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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 Second Key to Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience: Engage the Entire Team on the Opportunity

Once you know what matters, the next step is to get everybody involved.

I have been speaking about this topic quite a bit lately, and one exercise I have is for participants to identify five recent projects or programs their company has developed to improve your customer experience. These could be new products, pricing changes, sales training programs – any new idea. Go ahead and do this, as well. Write down five new projects your company is implementing:

  1. ______________________________
  2. ______________________________
  3. ______________________________
  4. ______________________________
  5. ______________________________

Now that you have this list (you did do the exercise, didn’t you?), let’s look at your projects. Whether you work for a 50 or 50,000-person company, a good rule of thumb is that 90% of your company’s employees are individual contributors. So if your company is doing well at this key, 4-½ of these ideas should come from front-line employees. Brave readers: comment on how well you did!

Of the hundreds of attendees in my talks, how many had at least three ideas come from an individual contributor?

Four.

None came from a company of more than ten people. Only about half had even one idea come from a front-line employee.

We can do better. Companies pay consultants to tell them what to do, when they have dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of passionate employees who know far more about their customers. We need to do cast a wider net. 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

Rant: Conversocial fails at customer centricity, and Chick-fil-A passes with flying colors

I received a call from Conversocial on Monday.  I downloaded a white paper entitled Who’s Ignoring Their Customers, and a fellow with a delightful English accent called from an international number to see if I was interested in their software.  He emailed me the previous Friday, and since I didn’t respond within one business day, he made a follow-up call.

All good, with two exceptions. Read more

Guest Post: Planning for a Successful Customer Experience Journey

Today is a special treat – a guest post from Annette of CX Journey.  You should definitely subscribe to her blog – a great read!

Planning for a Successful Customer Experience Journey

By Annette Franz Gleneicki

A customer experience strategy is just a strategy, a roadmap that outlines your approach to creating a customer-centric culture. Customer centricity is a way of life, a way of doing business, a journey. It’s not just a project or something to check off your “To Do” list for this week. It’s woven into the fabric of everything you do as an organization.

It takes the entire organization to successfully execute a customer experience strategy, not just the executive team, not just the frontline, and not just the CCO and her team overseeing the strategy.
Read more

Service Re-Recovery at Hampton Inn and Barnes & Noble

Service recovery is critical for any business.  Of course, the best time to fix a problem is immediately following its occurrence, but this is not always possible.  How do you handle service recovery after the fact, when complaints come from the web, email, or a call?  Let’s look at two very different examples, each based off of previous posts.

Several weeks ago I discussed running out of hot water at a Hampton Inn. The manager on duty paid for my room, but never gave me a time to vent before doing so, actually frustrating me more than the original problem. After creating the post, my daughter Becca suggested I share it with the hotel.  I did so, although I didn’t expect much to happen. You can imagine my pleasant surprise when I received this email from Peggy Messmer, General Manager of the hotel: Read more

A Review of Barnes & Noble In-Store Recommendations (Short link)

It’s March, which means gift-buying season at the Tincher household.  We have three birthdays in eight days – four if you count the cat.  My wife is a fan of the classics, so I bought her The Count of Monte Cristo at Barnes & Noble.

As I went to wrap it the next morning, I noticed something new in the bag – a little slip printed on receipt paper saying “You may also like…” recommending five books based on the three in my shopping cart.  As two of these were gifts, the grouping of recommendations were a bit odd, as you can see here.

Recommendations are powerful, providing social proof and motivation to buy more.  I spoke in this post about the need for retailers to bring their website content into stores.  It appears that this is exactly what Barnes and Noble is doing, utilizing the same recommendations as their website.  Since Amazon estimates a 20% lift from their recommendations engine, this strategy makes good sense.

But the current implementation is not ready for prime time.  Several issues with the execution include:

Read more

Review of The Ultimate Question 2.0

The Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven WorldThe Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

NPS – opinions vary as to whether it’s the “best” way of measuring your customer engagement. The problem is that the industry is looking for a measurement that works for any industry or company. And such a tool does not exist.

Nevertheless, NPS is a good measurement, and Reichheld lays out how to be successful with the program.

The important thing that the author notes is that NPS does not stand for Net Promoter Score, but Net Promoter System. And it’s this System that is critical. In fact, if you replaced the measurement with Satisfaction, Engagement, Ownership, or your favorite home-brewed system, your business will still see significant growth if you apply the disciplines he outlines in his book.

A good book to get you started with NPS or any system. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Give Customers the Information They Need

How do you know what your customers need?

This is no idle question.  Giving your customers what they need is critical to building their engagement and loyalty.  You cannot create a great customer experience by leaving them guessing.

The first step is to put yourself into your customer’s shoes. This is pretty common practice– most companies provide ample opportunities for their employees to use their products through discounts, distribution of free product, etc.

There’s a disconnect

But the problem is, as members of the company, we’re not real people. We get so used to our products that it is almost impossible for us to think like our customers do. But we go on assuming that if we build products that we like, customers will like it, too. While this classic Dilbert post is clearly tongue-in-cheek, it’s funny particularly because so many of us assume customers are as passionate (and patient) about our products as we are.

For instance, at Best Buy I implemented multiple attempts to sell Media Center PCs. These were special Windows computers with home theater capabilities that were going to be the hub of the American home theater. Why not? Our computer merchandise team used them and loved the experience. Unfortunately, it turned out real-life customers weren’t as keen on loading virus checkers on their TVs, or rebooting their DVD players.

Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is a critical first step – but it’s just the first step. To further develop your insight, you need to take a step back and watch your customers. See where they struggle. This is how Intuit’s Quicken became the leader in personal finance software. The idea for Quicken was hatched when founder Scott Cook watched his wife struggle with tracking their finances. As Cook was quoted saying in the Harvard Business Review, “Often the surprises that lead to new business ideas comes from watching other people work and live their normal lives… You see something and ask ‘Why do they do that? It doesn’t make sense.’”

This philosophy led to Intuit’s unique “Follow Me Home” program, outlined in Inc. Magazine’s profile of Cook. Intuit uses continual customer observation to drive development. And here is the key to their philosophy– “If there were problems, the fault was Intuit’s, not the customer’s.”

Accessibility boosts confidence

A retail experience last holiday season reminded me of what happens when you don’t take the time to understand the customer experience. I placed an order for my wife’s present on December 12 at JCPenney’s online site and received an immediate confirmation. I didn’t think much more about it, waiting to be told that the order was in.

After ten days, I realized I hadn’t heard anything– and it was just three days until Christmas. Getting nervous, I checked the status of the order online. Each item was listed “in stock” with no other status, so I assumed it must be ready and went to the store. There I learned that the order wasn’t in – they were back-ordered. I was assured it would be ready the next day. At home I looked at the order again, with everything still “in stock.”

The next day I called the 800-number before wasting time at the store, waiting for 20 minutes before being told my order was already at the store waiting for me (no notification had come yet), so I picked it up. Then, six hours after I picked up my order I received an automated call that my order was ready. This was December 23, cutting it a bit close!

The designers of this experience clearly did not take the time to consider the information customers need – particularly when problems occur. “In Stock” suggests it is ready to go – “In Transit” or “Back Ordered” would have been better. This was a routine order, but the experience left me very frustrated.

Contrast this to when I ordered an iPod and an iPad for store delivery at Best Buy. While placing the order online I was informed that the iPod was back-ordered, but the iPad would be shipped to the store immediately. An email alert came once the iPad was ready, including the expected delivery date for my iPod. When the iPod was further delayed, a third email alerted me of this. During all of this time I was able to view the order online, including the up-to-date status. Another notification told me when the iPod was at the store, and a follow-up email confirmed that I had picked it up.

Unlike JC Penney, Best Buy kept me fully informed of the status of my back-ordered item. How much more does it cost to alert customers that there are issues?  More importantly, how much does it cost when we don’t communicate?

Barnes and Noble also gets it. When I order a book online I receive a confirmation, and they send another email letting me know the book was waiting for me behind the counter.  Domino’s goes to the extreme – not only do they email when the pizza goes out to delivery, their website tells you when it is put in the oven, and even who is putting on the toppings! They understand that customers want information.

How do you determine what information customers need? Don’t base it off of your own experience. You have access to more tools and information than any customer. Instead, learn from Intuit.  Watch a real customer place an order. See where they have issues. Then follow up with them regularly as the order progresses. That is the only way to truly design the experience around the customer.

This holiday season, give your customers a present.  Give them the information they need.