing its importance. One such post in AdWeek made a useful comparison of the pros and cons of each, and came to the conclusion that we need both. As was the case for almost every new media, it appears that digital marketing is an addition and not a replacement for other forms of marketing.

However, your CEO is still not that interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, or how many retweets your Twitter messages got. And he still wants to know, as we all should, what the impact of social media is on the business. Some standard numbers, as mentioned in “10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” on the SalesForce website, can help, but engagement and listening remain better metrics for customer understanding, as stated in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, however, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours? (>>Tweet this<<)

ACTION: If you are not completely satisfied with your current measures, take a look at these two articles mentioned above for inspiration, then review and refine them.

Blogging isn’t Enough

When blogging started out, we all thought that customers would appreciate all this free information. However, there is now far too much to read, and we must also keep in mind that reading doesn’t appeal to everyone. Therefore, we should try to offer more variety in our content. That means adding Podcasts, Instagrams, Webinars, Pins and other forms of content, to complement our blog posts. This post on PRNewsWire listed 77 types of content, to feed your audience!

One of the latest technical additions in the mobile area is the smartwatch, which has forced those who have been slow to adapt to adaptive content, to catch up. This can only be a good thing, since mobile passed desktop for online access in the USA in 2014, and other countries are not far behind.

The good news is that we no longer have to produce all the content ourselves, since we can count on curation and customers themselves, to provide some of it. However, that does mean that our own content must be of the highest standards possible. With so much content available today, customers will quickly leave if we are not providing the best quality content to keep their interest. (>>Tweet this<<)

ACTION: Make sure you are not sacrificing quality for quantity of output. Find new ways to invite your customers to engage more and even provide content for you to publish.

Virtual Storytelling

Prepare for the marketing essentialsTelling stories remains the most liked form of content, whether in articles, videos, podcasts or other audio content. Good storytelling will keep your customers coming back for more, which is the first step on the road to trust, consideration, purchase and loyalty.

According to a recent article in Wired, in the not-too-distant future, we won’t just be listening and watching stories, we will be standing in the middle of them. They will involve new technologies which allow us to experience the story, with panoramic vision, smells, and probably an occasional feeling of vertigo or motion sickness.

Virtual reality will also enter the retail environment, enabling shoppers to see how products they might buy could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also enables retailers to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

ACTION: Find new ways to tell stories throughout the purchase cycle, by using 3D catalogues online, or providing more interactive and engaging in-store environments. These provide customers with the experience of your product before it’s purchased, and helps you tell a better story of all the possible ways that it can be integrated into their lives for increased satisfaction.

Customer Experience as a Priority

As a result of both social media and the greater transparency now offered by many organisations, customers expect a rapid response to every question, comment or issue they might have. Disatisfaction is shared widely and rapidly with the world online, rather than with just a few friends and family as in the past. Customer ratings are being published not just for hotels, restaurants and online purchases, but also for all types of experiences that the customer has had.

Some companies such as Amazon, Zappos, Yelp and Angie’s List have built their companies on customer satisfaction, as much as the products and services they sell. They even specifically mention this in their vision and mission statements:

  • Amazon: Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
  • Zappos: The mission statement of Zappos.com, is referred to by its employees as their “WOW Philosophy,” is to provide the best customer service possible.
  • Yelp: Connecting people with great local businesses.
  • Angie’s List: Our mission is to help the best consumers find the best service providers and promote happy transactions.

ACTION: Review where customer service excellence sits in terms of company priorities; if it is not one of the top three, it’s time it was. (>>Tweet this<<)

These were just four of the topics I discussed with my US partners and clients. Have a look at your own plans and see whether you are not just playing it safe, by adapting what you did last year. The same media, the same content style, the same stories told in the same way; that just won’t work today.

There’s still time to make 2015 the year of exponential growth and change for your company. Let me know in the comments below what you think and what you plan to change in your own plans this year.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post used images from Denyse’s latest book Winning Customer Centricity, which is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in all good bookstores. If you are not yet a C³C Member, sign up (for free) in the C3C Members area, where we frequently offer discount codes for the book, and where you can also download many of its useful templates.