Voice of the Customer

Hearing the Voice of the Customer

At the core of every successful business is a strong focus on customer experience. The voice of the customer is one of the most important things to a business, yet it is too often overlooked. Learn below how to channel the voice of the customer into your business and how to really listen to what they’re saying by using industry-leading analytics.

What a Ramen Noodle Shop Can Teach You About Customer Experience

Do you celebrate your best staff?  And do you do it publicly? Here’s a group that serves as a great model.

We always drive to the family cabin in Maine.  This year we stopped by Toronto on our way home, and I let my daughter Becca determine our itinerary for our half-day visit.  Becca has loved travel since the day she was born, so naturally she chose to take us to Chinatown.  As we wandered around we found this fantastic Japanese Ramen restaurant, Ajisen Ramen.  I highly recommend  a visit, as both the food and staff were excellent. But this isn’t a travel or restaurant blog.  What can we learn about customer experience that can apply to call center managers, grocery store leaders, travel agents or other customer experience pros?

What struck me most was Ajisen’s approach to their customer satisfaction survey.  Rather than asking a 5-, 7-, 10- or 11-point rating of satisfaction, loyalty, likelihood to recommend, etc., they do something different. Instead, they ask you to vote for the Best of the Best among their staff.  Check out their questionnaire.  They also promote the program through the poster at the entrance to the restaurant.

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Tekserve: A Blueprint for a Great B2B Customer-Inspired Experience

“Our job is to make our customers look good to their bosses.” 

That’s the philosophy of Tekserve, an Apple retailer and IT services provider in New York City, as articulated by Director of Marketing Jazmin Hupp.

Imagine that you are a long-time Apple retailer and supplier, and then Apple builds their flagship store just two miles from you, then four more just as close. Some might find it time to close up shop. Instead, Tekserve used the challenge as an opportunity to refocus on their customers. Their reward? Consistent growth, being featured in the Crain’s New York Business Fast 50 and the Computer Reseller News’ 2012 Solution Provider 500 list, which ranks the top technology integrators in North America.

Tekserve doubled-down on the service surrounding Apple’s products, particularly for businesses.  Almost 2/3 of their revenue comes from B2B relationships, where they are far nimbler than Apple. Much of their work involves integrating Apple products into existing networks, including wholesale conversions from PCs to Macs.

Tekserve credits their growth to three main areas of focus: Read more

The #1 Tool to Engage Your Customers

Note:  This post was originally listed at Annette Franz’s blog at http://cxjourney.blogspot.com/.  If you aren’t subscribed to her blog, you really should consider it!

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You’ve gathered your customer insights and made the changes. Your website is streamlined and easy to use. Your add-on services are perfectly aligned with customer needs. You have invested in the finest training for your employees. Your IT upgrades ensure that your staff has up-to the-second information at their fingertips.

But somehow nothing is changing. Your sales are flat, and your customer experience scores are static. What’s wrong?

Tell me, how good are your line managers?

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The employee-customer interaction is where the magic happens in almost any service-based business. Whether renting a car, shopping for groceries or eating out, the customer-facing associate makes the difference between a ho-hum experience and one that brings you back for more. Read more

The First Key to Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience

A customer-inspired experience is critical to growth. According to a Temkin Group analysis, a great customer experience increases likelihood to recommend by 19.5% and likelihood to repurchase by 18.4%. And the best way to get that inspiration is through those who talk to customers every day – your front-line employees. In this piece you will receive the first key of creating a great customer-inspired experience. Keys two and three will follow soon!

The First Key to Creating a Customer-Inspired Experience: Identify What Really Matters

This seems like a no-brainer. Companies know what matters to their customers, right?

In fact, many have it wrong. Leaders get so focused on their tangible capabilities that they no longer see through their customers’ eyes, and use their over-informed perspective to prioritize efforts. As a good example, I worked with a global fast food company to determine the best way to increase growth. This company was laser-focused on R&D – inventing the newest menu item to drive that bump in sales. They applied a very rational lens to their customer experience – if we provide good food fast and keep coming up with new items, we’ll grow.

This approach is so alluring that it is no surprise they succumbed to it. And sure enough, the company was rewarded with a spike in sales every time they came out with a new food item. So, like most companies focusing on next quarter’s results, they kept feeding the R&D beast. But despite these sales spikes, their same-restaurant sales continued to drop each year.

We identified a segment of customers who visited their restaurants more than any other. But even within this segment, we found huge discrepancies on monthly spending based on emotional engagement. Read more

Innovating Through Your Front-Line Staff Speech

I’ve been speaking quite a bit lately – four times in the last week and a half – so I haven’t been able to complete the second half of my blog post “Experiment Your Way to Growth.” But you can see me speak about it below.  I come on at 2:44 into it.

The second half should be out next week!

Dunn Bros Coffee – the Non-Chain Chain

“Coffee houses are about neigh­bor­hoods,” Dunn Bros Coffee co-CEO Chris Eilers tells me while we drink light roasts and blues music plays overhead.

Dunn Brothers is a popular Midwestern coffee chain with most of its locations in the Twin Cities. The company was started by Ed Dunn and now boasts 83 locations. Whereas Starbucks and Caribou (another Minnesota-grown coffee shop) have primarily corporate-owned locations, Dunn Bros focuses on attracting franchisees, who typically run and work at only one location.

This interview discusses the Dunn Bros Coffee history, how they use their franchisees to develop their unique customer experience, and how the company uses market research and social networking to learn more about their customers. It concludes with an analysis on how they do in creating a customer-inspired experience, as measured through the Heart of the Customer model.

Read the interview in Dunn_Bros-the_Non-Chain_Chain-White_Paper.

Three Customer Experience Surveying Principles

The Heart of the Matter

We need to create a standard for customer satisfaction surveys. In this post, I propose the following Customer Experience Surveying Principles:

  1. Make it short;

  2. If you ask it, use it;

  3. Never ask a question when a query will do.

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A few weeks ago I met with another consultant offering customer satisfaction surveys, although as only a small part of his business. The conversation turned to methodology when he said “I just like to put together a few questions, and get something out there quickly.”

When I showed shock at his cavalier approach, he argued, “What you have to realize is that these companies are not in the business of doing customer satisfaction surveys. They just don’t want to spend much time thinking about it.”

I was offended at the remark, but held my tongue. What I wanted to say was “They’re not in the business of doing accounting, either. Do you suggest they do a similar half-a** job of that, too?” I simply could not believe he argued for such a deliberately casual and careless approach towards a customer-facing effort.

Unfortunately, he is not alone in this disregard towards interrupting customers. Why else do we find so many terrible surveys? He is casually regarding two pillars that I hold dear: My customers and my brand. How you treat the first directly impacts how they see the second. But apparently this viewpoint is unique.

How else do you explain JC Penney’s satisfaction survey question: “Please select the number 2 for this question.” I get it – they want to validate the scientific accuracy of the response. But what does this say about their opinion of their customers? “We don’t think you’re paying attention, so we’re going to ask a question that shows our low opinion of you.”

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Drivers: the Secrets to Creating a Great Customer Experience

The Heart of the Matter

Typical Customer Experience Measurement Programs treat all customers as one homogenous group, rather than as unique segments. These programs need to analyze customers based on their value to the organization and analyze what drives the behavior of each segment. This white paper lays out a process for developing and analyzing these Customer Experience Drivers.

Introduction

Do you understand what motivates your best customers and sets them apart from the rest? For example, why do some customers:

  • Come to your restaurant every week, whereas others only when they have a coupon?
  • Call you first for consulting help, while others make you bid for the lowest price?
  • Require constant hand-holding, compared to others who are very inexpensive to maintain?

And how do you find more customers like the first group?

Simply said, some customers are engaged with your company, love your products and services, and trust you. These customers tend to be your most loyal and profitable. Others buy from you because you are convenient or have a good price. These are often expensive to serve and contribute less to you business’ bottom line. You need to learn what drives the former, to find more like them.

This is true for both B2B and B2C companies. In fact, because the order sizes are typically much larger, this is even more critical for B2B companies.

Without this understanding, product development and marketing become a best-guess effort. Driver Analysis is the process used to determine what motivates your best customers.  It extends your current NPS, Satisfaction, or Engagement studies to discover and measure these underlying motivations.

Driver Analysis is the practice of including motivations in your Customer Experience Measurement Program, then correlating these motivations with your customers’ Lifetime Value. This process separates those who purchase based on convenience or price from those truly profitable customers who view you differently, and then shows the motivations of each group.

For example, quick service restaurant customers selected the chain they visited the most. Within a restaurant’s most-frequent visitors, those who were “engaged” spent $8 a month more here than the average. What drove this engagement was not “the Quality of Food,” or “Speed of Service.” Instead, it was “the Warmth of the Greeting.” Similarly, Gallup found that B2B customers who rated their partners high on “Impacts my business” are stickier – they remain customers longer, and are more profitable. The specific drivers vary by company – even within an industry – but are critical to understand how to motivate customers to spend more with you.

Another reason to use drivers is to target efforts in your different delivery segments. Using the restaurant example above, imagine the situation where a general manager is told her store NPS or satisfaction score is low. While this is important to know, it does not tell her how to improve these scores. Drivers provide insight on where action is needed.

Similarly, drivers help B2B account teams know where to focus. Satisfaction or NPS helps evaluate the state of the relationship – drivers identify how to improve it.

So, how do you discover these drivers? See Figure 1 for an overview. The process starts with your staff, and then expands to your customers.

Figure 1 – Customer Experience Driver Development Path

White Paper

This post continues in: Drivers – the Secret to a Great Customer Experience White Paper. Please download it to learn the entire end-to-end process!

Measuring the Segmented Customer Experience

Segmentation is a critical tool in developing products and marketing offers. Companies routinely separate customers into segments to understand and satisfy their unique needs. So why is segmentation so rarely used when measuring the customer experience?

Some segmentation methods include:

  • Demographic. Best Buy built customer segments such as Jill (the Soccer Mom) or Buzz (the young tech enthusiast), creating successful store offerings around each.
  • Behavioral. Health insurance companies build segmentation schemes around consumer behavior and demographics such as Young and Healthy or Chronics.
  • Psychographic. Can be based on lifestyle, opinions, hobbies, or similar items. Grocery stores use segments such as the Indulgent Shopper and the Convenience Shopper.
  • Geographic. Suburban, rural, and urban are common B2C segments.
  • Industry. Most B2B companies include at least some segmentation around industry.

When conducting a Customer Experience Measurement survey (whether Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score or Engagement), most programs combine all respondents into a consolidated set of results, combining customer segments into a watered-down whole. There are clear logistical reasons to do this – it is easier and cheaper to build one set of results than 3-7. But what is the impact?

>>> Read more in the attached white paper: Measuring the Segmented Customer Experience.  

Measuring the Segmented Customer Experience White Paper

Surveys – a Force for Good or Evil?

The Internet is a wonderful thing.  With little effort, we can connect to hundreds (or millions!) of people.  That access makes it really easy to conduct surveys.  So easy, in fact, that we no longer have to spend much time thinking about it.  And it’s obvious that many companies don’t.

While a proper survey can teach you about your customers, poor surveys lead you down the wrong path, sacrificing development dollars on delivering something your customers just don’t want.

Survey problems show up in three ways:

  • Asking for opinions instead of using readily available data
  • Outsourcing your thinking to your customers, asking them what you should develop
  • Piling on “just one more question”

Surveys vs. Data

It has now become easier to ask a survey than to do actual research.  Just because you can ask a survey, though, doesn’t mean that you should.

About 18 months ago the financial management website Mint conducted a survey that has been used by a host of speakers purporting to show the huge impact the economy has had on spending habits. One often-used slide:

You can see one presentation using this data at http://www.slideshare.net/MirrenBizDev/2010-new-business-conference-mintel. This slide is used to show how consumers are abandoning credit cards – 12% discontinued their use in 2009!

Not likely. Can you imagine the ripple effect if one out of every eight consumers completely discontinued the use of credit cards? The fallout would be massive!

The biggest problem is the question Mint asked.  Just because respondents said they discontinued credit cards does not mean they actually did it. Worse, the real data is only a short search away. What was the real change in credit card usage in 2009? According to the Fed, credit cards did decline – but by 0.2%! Yes, this is a dramatic change from the growth of previous years – but nothing like the impact that the Mint survey suggests.

Predicting the Future with Surveys

Survey data are frequently used as input to business decisions. Asking customers what we should develop feels right – but doesn’t work.  Consumers are notoriously bad at predicting what they want. Take this survey by the Consumer Electronics Association. While it’s dated, I saw the waste it generated at a consumer electronics retailer firsthand.

In this survey the CEA asked consumers what content they wanted to watch on their HDTVs. 47% said they wanted to watch home videos, while 44% wanted to view digital photos. This survey was cited in numerous business cases, and the retailer developed dozens of endcaps showing customers how they could do this through adding a computer to their home theater or connecting their Xbox 360 to the computers on their home network. We invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in these displays – likely millions when inventory is considered – yet sold very few.  What went wrong?

You can’t ask customers to predict the future – even their own behavior.  When asked whether they wanted to see their home videos on their computer, almost half the respondents clicked yes. Clicking a Yes box is a far cry from actually purchasing a thousand dollars of equipment and installing it into your home theater.  When it came to actually installing a computer to the home theater, very few were willing to take that step in order to watch their videos of photos.  Predicting the future is always risky business – this survey is just asking for trouble.

Yet, there is some truth to this data. Consumers clearly did want a better way of viewing their home photos. But when compared with the daunting task of getting computer content onto their TV, most took the sensible path of a digital photo frame – much easier, with almost the same result. Surveys are a great way to learn about your customer – but not a great way to learn what they will do.

Question 21.1.2.1

There is also the issue of the rapidly growing survey. Since it’s easy to ask 5 questions, why not 10? 20? Or, in my favorite “Bad Survey” example, why not 45?

This survey is by one of my favorite retailers. But it is a poster child for bad survey design, featuring a total of 45 questions, 40 of which are required. There’s even a question “21.1.2.1!”

When you’re writing a survey, it’s tempting to include everybody’s input. And that’s a good idea. But every question you add results in a few more customers dropping out.  Surveys require discipline:  prune the non-critical items to be sure customers will give you good data on what is left.

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Does this mean that you don’t need surveys? Of course not – well-designed surveys provide critical input. But you need to spend the time to do surveys right. Some tips to success:

  1. Start with the end in mind. What is the #1 thing you need to learn? Is the rest critical? If you need to accomplish two very different things, consider a second survey.
  2. Decide whether a survey is really the right tool. If you want to understand behavior, observational data or behavioral analytics will typically give you much better results.  Surveys are best if you want to compare data over time, or compare results from two different groups.  Just keep in mind that the specific numbers (47% want to watch videos on their TV) are almost certainly wrong.  It’s not about predicting the future – it’s about understanding customer needs.
  3. If a survey is the right tool, determine how much patience your target market has. If it’s a free survey, keep it to no more than 5-7 minutes in length.  This is especially true for satisfaction or NPS surveys – keep these focused on this specific outcome, and use other surveys for market research.
  4. Consider using an expert to help you design the questions. Poorly-phrased questions will give you data – but sometimes customers answer different questions than you think you’re asking. If you cannot afford an expert, at least use an outsider to review what you develop.
  5. Test out the survey first. Have people outside the development team take the survey, and talk to them as they go through it – make sure their understanding of the question matches yours.

While the Internet makes it cheap and easy to do a survey, it also makes it cheap and easy to do crappy work. But if you take the time to do them right, surveys can be an excellent view into the Heart of Your Customer!

– Jim Tincher, Heart of the Customer