Customer delight is real

Forgotten Facts & Fantasies of Customer Delight

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

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

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

 

You’re welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We value your business

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

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

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

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

 

We want you to be delighted

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

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

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

 

Enjoy the ride, not just the destination

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

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

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

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

 

We want you to feel comfortable

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

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

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

 

We know we can do better

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Observation can make you a better marketer

Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively

One of the best ways to a deeper understanding of your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Observation and listening are powerful but often underutilised tools of the marketer.

It is, therefore, disappointing that so many companies run to conduct market research, usually a qualitative study, as a first step to improved customer understanding. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to participate. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? You are then irritated that you “wasted” money on the project aren’t you? Well, this may be due to selective listening and interpretation on your part. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. There was so much more you could have understood if only you knew how to listen.

True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an annual observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this effectively.

 

Make customer observation everyone’s job

Everyone should observe and listen to customersThere are a wealth of opportunities for every employee in a company to come into contact with the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by listening to calls at the care centre, reading blogs and message boards, or participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling or market research.

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, this needs to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as detailed below.

 

Observation is not as easy as it looks

There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the Awareness Test and try it for yourself.

Share experiences of observation and listeningIn the exercise, people are asked to count the number of passes made by the team in white, so that is what the observer will concentrate on. In the background a man dressed as a bear, moon-walks his way across the screen, but most people are oblivious to the fact. They are so busy looking for the answer to the question, that they miss this significant event in the short video.

The same can happen when people watch customers. They are so concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs, that they miss a lot of what is actually going on. (>>Tweet this<<) If they listen objectively, they may hear something new. And this might lead them to a significant breakthrough in understanding.

For this reason, it is essential to run a careful briefing session before every observation exercise. This way people go into it with their eyes and brains fully open. Your Insight team can manage this in most cases, but to summarise what needs to be covered, I have listed below the five rules of observation.

 

The five rules of observation

  1. ORDINARY: Look for the ordinary not the extraordinary, but do note the things that surprise. These can challenge our preconceptions and help us to keep an open mind. Identify also the details of the ordinary event, things that were never noticed or thought about before.

You may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer opportunities to increase satisfaction, either by resolving them or by developing a new product or service. (>>Tweet this<<)

2. ATTENTIVE: Be careful to record only what you see and hear. Don’t start analysing what you think is going on or you will certainly miss something.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every company participant. (>>Tweet this<<) One person should lead the session, one could take notes and one can actively observe and perhaps take pictures. With these different roles covered, the discussion after the event will be much richer.

3. ACCURATE & OBJECTIVE: This is the reason why you need to remain attentive, so you get an accurate record of what is happening. Keep notes of what your see, when and where, and how people behave.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on. (>>Tweet this<<)

It is also important not to react openly to what you see or hear. Pay particular attention to your body language. Keep asking (yourself, at least at first) why? Even if something appears obvious, the reason may not be what you think it is. So keep asking this vital question.

This form of iterative investigating is often referred to as the Five Whys“. The technique involves asking the question a minimum of five times to ensure you cover every angle.

4. TIMING: Observe and understand what is going on before and after the event, as well as during the event you are observing itself. The event needs to be put into the context of time and place within a person’s lifestyle and habits. This is the only way to understand its relevance.

Also, be patient as people often change behaviour when being watched, at least to start with. Give them a chance to relax and feel comfortable with being observed. Insight colleagues will certainly have mentioned at some point that in qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. (>>Tweet this<<) Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up!

5. DEBRIEF & ANALYSIS: Observation is most valuable if it is completed by an immediate debriefing session. Observers can together share, ask questions and start to analyse what they have seen and heard.

This is important if several groups have been following similar events such as shopping, leisure-time activities or food preparation, but with different respondents.

These five points should ensure that everyone enjoys participating in these observations. Both you and your customers will benefit from the experience and a maximum number of ideas and learnings will be gathered.

One last point for International organisations; be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture (>>Tweet this<<) where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. What is appropriate in one culture may be offensive or irrelevant in another.

Checking things out with the locals before going into the field can save a lot of embarrassment – or worse! It is also useful to have local members help in the analysis of what was seen and heard so that the correct interpretation is made.

If you have run observation or connection sessions and have learned something you would like to share, please comment below. I answer all notes and questions personally, usually within an hour or two. 

For more ideas on getting closer to your customer, please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage. If you would like help in setting up connection sessions with your customers I would love to help you get the most out of them. Just contact me here.

This post used images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Business – One Day at a Time.

This post is based upon and is an expansion of one that was first published of C³Centricity in 2011.

Marketing, brand building & customer centricity

Say Goodbye to Marketing & Brand Building, Say Hello to Consumer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’d like to see more about its complete history, then I highly recommend this Hubspot infographic.

With the advent of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated consumers with spammy emails, popups and subtle cookies for following their every move.

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies such as P&G and Nestle changed the name of their Marketing departments to Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. But they failed because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With few exceptions, it’s still all about them and their brands and not much about the consumer.

Luckily some other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. (>>Tweet this<<) The aim for satisfaction and delight will never end.

I think we have taught our consumers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for their price offs. They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume might be different, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now have a portfolio of brands from which they choose. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be. They have come to expect constant innovation so they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago.

Marketing skills

SOURCE: Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report 2015

Customer Centricity

In response to these ever more savvy consumers, marketing has to change. In the 2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it is confirmed that new skills are now needed. The most sought-after skills today are analytical thinking and customer centricity. Marketing is now as much an art as it is a science. In order to take full advantage of the enormous availability of information about our customers, we can no longer rely on our creativity alone.

C3C EvaluatorHow to Know if you’re Customer Centric

Companies which place the consumer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact page provides all possible forms of communication. Their advertising is consumer centric and emotional, with the consumer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their consumers in many aspects of their business. (see “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic.)

If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, or why not complete the C3C Evaluator?

Move Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently make to adopt a more modern approach:

  1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.
  2. Whenever a decision is taken, ask “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” (>>Tweet this<<) This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the consumer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.
  3. Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do(>>Tweet this<<) While you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.
  4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free here)
  5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.
  6. Spend time with your front-line staff and consumers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.
  7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with the whole company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2.

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to a more customer centric approach. If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, download a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. The fun drawings in this post come from the book!

 

 

Co-creation leads to greater customer satisfaction

The Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation

One of my clients, who is following the 50 weekly actions for customer centric excellence described in Winning Customer Centricity, asked me for some further ideas on co-creation.

Since working more closely with customers is the best way to understand, satisfy and delight them, I am impressed that she is taking co-creation even further. In fact, I realised that this is an area that many of you may be interested in learning more about, so I decided to share what I told her, but first …

What is Co-creation?

The term co-creation has been around for decades. However, it is only in the last ten years or so that we are seeing a growth in co-creation in so many different areas of marketing.

According to Wikipedia co-creation is “a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.”

My M&MIndividualisation, which offers higher-priced items with a customer perceived higher-value, has been popular for years. It allows customers to design their own unique products to show off their personality. For instance, customers can personalise their M&M chocolates and design their own Nike running shoes. But these are not strictly co-creation since they are designed by one person for for one person. Co-creation is designed by many for the many. (>>Tweet this<<) 

After the success of such personalised offers, organisations understood that there is value in getting input from customers. They now include them not only in product enhancements, but also in developing their advertising and even in first-stage innovation.

The practice has been further intensified by the internet, which has enabled companies to reach out to customers across the globe, virtually for free. Social media, in particular, is a great source of customer understanding, as well as for highlighting issues with current offers. This is why co-creation should include social media in some form, as I’ll share further on.

Who to work with?

Winning Customer Centricity BookAs I mention in my book, not all business managers feel comfortable exposing their new ideas and concepts to their customers. If this is the case in your organisation, then you are left with the only option of interviewing employees. This isn’t such a bad thing; after all, they too are customers, but you need to keep in mind their biasses. They probably know more about the brand than the average customer and are also likely to be more positive towards it. However, their passion for the company and its brands is a valuable asset not to be neglected.

If your management allows you to work with customers, then you will want them to be vetted for different things by the recruitment agency:

  • They shouldn’t work for one of your competitors; nor should their close friends and family members.
  • They shouldn’t work for advertising, media or PR agencies, which could tip off your competitors.
  • They should be creative and curious, but not be one of the infamous “1%ers” (the ultra-creatives) that were popular when co-creation was first used.
  • They should be articulate and be able to describe their thoughts, ideas and problems succinctly.
  • They should be well-informed and knowledgeable, even opinionated if you want to introduce some challenging into the discussions.
  • Depending upon the task you want to share with them, they should be category and / or brand users – or not.

Some suppliers may propose psychographic analysis to hone their selection process. However, this is not essential if you obey the above rules and clearly identify the type of person with whom you would like to work.

Social media again provides a great way to identify and recruit those who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the category. Another source of customers, is from co-creating platforms that copy successful job sites, such as UpWork and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

 

Should you compensate customers?

Most co-creation programs compensate customers, at least some of them, for their time and even their ideas on occasions. I have found that customers are usually so happy to share their thoughts and be heard, that they don’t expect compensation other than the opportunity itself. I have often received requests from participants at the end of a project, asking to continue in the panel or online group, because they enjoyed it so much. Customers love to talk to companies about their products and services, so why not make it possible for them to do so in a safe and private environment?

Compensation is therefore not mandatory, but adding prizes and a competitive element to the discussion can encourage a greater level of participation. I give some examples of brands that have done this further on.

 

When to involve customers?

There are many reasons you might want to get input from your customers beyond the more common anonymous market research. Here are some of the most often used occasions when you might want to include your customers:

  • Involve your customers in co-creationchoosing their favourite names, flavours or perfumes for a product
  • getting reactions to your marketing plans
  • sharing experiences and problems encountered with your category
  • reviewing product and communications’ concepts
  • watching pre-air advertising and choosing the ending, slogans or other details
  • asking for ideas on how to improve a product or service
  • running a competition to solve an issue the company would like to address
  • voting for their favourite new product or service idea
  • creating new flavour and aroma mixes from original ingredients
  • brainstorming with R&D on new product ideas
  • sharing opinions on promotional concepts or competitions.

 

Examples of co-creation

In Winning Customer Centricity, I mention a few companies who successfully use co-creation, such as Nespresso’s “Le Club” and P&G’s “Connect+Develop”. Since I wrote the book, co-creation has become much more widespread and there are many more great examples. Here are just a few to inspire you to invite your own customers to join your initiatives:

Heineken ideas brewery

Source: Heineken

  1. Heineken: Their crowdsourcing platform, called Heineken Ideas Brewery, launched in 2012, asks the public for suggestions, since they believe that innovative ideas can come from everywhere. The first challenge they set was for sustainable packaging and the best idea, the Heineken-o-Mat, was rewarded with a $10,000 prize.

 

 

Lego Ideas

Source: Lego

2. Lego launched Lego Ideas as a platform to enable their customers to create and share their ideas for new sets. Other users then voted and commented on these suggested new sets.

The highest-rated ones were often developed and launched by the Lego Group. The original creator of the idea was compensated with a small percentage of the net sales revenue.

 

3. British Airways: Airlines make a lot of use of customer panels; after all they know all their passengers’ details, so recruitment is relatively easy. BA uses their FutureLab to elicit comments and reactions to their questions and concepts. 

Their panel is made up of a global community who discuss everything from prices, to seating, competitions to services. BA shares their plans and ideas and gets immediate feedback on what their passengers believe might work and what won’t. And all this within a few hours and mostly for free, apart from a few small monetary prizes for the most active or creative participants each month.

 

Coca-Cola Freestyle machine

Source: Coca-Cola

4. Coca-Cola is one example of companies using co-creation for input to their innovation process. Their Freestyle machines is a fountain dispenser which offers over a hundred products, giving the customer the opportunity to mix their own flavour combination.

An additional mobile app allows them to then save it so they can get the same mix at any other Freestyle machine. Coca-Cola saves all the mixes in their consumer database, which can then be used to learn more about new flavour ideas and consumer preferences.

 

Purina Dear Kitten

Source: Purina

5. The final example comes from social media, where co-creation of content has become the norm. There are literally thousands of companies using their customers and fans to share their thoughts, ideas, photos and videos on their websites.

Amongst the best is Nestle Purina who started by allowing pet owners to publish pictures of their animals. This then was followed and enhanced by Purina developing and sharing fun videos including Dear Kitten from their Friskies brand and Puppyhoodfrom Puppy Chow. We all know how popular pet videos are on the web, so it is not surprising that many of them went viral.

Making use of co-created content

Speaking of “virability“, there are recent examples of brands that invite customer input, combined with a marketing promotion or a specific hashtag campaign. These are important for viralbility on such platforms as Youtube and Instagram which are primary sources for fashion and beauty brands, because of the importance of image.

Chobani is heaven!

Source: Chobani

One brand that was an early adopter of this and and successfully used customer generated content to both improve image and increase sales is the Greek yoghurt company Chobani. It invited its loyal customers to submit photos and videos praising their yoghurt, which were then used on their website as well as in advertising. They generated a lot of excitement with the billboards in particular, as people love to see themselves in print. 

These are just a few of the best uses of customer co-creation that I remember, but I know there are many more. If you have other examples I would love it if you would share them below.

In conclusion, I hope I have inspired you to try co-creation and to include your customers in more of your internal plans and processes. It is not only fun, it also provides you with fresh thinking and a deeper understanding of how your customers’ needs and desires are changing. Makes you wonder why you haven’t done more co-creation before, no?

 

Winning Customer Centricity BookIf you would like to learn more about “Winning Customer Centricity” then I am offering my loyal readers – you! – a free download of the first five chapters. Just go HERE.

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.

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.