Consumer is no longer boss

The Consumer is No Longer Boss. It’s the Customer who’s now the King!

Next Wednesday is National Boss’s Day in the USA and in honour of the occasion Kathleen Brady of Brady & Associates wrote an article for the New York Daily News suggesting ways to please your Boss. Although not the topic of this post, the article incidentally makes great reading for anyone with a Boss (I think that’s all of us!)

It was P&G’s A.G. Lafley who first coined the phrase “The Consumer is Boss” about 12 years ago and since then marketing has been trying to please the consumer. It was also around this time that Consumer Packaged Goods companies then started referring to themselves as being consumer centric.

The Rise of the Customer

The below chart from Google Trends shows the search frequency of “customer” versus “consumer” since around that time. I don’t believe the changes you can see are due to a decreasing interest in consumers but are rather a reflection of the importance that all industries are placing on the people who buy their products and services. Whereas CPG may have started the trend, all industries now understand the importance of the people that spend their hard earned cash on them. Depending upon the industry you are in, those people might be called consumers, customers or clients and customers has become the name most often used to cover all three.

Google trend of customer & consumer searchesThe Fall of Customer Centricity

Maz Iqbal’s recent post on the CustomerThink website entitled “The Paradox At The Heart of Customer-Centric Business” challenged the very nature of customer centricity. Whilst his ideas are certainly thought-provoking and perhaps controversial, I do agree that customer centricity alone will not grow a business. However, I personally believe that most organisations have spent most of their existence thinking more about all the other areas of the business and less about the people that actually make their businesses viable, their customers.

The Customer is now the Boss

Whilst this still continues to be the case in many organisations – unfortunately – and taking inspiration from Brady’s article, I thought I would share my own thoughts on what we can do to better please our Customers / Bosses.

#1. Make sure everything we do is ABCD: We shouldn’t be satisfied with our customers’ satisfaction! We need to go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty when trying to please them. We should surprise and delight them whenever we can, responding not only to their articulated needs, but also their unarticulated and even unimagined needs.

Look at Apple who regularly proposes technologies that their customers didn’t even know they needed and which surprisingly quickly become an essential part of their lives. They understand their customers so well that they even know what they (we) will want in the future.

#2. Understand what they need to know: According to a recent report by Adobe on what keeps marketers up at night, the number one issue is reaching their customers.

top-concerns-large-adobe-2013 autoimprovedIf we really understand our customers, we will know how to reach them, where and when they are ready to hear what we have to say. Whereas in the past companies knew their customers were more than likely to listen to or watch their advertising when it was aired, today’s technology enables customers to switch off all but the most relevant messages for them at any given time.

#3. Know how they measure performance: We may feel proud of our latest new product idea or added benefit, but if our customer doesn’t value it, then our efforts will be ignored at best or even rejected if we try to charge extra for them. Perception and reality can be far apart, and customer value can mean charging more or less than we had planned.

If you’d like to read more on setting pricing levels check out the post “HELP! Your customers don’t value you as much as you do!”

#4. Offer solutions: I learnt very early on in my professional career, thanks to a very wise and open-minded Boss (Yes that is indeed you Jean-Michel), to bring solutions not problems; the same goes for our customers. We shouldn’t communicate (only) on rational benefits; we are more likely to resonate when we speak about emotional and relational benefits. We need to show we understand their pain and offer them a solution; no-one can refuse such an offer.

If you’d like to read more on brand equity check out the post “How to Build Brand Reputation & Consumer Trust and then Track it

 #5. Be Transparent: In just the same way as a Boss needs to share his vision and objectives, we need to listen to our customers to ensure we understand how they are changing. This doesn’t mean more regular tracking or group discussions, but rather more visits to retail outlets and even customers’ homes to share their daily lives, trials and tribulations with them. That is the best way to really see things from their perspective and to see how our products and services fit into their lives.

#6. Mind our manners: As Lafley said, the Customer is Boss. This means that when a customer complains, we must start from the position that they are right, even if it is just their perception. How many times have you yourself heard customer care personnel trying to defend their organisation in order to prove to you that you are wrong? (As a fresh example, I just today got criticised by a supplier for complaining that my dishwasher still hadn’t been delivered six weeks after it was promised! I was told it was “because it’s school vacation and I have three technicians out”. Sorry that doesn’t explain the previous five weeks’ delay)

Do whatever you can to make your customers who connect with you feel happy they did so; make them feel you truly value their opinion and them taking the time to tell you about their experience.

And please, stop your pre-recorded messages that say “your call is important to us” when you leave the caller waiting for five, ten, twenty or even more minutes – and even worse when the message is repeated at frequent intervals! You have to DO not SAY customer centricity.

#7. Customer feedback is a gift: Every complaint is a free roadmap of how to improve your product or service. How much would you have to pay an external expert or consultant to help you in improving your offers? When a customer complains or suggests improvements, you’re getting this information for free, from people who really care and are not being paid to help you. That is as close to the truth you will ever get; use it.

These are my seven reasons why the Customer is King and how we need to act when we remember it. What others can you think of?

Need help in understanding and connecting with your own customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Google and Adobe Digital Distress in this post.

Using online and social media

How to Lose Customers & What you Need to Do if you Don’t Want this to Happen!

I’ve had a frustrating week, and you? If you too are happy that this week is coming to an end, feel free to add your own personal rants at the end!

I was reviewing SaaS (software as a service) companies and was amazed at the different levels of customer service between the suppliers. With service in their industry name you would have thought that they would excel at customer service, but from my own experience it was non-existent in many cases, which prompted this post.

If you want to ensure that your potential, or even current customers, never buy from you (again) here are a few things to remember:

Your website:

  • Make your website load really slowly so that customers will have to wait in excited anticipation before appreciating the beauty and complexity of everything you have on offer.

    Customers lost online

    Customers lost in your website
    SOURCE: Kozzi.com

FACT: According to Kissmetrics 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

  • Don’t make your website mobile friendly; that’s only for the younger generation and you’re sure your customers are older – although to be honest you don’t really know.

FACTMobile already accounts for 15% of global internet traffic

  • Create loops within your website so the customer never actually gets to the information page they really want. Keep them looking, which increases your stats of time-on-site, and that looks great in your stat report.

FACTTime on site does matter but only if customers are interested in the content. Adding pictures and videos is a better way to keep them engaged.

  • Don’t provide contact information choices; make every potential client call you, especially if they live on the other side of the planet.

FACTForrester research reveals that “75% of consumers seeking customer service online turned to another channel when a firm’s website let them down.”

  • Provide online chat but just automate a first response and then leave the client waiting for a live customer service person to come online.

FACT: 65% of American online shoppers have engaged in online chat

  • Make your clients wait between their chat messages and your response, by having your customer care people respond to at least five people at the same time. This is great for helping them to get the names and issues mixed up too, and avoids them getting too personal.

FACT: According to Cisco 69% of U.S. consumers would provide more private information in exchange for more personalized service.

 

Call Centers

  • Customer online

    Your customer is active online
    SOURCE: Kozzi.com

    Don’t answer when your potential, or current, client calls; just put them on automatic hold. Or you can give them a recorded message with opening hours when they should call you, which will be a time that is acceptable to you, not when they need you.

FACT: 67% of customers have hung up the phoneout of frustration they could not talk to a real person.

  • To keep your clients amused when they call you, provide multiple self-service  key options, the more the better. When they finally get to the topic they want, play hold music, then interrupt at regular intervals so they think there is someone coming on the line and then just give a short message and start the hold music again. Never give an idea of how long they will have to wait; keeping them guessing is half the fun! Great for calming your customers’ nerves too.

FACT: By 2020, the customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human, according to Gartner.

  • Never return the calls of clients who dared to leave a voice message for you; they’ll call you back if they really need you. If they don’t then they’ve probably solved their problem themselves and shouldn’t have called you for help in the first place!

FACT: Oracle research found that 49% of executives believe customers will switch brands due to a bad experience but 89% already have!

 

 

Emails:

  • Customer Email iconNever reply to emails within the same day, unless it is an automated response to say you will get back in the next  2-3 days.

FACT204 million emails are sent every minute, but that’s no excuse.

  • Wait before responding to customer emails for at least 4 days and then make sure it is really friendly and explains that you’re waiting for their call.

FACT: Forrester found that 41% of consumers expect an e-mail response within six hours.

  • Even better, reply to say that most answers can be found on your website and provide a helpful link to your FAQs. And never reference their email or mention a topic relevant to the content of it.

 

 

Social Media:

  • Customer Social media choices

    Social media for CRM
    SOURCE: Kozzi.com

    Monitor posts on social media and only respond when you need to point out why a person’s negative comments are wrong.

FACT: According to Edison Research 42 Percent of consumers complaining on Social Media expect a response within the hour.

  • Don’t bother reading comments online; you know better than your customers what they need.

FACT: 24% of American adults have posted comments or reviews online about the product or services they buy.

  • People use Twitter only for personal informatio; with only 140 characters, it can’t be relevant for businesses can it?

FACT: one million people view tweets related to customer service every week and more than 80% of those tweets are of a critical or negative nature.

If you got this far in the post then thanks for reading my rant. Many of the above actually happened to me this week when trying to buy a SaaS  platform! It is sad that despite all the articles written and research conducted, so many companies still get customer service so terribly wrong.

Hopefully in reading this post you have garnered some new facts and figures about customer service and what today’s customers are expecting from us. Or perhaps you got some ideas on how you can improve your own service and responses to your customers. 

Do you have your own fascinating facts about customers and what they expect in terms of service today? If so then please comment below and share them with everyone.

Would you like to know more about connecting and engaging with your customers? We can help. Contact us today and let’s discuss your challenges, but also check our website for more ideas: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

C³Centricity uses images from Microsoft and Kozzi.com

People sharing quotes

10 Inspiring Customer Quotes

Need a quote about the customer to start or end a marketing presentation or to bring home an important point to your audience? If so, then this list was created just for you.

A few weeks ago I shared some of my favourite Infographs of the moment. The post received record hits and loads of shares across many social media channels.

It seems you like “best of” lists so this week I thought I would share with you some of my favourite quotes on the topic of customer centricity. As I did for the Infographs,  included are some ideas of actions to be taken, prompted by each quote. Enjoy.

#1. “Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can” Gary Comer

Action: Choose one of your customer segments and decide a few ways to make their experience even better. If you don’t yet have a segmentation, check here for some ideas on simple ways to start.

#2. “Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business” Zig Ziglar

Action: Get a list of all the complaints, issues and suggested improvements that customers have given to your care center operators or promotion demonstrators. Do the same from your customer-facing staff if you have your own retail outlets.

#3. “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else” Sam Walton

Action: Find out what your customers are spending with your major competitor and more importantly identify why. Then find a way to meet one of their needs that you are currently not satisfying.

#4. “Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers” Ross Perot

Action: Spend a day operating the care center phones or working on the shop floor. Find as many ways as possible to talk to your customers and ask them questions, if they are willing to answer them. Share your learnings with everyone else.

#5. “Customer Service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the entire company” Tony Hsieh

Action: Identify one or two members from each department who are particularly customer centric and form a customer support group. Meet regularly to identify how to ensure everyone in the company understands their role in satisfying your customers.

#6. “Every client you keep, is one less that you need to find” Nigel Sanders

Action: Review the reasons why your customers leave your product or service, and identify one thing you can do differently to stop that continuing.

#7. “Research is not proof, it just improves the odds” David Soulsby

Action: Review the last five or ten market research studies that have been conducted and the decisions that were taken based upon their results. Did you delegate responsibility for decision-making totally to the customer by simply following the results of the research, or did you take a more balanced approach by considering them as a complement to other business factors and past information gathered? One study should never be the only source of information on which a decision is made

#8. “Customer needs have an unsettling way of not staying satisfied for very long” Karl Albrecht

Action: Review the results of the last five or ten renovations you have made to your products and services. Are they still performing well or do you need to bring further improvements as your customers are already used to the improved offer? Are you following societal trends and building scenarios to be better prepared for future opportunities and challenges. Check here for more information on doing this.

#9. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself!” Eleanor Roosevelt

Action: This is easier if you work in a multi-brand or multinational organisation; encourage departmental members to share one of their mistakes and how they would do things differently next time. This will only work in established groups with high trust between its members, so if this is not the case, start by sharing successes to learn from until people feel more comfortable opening up to their mistakes too.

#10. “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare” Japanese proverb

Action: Review your company vision and evaluate whether or not you are actioning all parts of it. If not, then update your plans to support your total company vision. Similarly review your business and brand plans and ensure they all fit into the wider company vision; if not update to exclude or replace inappropriate actions.

I hope you found some inspiration both in the quotes and the suggested actions prompted by each one.

If you have a favourite quote that you would like to include in the future, please add a comment below. We will be continuing these lists in coming months and will include yours, duly attributed if you would like to be named personally as a contributor.

Check out our website for hundreds of marketing and customer centric quotes, all segmented by topic: http://www.c3centricity.com/library/

 

Sucess factors of scenario planning

What the Hospitality Industry can teach us all about Customer Service

One of the industries most sensitive to customer service errors is hospitality. If they get something wrong their clients will tell them immediately.

This is a great opportunity, since it gives them the chance to respond appropriately and save their reputation. However, it also means that they have had to adapt to being not just reactive but also proactive.

If you would like to see what you can learn from how they meet some of these challenges read on.

This past week I was in Miami and had the chance to visit and stay in various hotels both at the beach as well as in the financial district. With a presentation to give in January on the hospitality industry (more about that next month), I wanted to get some true-life stories from the people on the ground. Their comments and ideas were so inspiring, I thought it would be useful for us all to consider some of their solutions, even if we are not in the hospitality industry. Their businesses depend on excellent customer service; shouldn’t ours as well?

#1. Know your client

They all spoke about the importance of knowing whom they are serving. Are their guests on business or vacation? These two groups have very different needs and demands, and so it is vital that the purpose of their visit is clearly understood in order to better serve them.

Ask yourself: These hotels start with a simple two cluster analysis and then group each of these into subgroups. What does your own segmentation tell you? Is it too complex to be actionable? Would a simpler approach such as the one these hotels are using help? Check our website for more about customer targeting and segmentation.

#2. Imagine the clients’ needs before they ask

Another interesting similarity between these professionals is their pride in understanding their clients’ needs. They actually feel that they haven’t done their best if a client has to ask for something.

Ask yourself: Are you continually updating your knowledge about your customers’ changing needs in order to anticipate them? If you develop a process to satisfy them but don’t adapt with each new learning, then you risk losing a deeper understanding. More about this topic here.

#3. The buck stops with the person listening

The banquet manager at one of the hotels talked about the importance of representing the Hotel to ensure the clients’ needs are met. He said that telling a client that something is not his job / responsibility is unacceptable. Whomever the client is speaking with is the company (hotel in this case) (>>Click to Tweet<<) from his perspective, so the employee cannot just pass responsibility to someone else to get rid of the issue.

Ask yourself: Do clients get passed from one person to the other when they call your company? Does everyone understand that it is their responsibility to find a solution to each client’s issue? They should only transfer them to someone else to resolve the client’s problem, once they have established that this is the right person to solve it. Read the 5 steps to customer care excellence for an example of simplified contact management.

#4. Speak to the decision maker

Another topic the banqueting manager mentioned was to always speak to the decision maker, not (only) the person making an order. For example, if it’s a wedding he speaks to the bride directly, not just the groom or the parents, even if they are the ones paying.

Ask yourself: Do you understand the purchase decision journey of your clients? If the end user and purchaser are different people, you will need to understand them both; (>>Click to Tweet<<) their reasons for using / buying the product they choose and how they came to make that decision.

#5. Your checklist is the start not the end

Most hotel departments now work with checklists, just like pilots. Whether it is reservations, the room cleaning, or meeting management, these lists have been built up over time to ensure that nothing essential is forgotten. However, if your customer service experts are still working to scripts, then their connection will seem false and uncaring in the eyes of your customer.

Ask yourself:Are all your scripts, processes and checklists absolutely necessary? Could you give your employees more responsibility and freedom to satisfy your customers? If you are concerned that they may take too many liberties and initiatives, you could set limits, such as decisions that cost less than a certain limit. As your confidence in their decision-making ability grows, you can increase this limit. And this makes good business sense. In Temkin’s 2012 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, they found that highly engaged employees are more committed to helping their companies succeed.

If you work in the hospitality industry I would love to hear your comments and ideas on the above. Would you add any other points? If you work in a different industry, I hope these comments inspire you to make your own customer services more caring and that the questions posed make you think about what we can learn from this industry that is not called hospitality for nothing. Shouldn’t we all be in a hospitable business?

Would you like to know just how customer centric you really are? Complete the C3Centricity Evaluator (it’s FREE to C3Centricity Members) and receive a summary report with suggested actions to take.

For more ideas about how to put your customer at the heart of your own business, please check out our website here: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

People linked around the world

Social Customer Service: How to be Responsible, Resourceful & Ready in Real-time

A recent Infographic got me thinking about what has and hasn’t changed in customer service thanks to social media. In fact I should have said what has still not changed and MUST change in the very near future.

If you feel that you haven’t made all the necessary changes to meet the challenges of the new social customers and their demands, then read on for four actions you should be taking to improve your customer service.

#1. Responsibility

Marketing, Sales and Customer Service all have contact with customers and therefore also responsibility for them. Today these departments must work more closely together to provide a seamless connection with the customer. They need to build on each other’s efforts to satisfy the customer, so that each customer perceives that there is one company working to delight him and that he is really important to them.

Action: Employees from all customer-facing departments need to meet regularly, at least monthly, to exchange and share their latest experiences and learnings. What are customers talking about, complaining about or dreaming of? What new opportunities are there to get ahead of competition in better satisfying these current or latent needs? Organise regular exchanges or “lunch & learn” sessions and if you work in the USA recognise your most active employees by signing them up in the “Most Engaged Employee Contest”.

#2. Resources

Most organisations understand the importance of their customer, and we all know they are more than ever in control thanks to social media. However, few companies are investing in developing their customer centricity and keeping their customer database current. Business needs to start walking the talk so their customers notice and feel a difference in how they are being treated, listened to and satisfied.

Action: Did you know it costs about 8 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain a current one? Review how you collect and store your customer information. Have you verified their details in the last year? Most companies have upwards of 28% of their database which is out-of-date; when did you last check your own level? Is data stored by brand or business unit? Integrate the information, so the connection with your customer is seamless, more intimate, knowledgeable and fulfilling for you both.

#3. Ready

Social Media connections are growing exponentially but is your organisation staying ahead of the curve?. Recent figures from the latest Burson Marsteller Global Social Media Check-up 2012 suggest there are more than 10 million references to major global companies on social media every month and more than half of these are are on Twitter. Companies need to be following these discussions in addition to responding to customers in the usual way through call centers, email or postal mail.

Action: Review and revise your care center resources and training. Ensure you have a sufficiently growing number of trained staff to be available when the customer most needs to contact you. Provide the customer service agents with the knowledge, information and authority to respond to customers on social media as well as over traditional contact means. Remember that nothing disappears on the web, so written responses need to be accurate, precise and appropriate. If not you may fall into a PR disaster similar to the one Nestlé found itself in on its Facebook page in early 2010.

#4. Real-time

Did you know that customers expect a more rapid response to queries than they are used to getting? This is driving them to non-traditional methods of interacting with customer service agents such as chat and social media. According to the latest State of the Industry report from Acxiom and Digiday 74% of companies cannot respond to customers in real-time. How have you changed your care centres to respond to this demand?

Action: Review your current customer service practices to ensure you are responding to your customers’ demands in real-time or at least offering a short-term solution. Have you made your agents available 24/7 or found a way to propose an alternative solution to customers who might contact outside normal working hours but when they are most likely to need help with your product or service? Customers expect answers within one to four hours these days.

These are the four essential steps that most organisations have still not taken to respond to the new social customer and their increased demands. What are you waiting for?

If you have taken other steps to optimise your organisations customer centricity to respond to the demands of the social customer then please share them here.

For more information on customer connection, please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

Happy man with a great brand image

The Minimalist Guide to Customer Satisfaction

Are you looking to provide the best Customer Satisfaction and Experience with the minimum amount of effort? If so, then read on.

During lunch with a friend this week, we were discussing how apparently impossible it seems for many retailers to satisfy their customers. We exchanged recent experiences about our own customer satisfaction, or lack thereof, his concerning the in-store purchase of a radio, mine during a sales pitch from a local telecom company.

We laughed together as we realised that neither of us had bought the product / service we had the intention of purchasing because of the “salesman’s” basic errors. When we realised this, we started to enumerate what potential customers are looking for, when making a purchase. Hopefully the list we developed will serve you in providing better service and satisfaction to your own potential clients.

#1. Understand who your potential customer is

If you don’t know who the person with whom you are discussing is, then it is unlikely that you will be able to effectively empathize. Start by listening to them, to better understand who they are and what they could be interested in buying from you. Only then should you propose a solution, or perhaps a choice of two. Remember too much choice is likely to result in no sale too. Read more about this in the Columbia / Stanford paper “Choice is Demotivating”

#2. Understand what your customer wants

In my case, the online salesman started by telling me there was a great offer, which included all local calls for free. When I explained that I rarely called others, preferring to use VOIP services such as Skype or Google Talk, he then changed the offer to a higher priced one that included making calls when I was traveling. If he had simply prepared for the sales pitch, by reviewing my past behaviour, over the previous 6-12 months, he would have been better able to propose a more attractive new service to me.

As it was, his proposals meant my spending more money for less service, which of course was not of interest. In addition, after three attempts at proposing new services I, like many customers I imagine, had lost interest in listening to him. He didn’t know how to excite me and spent useless time in a conversation that had no value to either of us.

Again, listen and learn before proposing a product or service, to ensure you are making the one best possible suggestion. If you just keep throwing offers at a potential client in the hope that one will stick, even ones with potential are likely to go unheard.

#3. Understand what your customer needs

In many cases, a potential customer wants something different from what he actually says he needs. Remember one of many famous Henri Ford quotes:

“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”

Understanding the need that is behind the claimed want takes you half-way to actually satisfying the desire of the customer.

#4. Understand what you can offer

In some cases you will be unable to give your customer either what he wants or needs. In these instances you have two options:

  1. Say that your product / service will satisfy your customer, which is dangerous as he / she will quickly realise that it doesn’t
  2. Say that your product can’t satisfy their need but tell them of any future planned improvements that may appeal in the near future if they are prepared to wait. You could also suggest one that will, which may sound counter-intuitive, but which will build trust and image of your brand / company that can positively impact future purchases.

Of course, if you go for the first option and say that your product / service delivers exactly what the customer is looking for, you may congratulate yourself on the sale. Of course, when your customer finds out that it doesn’t provide the satisfaction that was expected he won’t come back and he’ll probably tell everyone he knows, or even doesn’t know via the web, about his dissatisfaction. Is that really an option? A few years ago, some HBR research showed that almost a half of people having a negative experience told ten or more others.

#5. Understand yourself

Part of building trust and a long-term relationship with your customers comes from understanding yourself, the real, honest and transparent strengths and weaknesses of what you have to offer. Transparency is essential today in building customer trust and customers will eventually uncover whatever you have to hide, so it’s best not to have anything that you do not want them to discover.

These are just five simple ways to guarantee customer satisfaction, but of course there are many, many more. Why not share your own favourite below? 

For more information on how to understand your customers better, check our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand/

Fitting the pieces together

6 Secrets to Better Customer Relationship Building

Yesterday I read a wonderful post from Ted Rubin about IBM’s recent Global Summit, which used an unusual emotional stimulation to connect with the participants. It also illustrated how emotions can be used for customer relationship building as well as for prompting longer-term memory in potential customers. If that is what you too want to build, read on.

Ted mentioned that when it was first announced, that they were going to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s Longest Handshake Chain “You can imagine the reaction of the attendees. The first response was one of amazed disbelief. “Really?” And then, “Wow, this will be something to always remember as a group!” This is the sort of thing you naturally tell your kids about… and then tweet, and post to Facebook. The energy in the room and the excitement of the crowd were palpable.”

I still remember the excitement of attending a local cinema morning when I was 5 years old, that was sponsored by a major tea brand. I should mention that I grew up in Cornwall, where tea is the leading day-time beverage and it is served as strong as the women who make it and the men who drink it. Even today, I can sing the song we learnt word-for-word before the film was shown and find myself buying the brand to take back home whenever I go to the UK.

What both these companies got right, was their customer relationship building based upon a group experience of their potential customers at the respective events. In my case I don’t remember what film was shown and I am not sure what IBM services Ted will remember, but we will both surely remember the brand names at the heart of our memorable experiences.

How are you getting into the brain of your own potential customers and are you finding a permanent place in it? Earlier this week I presented to a group of professionals at The Marketing and Communications Loft in Geneva. We discussed the many ways there are to connect with our audiences today, but also the challenge of breaking through the clutter of everyone attempting to do the same. As this Infographic “What happens online in 60 seconds” shows, there is so much going on online already, that it is becoming harder to build this emotional connection, which is the only way to really resonate and build relationships with your potential customers. So here are some ideas on how to do so:

#1. The secret of Information

Understand what information your customers really want, not just what you want to give them. This is the single most important thing to remember when building a brand website. Read this post from Anita Williams Weinberg of Poppermost Communications for some useful thoughts on this.

#2. The secret of Needs

Review where your customers are on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and ensure you are using relevant arguments to resonate and build a relationship that matters to them for the level they are at currently. Talking status to someone who is struggling to feed their family is unlikely to get either a positive reaction, or recall!

#3. The secret of Polysensoriality

Realise that products alone are rarely building an emotional connection and need a point of differentiation. Adding sensorial experiences will link directly with consumers and ensure higher loyalty even when product performance is similar to a competitor’s. Cars and personal care products are two industries that already rely on these to resonate with their potential clients.

#4. The secret of Surprise

Another way of increasing the emotional connection of a brand is by adding appropriate services to your offer. Zappo’s is a great example of how to do this; their slogan “Powered by Service” and their habit of training all new hires in customer service, including time in their care centres, ensures all employees are truly customer centric and will go above and beyond their duty to satisfy their customers.

#5. The secret of Understanding

Surprise your customers with an extra they weren’t expecting. Amazon was one of the first to propose other relevant articles to their customers whether they were merely browsing or after having purchased. The emotional connection their customers feel by being understood clearly outweigh any feelings of “Big Brother” watching, although this of course remains a risk, especially for other companies trying to replicate the service idea.

#6. The secret of Service

Welcome the chance to solve complaints. According to the results of research recently conducted by The Temkin Group, 89% of customers have switched to a competitor after just one negative experience and only around 4% will even complain. It therefore makes good business sense to treat complainers as providing you with the prized gifts that they are doing and to do everything you can to solve their issue. Go “over the top” in listening to them and resolving their issue to their complete satisfaction, not yours. A positive experience will be shared with friends and family, as well as on the web, as will a negative one, so make sure your company delivers the former.

I hope this has given you some food for thought on how to start building relationships with your customers, to gain a place in their hearts and minds through using emotional connections. If you have any other ideas, we would all love to hear them, so why not share them below?

For more information on how to better connect with your customers to build relationships, please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/engage/

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R&D needs to connect with customers for improved innovation

Trust: How to build your customers’ before it’s too late

Last week, I was reviewing some work for a friend and something didn’t feel quite right about it. The content was great, lots of interesting facts and information, but the flow just wasn’t there.

When I questioned her about it, she admitted that she had taken passages from other articles to make up her own; from that moment I lost trust in her work.

In today’s world of information overload she could have been forgiven for having “curated” work from other writers, but to me it was dishonest for her not to have mentioned her sources.

Whilst your websites and blogs are hopefully filled with your own material, are you as honest in other areas of your marketing and communications? This post is for you if you want to make sure you are.

Telling the truth

All of us want to have confidence in the products and services that we buy. However, it seems to have become the “norm” to exaggerate our offering in so many industries:

  • Food manufacturers show beautiful dishes on the front panel of their packs that don’t at all resemble the dull, industrialised product inside the box or can
  • Personal care products promise glossy hair, wrinkle free skin or quick weight-loss
  • Perfumes claim to that their use has the opposite sex falling at our feet

To a greater or lesser extent, all these exaggerations are setting the companies up for failure rather than success in the mean term. If you are disappointed by the look or performance of the product when you open the box, are you likely to buy it again? Unless it tastes incredible or smells exceptional, or has some other merit, with the choices out there, you are more likely to try a different brand next time. For example, why do we women all have several shampoos cluttering up our bathrooms? Because we believe with each new launch, that this time it will make a difference to our limp, dull, dry or greasy hair.

Now I am the first to admit that I don’t want total reality either; wouldn’t the world be dull otherwise? But did you know that according to the 2011 report from Oracle “The Customer Experience Revolution“, 89% of people have switched brands after just one negative experience. There is so much choice today, why risk that one bad experience by over-promising.

The Dove brand has built its reputation on exactly this and its now infamous communication “Evolution” still remains a hit on YouTube. Incidentally, there have also been some copies of the evolution theme; if you want a good laugh, check out the “Foster Farms” parody from last year, one of the best in my opinion.

Don’t hide behind the small print

Sorry CPG / FMCG Industry, I’m going to mention you again. Have you noticed how packs are showing more and more languages on them? As production becomes more centralised, it makes sense, at least for the manufacturer, to reduce the number of pack versions they need to print. It also helps with their supply chain, since products prepared for one market can end up being shipped to another if needed.

I remember once hearing that you should never believe what is printed on the front of pack – 95% fat free is usually by weight and not be calories for instance, which is what we are probably more interested in knowing. But it is often difficult to realise this since the back panel with the ingredients information is printed in such small font, that you can’t actually read it.

How about the technology industry too? How many of us read all the agreements and contracts we are asked to approve when we buy, install or download software? I remember a few years ago having a problem with my i-Phone, which kept synchronising non-stop over the air with Mobile-Me (luckily now abandoned by Apple). When I called Apple to sort it out I also asked them what to do about the $300 Telecom bill I had just received from my network; they told me that it wasn’t their responsibility, as I had signed the agreement which stated that they are not accountable should their system not work! So what was I buying?!

Be ready to listen to your customer

I assume most of you reading this have a call centre which customers can contact for queries or complaints? One major CPG company was very proud that they had put their contact telephone number and email address on every one of their packs. However, if you tried to call outside working hours, you just got a recorded message with the times to call.

A friend of mine tried to call a Food manufacturer at 12:30 in Europe as she had trouble using one of their recipe mixes; imagine her surprise when she got a recorded message saying that they were closed for lunch. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be available when your product is more likely to be used, at lunch-time or in the evening? I had a similar experience calling an airline on a Saturday, when I heard the message that their offices were closed at weekends. Luckily, I went online and found a number for them in a different time zone, where at least they were open, although they quicly explained that they couldn’t help me, since my ticket had been bought n Europe. Global airlines anyone?!

These are just three examples of things companies do to make their lives easier, but not those of their customers. Even organisations who claim to put their customer at the heart of their business and consider themselves to be customer centric, can overlook these simple yet vital areas of customer service.

Maybe you could benefit from reviewing what services you are providing to your own customers and checking that they are indeed doing what they were planned to do, namely making your customers’ lives easier and not just your own. In fact why not start with the first three I mentioned above? I bet at least one of them could do with some improvement in your own business.

If you are doing these three correctly, but notice in your review that something else could be improved, please share it here and let everyone know below. Together we will all become more customer centric, which will benefit us both as customers and businesses.

For more information about building trust with your customers by understanding them better, please check our website here: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand/

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Young woman, source of word of mouth

The 7 Keys to Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Ever wonder how to get people talking about your business? Start by offering them incredible products and services that solve their problems and fulfill their needs. Make your customers happy and give them something to talk about. Read this article to access 7 key elements that will get people talking about you!

Every strategy comes with its own set of rules, and so does word of mouth marketing. Yes, this means that you can actually create a strategy to generate positive word of mouth support for your business.

But first: why does Word of Mouth matter?

Learn about cognitive dissonance: “this is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.”

In other words: people are always searching for ways to reduce this cognitive dissonance (to reduce risk and hence fear!).

Receiving positive reviews by word of mouth from friends or family on products or services will reduce the dissonance, as it confirms people in their beliefs that this is a good product or service. You could also define this as the effect of social proof. “If X amount of people share a positive experience, it has to be great!”

So, given that consumers need input to reduce the risk they take, and hence the fear that goes along with buying stuff, here are 7 key elements that will generate positive word of mouth promotion for your business:

 

#1 Make Customers Happy

If you value your customers, offer them more than they expect! And do it all the time. It’s not only the great product or service that generates loyalty, but the implicit message that states “you matter to us!”. That’s what every customer wants to hear! Solid relationships thrive on rewarding your customers with a creative surprise. Watch the smile on their face!

 

#2 Focus on Brand Commitment

In Spreading the Word, Tom Brown defined Brand commitment as:

“An enduring desire to maintain a relationship with a specific entity.” (Brown e.a., 2005, p. 126)

Your Facebook brand page may offer you a unique opportunity to build and nurture a relationship with your fans. But, it takes more than just generating a Like for your Fan page to get people to talk about you! Just watch how many Facebook pages have almost zero engagement.

So, ask yourself these 2 questions every day: “do your customers have an enduring desire to maintain a relationship with your brand?” and “what do you do to earn your fans’ trust each day?”.

If you focus on the enduring desire of fans to maintain the relationship with your brand, this sets the conditions for successful viral word of mouth marketing.

Brands with a strong and engaging fan base on Facebook can count on daily likes, shares and comments. This engagement will increase your visibility and accelerate your Reach. This social proof will increase your brands’ attraction and generate more fans. If you want to learn more on this, check out Social Midas.

 

#3 Offer Distinctive Products and Services

When it comes to distinctive products, for most people one word is enough: Apple. Steve Jobs has succeeded in building a strong brand that people associate with innovative products that rock! Every time Steve introduced a new product, like the iPod, iPhone or iPad, people just had to talk about it and still do!

When you think about distinctive service, I’m sure Zappos.com resonates with you. Not only does Zappos offer shoes online, they value their customer’s trust more than anything!

If you offer new distinctive products or services, people just want to talk about that. It’s up to you to generate virality by offering them great content about your products or services, so they can share it with friends and family. Think about blog posts, videos, podcasts, badges or other promotion material.

 

#4 Nurture Involvement

Offer solutions that connect to the mental relevancy of your customers. Think about how to trigger a big desire or confront huge pains or frustrations. Get into the middle section of your customer’s brain (limbic) to create somatic markers. These markers connect a personal experience with your brand. Just like a can of Coca-Cola will generate happiness and warm feelings for a lot of people. Continue to nurture these feelings and watch how your customers want to share their experience with their family and friends.

 

#5 Connect with Market Mavens

Market mavens are individuals who have up-to-date information about many kinds of products, places to shop and other facets of the market. These market mavens are the ones who are most likely to respond to information requests from friends or family. They love to educate others, and it also increases their status. Connect with these market mavens and make them your brand advocates.

 

#6 Identify your brand advocates

When it comes to word of mouth marketing, referrals by brand advocates are your most effective type of marketing. If you want to include these influencers in your strategy, you need to identify them first.

Fortunately, Satmetrix, Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld developed “The Ultimate Question”.  Ask your customers: “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend?” and calculate the Net Promoter Score. People that indicate this likelihood with a 9 or 10 are “loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth”.

 

#7 Invite Social Media Stars

If you want to increase your word of mouth marketing effectiveness on the social web, you need social media stars. These are social media users who reach a great number of people and have much influence. The Klout Score is certainly a great measure to identify these social media stars.

The Klout Score uses data from various social networks -like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr and Flickr in order to measure your True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact.

As more social media management tools -like HootSuite or SproutSocial- include Klout Score as the main indicator of social influence, I think it’s worth paying attention to the Klout Score of your online connections.

Take Away: although no one can predict virality of customer experiences on the social web, word of mouth marketing matters more than ever. Understand these 7 key elements and create your own strategy to stimulate positive word of mouth.

My recommendation on word of mouth marketing: “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies get People Talking”.

We love to hear from you! Please share your reaction in the comments box below. Thanks :)

To learn more about connecting with your customers, please check out our website here: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/

This post was first published on Felix Relationship Marketing on April 12th 2012

Target customer

10 ways Customer Centricity can Ignite Business

Customers, consumers and clients are demanding more attention; they want to be heard, they want to be seen and understood for whom they are, they want their needs and desires answered. Social media has increased our attention to them, but many organisations are still struggling to walk the talk of customer centricity. If this is your own case and you are looking for customer excellence, then this post is for you.

Several companies have contacted me in the last few months, to ask for help in creating a Consumer / Customer Excellence Department. Having already gone through the challenges of doing this in the past, I knew that I could certainly help others with their exciting plan. However, my first reaction was always to ask “Why”; not why they had contacted me but why they wanted to create the group in the first place.

Setting up a Customer Excellence (CE) department is not just a structural change; it is more importantly a cultural change that must go deep into the whole organisation if it is to work. It is about putting the customer at the heart of the business and walking the talk of customer centricity. It is often the CEO or CMO who makes the original request, since they feel that the company is not paying enough attention to their customers, but the initiative will only succeed if everyone in the company not only buys into the vision, but is also excited by the changes it will bring.

Let me share some of my own experiences to help your own journey, by illustrating a few of the imperatives to succeed in such an initiative:

#1. CE should report into the Board

This new department must report into the board and ideally have a seat there too. It must be seen as an organisational and not a departmental initiative. If it reports into marketing, it will be seen as a marketing support group; maybe just a new name for marketing services, market research or insight, as I am sad to remember was once quoted to me by a CEO!

#2. CE should group all customer-facing departments

Customer Excellence should include all customer-facing departments, including market research and insight of course, but also care centres, consumer services, web services, CRM and perhaps even the promotions teams. This means that there will be personalised as well as anonymous connections with customers, but these can both provide information that can of use to one or the other contacts.

#3. CE should connect with the same tone & vocabulary

Every personalised contact with the customer must use the same tone and voice, and also be based upon background information about every previous connection, by whatever medium used. In this way, the customer will see them all as links to the company, a business who cares about them and wants to build a deep relationship and understanding of their needs and desires.

#4. CE should be multi-category

In order to truly integrate all the knowledge and understanding, the group should also work across categories and brands in a multi-category company, in order to comprehend the person as a whole, and not just as a category user. This has the added benefit of being able to cross-sell and up-sell when a connection is made, proposing appropriate products and categories. I am sure you have all been contacted at some time in the past for an inappropriate product, by a company that didn’t do this, no? For example diapers promoted to single men, a new desert to people on a diet or who are diabetic, innovative new alcoholic beverage to teetotalers etc etc.

#5. CE should be Global

Customer Excellence should have a worldwide remit, integrating all regions and markets, in order to be aware of global as well as regional category and societal trends, to help the company be prepared for future opportunities and challenges.

In addition this can build a useful community spirit, even in decentralised organisations, as markets look for information from countries ahead on some relevant trends, whilst also looking back to help those who are following them on other trends.

#6. CE should develop Scenarios

Most organisations today follow trends, but these do not bring competitive advantage unless they are developed into future scenarios. By doing this, Customer Excellence can prepare management for the future, identifying possible changes to the market, so that opportunities can be grabbed and response to possible challenges well prepared in advance.

Business relevance will always be higher for scenarios than trends. In a regional or international organisation, scenarios can help markets to be better prepared, by sharing information across borders and continents, rather than using geographic closeness to define regions, which is still favoured by many large businesses.

#7. CE should be Market / Brand agnostic

By being market and brand agnostic, the Customer Excellence department is free to give advice and to share their true opinions, without fear of upsetting the business unit or regional head. Corporations today need to get comfortable with cross-departmental team working and the creation of a Customer Excellence department is a great way to catalyse this change.

#8. CE should Integrate all Customer Information

Understanding and insight development from the information gathered by market research, sales, marketing, finance, supply chain, and all the other available sources within an organisation, can only come from total data and knowledge integration. Consumer Excellence can again provide the analytical expertise and the cross-category perspective to reap the full benefits for everyone.

Having a one-stop shop for a company’s customer and market information, knowledge and understanding means that work is not replicated when requests come in from different departments. Additionally, multiple categories may be interested in similar target groups, which means that customer excellence can provide deeper insights to both groups without twice the work.

#9. CE should cover costs through better negotiation

This also applies to the purchasing of external information and reports. Few suppliers would ever tell a company that they have already purchased a report or database, being happy to make the second or even multiple sales to different departments within an organisation. However, if all information requests are handled by one group, they can certainly avoid this and also negotiate better deals for purchases that can then be made available across the organisation.

This is a particularly valuable asset for decentralised corporations, since there is generally little interaction at this level, but from my own personal experience, savings can even be found for centralised enterprises, through simply negotiation of volume discounts.

#10. CE Ignites Customer Centricity & Business Grows

Last but not least, the customer benefits since all employees are thinking about the role they play in satisfying them. Becoming customer centric is a long journey, so the more people that are involved at the start, the more likely that cultural change will happen, as each employee reinforces the thinking of putting the customer at the heart  of the business.

To summarise, the creation of a customer excellence department mandated from board level management, can put the customer at the heart of the company, as well as of every department within it. Business will benefit, the customer will benefit and hopefully the employees too.

What have been your experiences with the development of a Customer or Consumer Excellence Department? Please share your own stories here and add other benefits to support organisations looking to create this new way of working.

For more about the processes to enhance customer centricity, please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand

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