Tag Archives: Customer

The good, the bad and the ugly

7 Dec

Slide1

Customer experience is hot right now – there are plenty of great reports and facts and figures out there that help sell the story. Some are more powerful than others, some are plain worrying and some continue to highlight the deep void between the corporate view of the world and customers’ view. Here then is a roundup of some of my favourite numbers, pulled from a wide range of sources and commentators, the good the bad and the ugly. So, do the maths, and work out for yourselves where the real issues lie.

The good news is largely about what organisations say about themselves and their ambitions and plans. The bad and the downright ugly truths are much less about talking the talk, and much more about walking it too. And, as always, when you get down to the ugly truth, it’s all about the culture in the business. After all, every business that has customers is really in the people business.

 

THE GOOD

  • 97% of global executives say that customer experience is critical to their success (1)
  • 90% of executives claim that customer experience management is a top corporate priority (2)
  • 85% of customers state that they are willing to pay up to 25% more for a superior customer experience (3)
  • 81% of senior managers believe that gaining an understanding from the customer viewpoint is very likely to lead to ROI (4)
  • 59% of large global organisations have an ambition to provide the best customer experience in their industry (5)

THE BAD

  • 79% of those who complained about poor customer service online had their complaints ignored (6)
  • 61% of customers agree that ‘different people approach the handling of issues when something goes wrong differently’. Clearly, inconsistency in treatment is always going to be unsettling. (7)
  • While 80% of big companies described themselves as delivering “superior” service, only 8% of customers say they’ve experienced “superior” service from these same companies. It’s a similar story in banking: while 78% of executives say their customer experience has improved over the last year, only 28% of their customers agree (8)

THE UGLY

  • 96% of executives say that some culture change is needed in their organisation (9)
  • Only 31% of employees are truly ‘engaged’ with their organisations, across Europe (10)
  • 30% of managers are coping with 6 or more strategic initiatives at any one time (11)
  • Only 18% of consumers globally believe that business leaders tell the truth (12)
  • Only 8% of companies can confidently declare that they have been successful in changing their culture as a result of customer feedback (13)
  • Only 5% of companies actually bother to tell their customers what they have done with the customer feedback they collect  (14)
  • Only 4% of customers actually bother to feedback and complain to the company – the other 96% don’t bother. (15)
  • Only 4% of global companies are judged to be delivering excellent customer experiences (16)
  • A mere 2% of customers feel that their expectations are always met (17)

SOURCES:

  1. Oracle
  2. Forrester, 2013
  3. Right Now, 2010
  4. Institute of Customer Service, 2011
  5. Temkin, 2012
  6. Kissmetrics, 2013
  7. Beyond Philosophy 2010, CX Trend Tracker
  8. The New Yorker, Bain Consulting and People Metrics
  9. Booz and Co 2013
  10. Blessing White, 2013
  11. Simplicity Consulting, 2011
  12. Edelman Trust Barometer, 2013
  13. Syngro, Seven global challenges 2012
  14. Gartner
  15. Helpscout, 2012, quoting Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner
  16. Temkin, 2012
  17. Oracle – 2012, the Era of Impatience

Nine ways for organisations to kill great ideas

25 Oct

Slide11. Normalise it: by turning it into yet another project, to be assessed and prioritised alongside 100 other projects. Yes, a structured discipline around making things happen is important, but great ideas are vulnerable when born, they can all too easily lose their essence and excitement when translated into the normative language and management behaviours of the organisation.

2. De-personalise it: in other words, lose sight of the customer it is trying to help, by literally sucking the life out of it and turning it into numbers, projections, and assumptions. Numbers are important too, but it’s far too easy to create distance between ourselves and the customer. The end result? We only talk about customers as targets and segments, and how to extract value from them. 

3. Patronise it: “you’re not from round here, are you? Let me tell you, we tried this before and it didn’t work…” And, the bigger the company, the more likely it is to also secretly believe it’s too big to fail, and why meddle with a formula that’s served us well so far?

4. Reduce it: by de-risking it. Failure is not an option, really, and besides the idea is competing with many others that have traded risk off by reducing scope and ambition. So, this becomes the game to play, but beware the implications for your idea by de-risking it.

5. Grow it: have you noticed how everyone wants to embrace a good idea, and add their own twist, and pet ideas to it? Scope creep is always a risk, you don’t want your idea to become the universal panacea, that fixes everything, because what began life as a swan, a simple, elegant and achievable solution can easily morph into a  Frankenstein, a hastily stitched-together collection of ideas, all seeking to become real, by attaching themselves to the original..

6. Quarantine it: in splendid isolation. Great ideas are the result of multiple departments, if not the whole organisation, collaborating together and marching to the same tune in the same direction at the same time. Not departments ignoring each other and always competing for budget to achieve their own functional goals.

7. Disown it: literally speaking, remove the owner, its originator. The reality is, the cast is constantly changing (maybe even more so than the customers, ironically), so just change priorities and agendas, re-organise departments and / or people and before you know it, the idea is an orphan. Which, even if it is successfully adopted, will most likely then be forensically re-examined, taken apart and re-built in a different guise.

8. Stall it: by setting the pack on it and ask smart but let’s face it, unhelpful questions, ones that don’t really have answers at this early stage, or ones that sow the seeds of doubt. How statistically significant is the data? What’s the ROI? There’s nothing like smart talk to kill an idea. The sad fact is it is a lot simpler and easier to stay sitting down and ask questions than it is to stand up and support and sponsor an idea.

9. Smother it: in bureaucracy and committees, where it may never see the light of day again (or certainly not in its current form).

 

 

Surviving and thriving in the brave new world of customer experience

27 Jun

Slide1Without doubt, the world of customer experience is changing. I heard a great quote at a conference the other day, when the speaker said that we’ve moved from a world where companies had better technology than their customers, to one where the consumer has the better technology, and at his or her fingertips, than the companies we do business with, many of whom are hampered by old, complex, and multiple systems. Wow. That’s quite a shift in power.

That got me thinking. Lots of commentators talk now about how the world is radically changing as a result of the consumer’s new found power and status. Here then is my round up of the shifts in thinking and behaviour required for organisations to adapt to the new realities, survive and thrive.

  OLD WORLD COMPANIES… NEW WORLD COMPANIES…
EXTERNAL   ORIENTATION Serve shareholders. If making money is the goal, then shareholders and other investors, whose interests are typically short term in nature, are the masters. Serve customers. Their philosophy is, if you get it right for your customers, day in day out, then profit takes care of itself.
TIME   HORIZONS Live for the short term: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Obsesses about making more money today out of its customers. Manage and plan around a different timeframe because they value the rewards that come from longer term thinking. And, they forgo the quick buck because the price to the business – losing customer trust and engagement – is simply too high a price to pay.
ORGANISATIONAL   FOCUS Are schizophrenic. They talk a good game publically about customers when necessary, and spam the organisation with posters and propaganda, but this doesn’t permeate the DNA. So, at other times, and in other meetings, the customer is entirely absent. Not only does this create confusion internally, it ultimately signals a lack of authenticity in the business. Are single minded in ensuring that the customer agenda pervades the business, in everything it does. (This is partly because they’ve joined the dots between happy customers and happy CFOs.) And that everyone is connected to the   customer agenda and how the business serves its customers. After all, if your own people aren’t proud of the customer experience they deliver, how can you expect customers to get excited?
ORGANISATIONAL   LANGUAGE Call customers (and   people) “assets”, talk about “share of wallet”, “target customers” and “owning” the customer. In these businesses, customers are numbers and scores in KPI dashboards. Are humble. They understand that the organisation needs its customers more than its customers need it. And, do all they can to relate to their customers, one by one, as   people, not numbers.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DESIGN Create Frankenstein experiences for their customers: silo’d and fragmented companies create ugly, stitched-together experiences that feel disjointed, inconsistent and random. Understand that great customer experiences can’t be left to chance; they are designed with intent and require a seamless orchestration of the whole enterprise. This is how the notorious silos get busted.
LISTENING   TO, AND ACTING ON, FEEDBACK Conduct market research every now and then, query its statistical significance, what to act on and what not, and schedule improvements for next year’s plan (because delivering this year’s plan is already an impossibility) Treat feedback like oxygen, something the business needs every day to survive. They constantly listen and constantly act on the voice of the customer, and make sure the   customer sees this happen too.
CUSTOMER CLOSENESS Keep the customer at arm’s length. They’ll push periodic sales campaigns out, and control the script when selling to customers. And, yet when the customer has a query, it’s like they’re in hiding and it’s a long and lonely road to get an   answer. Jump to it. They work hard to break down the barriers, make ‘customer effort’ an important yardstick and welcome and seek out opportunities to talk and meet with   customers, who even turn up at internal conferences.
REPORTING AND   GOVERNANCE Value data and measure and monitor everything that moves. The result? Paralysis by analysis, or as I heard recently, they suffer from DRIP: they are Data Rich, Insight Poor. Ask ‘So what’? For them, less is more because they understand what really matter to customers (and therefore what drives business success), and are relentless in   challenging the data and then acting on it.
PEOPLE POWER Use targets, metrics and scripts to control and drive what their ‘employees’ are paid to do. This invariably makes it harder for the workers to do the job the customer wants   them to do.In these companies,   the Golden Rule is, would my boss be happy with my actions? Know that everything begins and ends with people, without whom there is no business. They obsess over recruiting the right people and then letting them be themselves. This   means doing the right thing for customers because the organisation sees the value in doing so.Here the Golden Rule is, if the customer was in the room, listening and observing, would they approve of my actions?

‘Always give more’. Kindness and humanity in business.

6 Feb

There’s a great new post from Seth Godin on the 11 things organisations can learn from how airports screw up the customer experience. It strikes at the heart of how many organisations lose the plot in their relentless pursuit of revenue at all costs. Godin’s conclusion is that “in pursuit of reliable, predictable outcomes, these organizations dehumanise everything”.Slide1

I want to pick up on three of his 11 points, which seem to me to help identify how this ‘dehumanisation’ occurs:

  • Firstly, when no one in the organisation seems to be having any fun
  • Secondly, when delighting customers is stripped out of the system, and replaced by the desire to simply satisfy the ‘mass’, as opposed to the individuals that make up the mass  
  • Thirdly, when ad hoc action and behaviour is forbidden

In short, basic humanity becomes a hindrance, something not factored into the ‘business model’. But routine and predictable do not make for memorable and engaging customer experiences. In the world of customer metrics, it’s the difference between a customer’s being on the one hand, merely ‘satisfied’, and on the other, being so delighted that they remember, they recommend and they stay longer and buy more. 

Show the humanity

How then do organisations seek to bring back the humanity? Cue what are often called Random Acts of Kindness or Frugal Wows (ugh – ugly terminology but interesting ideas). I want to share a few good examples of these and to draw a distinction between:

  • ‘Random’ acts, which are individual responses to ‘in bound’ customer situations, and which rely on empowering the front line (and beyond) to use their judgement and bring their humanity to work, and …..
  • …the other sort of acts of kindness or generosity I see and admire, which are more ‘proactive’ in the sense that they are enshrined in the organisational culture (how we do things around here) and affect – for the good – all customers.

Random Acts of Kindness:

Virgin Media in the UK (who it is announced today are being sold) operate a RAK programme, where staff are encouraged to deliver an act of kindness when they feel it’s the right thing to do. And, of course as the slide says, the nature of the Virgin brand allows perhaps more creativity and quirkiness in what exactly IS the right thing. And that’s why they can be so memorable and heart-warming. A good example is how, on hearing that on settling down to watch the Transformers film with his grandchildren the granddad’s 24 hour hire limit on the download had expired (this was about the 4th time he’d watched it!), Virgin then sent him a DVD of the film so he could watch it anytime with the grandchildren, plus a transformers toy, to try to make up for the disappointment.Slide1

In another example, BUPA International has a scheme for all staff, whereby they have a small amount of money each year they can use to delight the customer, however they see fit. The only condition is, you cannot use it to ‘buy off’ an unhappy complaining customer. The same theme runs through how Virgin use RAKs, they are NOT to say sorry, or apologise for an error.  

The power of both of these examples is that they are a great mechanism to force the member of staff to think about how to delight the customer and to bring their humanity to work (how would I feel, what would delight me?). Indeed, the word from Sean Risebrow at Virgin Media is that the real value of the scheme lies in the internal message it sends to the whole workforce about how serious the organisation is in dealing with the customer.

Planned Acts of Kindness:

In contrast to random and occasional individual acts, there are also what I call Planned acts, that give an insight into the corporate culture, because they forcibly demonstrate its values and how it seeks to behave all the time.  Here are two examples of organisations proactively choosing to do the right thing, where the alternative is not to act, but to wait and see if anyone out there notices and then complains! 

Watch this short film, from 2010, which illustrates one of Amazon’s values, “customer obsession” with a fascinating story about delivering a retrospective and unexpected benefit back to customers. So, a proactive move to benefit all customers affected, simply because ‘that’s how we do things round here”. And, as with all of these examples, there ought to be a positive impact on the bottom line. It is interesting that in the speaker’s view, it was the best marketing activity they did that year.

Another good example comes from Evelyn Clark’s article, Around the Corporate Campfire, where Jim Sinegal of Costco tells a story about pricing jeans, which again highlights the tension between short term profits, and doing the right thing by the customer:

“We were selling Calvin Klein jeans for $29.99, and we were selling every pair we could get our hands on. One competitor matched our price, but they had only four or five pairs in each store, and we had 500 or 600 pairs on the shelf. We all of a sudden got our hands on several million pairs of Calvin Klein jeans … at a very good price. It meant that, within the constraints of our markup, which is limited to 14% on any item, we had to sell them for $22.99”. Now, they could have sold all 4 million pairs for that higher price almost as quickly as they sold them at $22.99, says Sinegal, “but there was no question that we would mark them at $22.99 because that’s our philosophy”.

Both of these Planned examples are fascinating because they demonstrate an organisation proactively choosing to act to benefit customers when it could just as easily have chosen NOT to do so, and to maybe wait to see if anyone noticed and complained. Instead, they referred to their founding principles, or brand values, call them what you will, but their accepted rules drove the ‘right’ behaviour.

Sure, it’s a leap of faith, but the financial benefit from giving more (in order to get more in return later) surely makes sense.

What would your organisation do in these situations?

What do we want? When do we want it? Five real-world customer pleas from the heart

9 Jan

While companies love to talk about customer ‘relationship’ and engagement and so on, I often think this is presuming too much too soon. To get to these lofty aspirations takes time, there are no short cuts. Hence my five pleas to remind us all what customers really want.begging for chance - business woman

  1. GET THE BASICS RIGHT

Firstly, just get the basics right, please. Make it easy and painless to deal with you, and do it consistently too. SO, just do what you say you’re going to do. I really don’t want you to get this wrong. That’s not too much to ask for is it?  Get all of that right, and OK, I might do more with you, but there’s no short-cut. Get the basics right first.  

  1. EARN THE RIGHT FOR MORE OF MY BUSINESS

You seem to forget about me. In fact the only time you remember me is when you want to sell me more. That won’t make me like you any more, or help build that ‘relationship’ (odd word, by the way!) you talk about. So, if you can help me get a better deal for no extra cost, then I expect you to tell me. If you don’t, I’ll be angry. And, I do like little freebies where you give me something for nothing. I think that’s a nice gesture, and I won’t forget it.

In fact, I will happily tell my friends about something great you’ve done for me, as it makes me look good too, because it shows I chose well in choosing you! 

  1. TREAT ME LIKE AN ADULT

I’m not an idiot – I know that advertising is propaganda. So, please don’t promise me the earth, because, well, chances are you‘ll under deliver and then disappoint me. How about if you treat me like a grown up? Honesty trumps perfection, because the latter is impossible. 

And, I realise mistakes can happen every now and then; after all we’re all human. But, it’s how you deal with it that’s important to me. So, again, I want you to be honest with me, own up to the mistake, and, because you have made a mistake, go the extra mile to get me back on your side and not ruing the day I chose you.  

Finally, don’t pressure me. If I do choose to buy something from you and give you more of my business,  I want to do it when I decide and when it’s convenient for me, not when you contact me with one of your unmissable offers I’d be an idiot to ignore.

  1. STOP MAKING IT ALL SO DIFFICULT

You’re impossible to talk to. You have no idea how much effort it takes to contact you, and the hoops you make me jump through, before I finally get to talk to someone about what I want to talk about. My time is incredibly valuable to me, and yet it feels like you couldn’t care less.

And why is it that when I finally get through to someone, they often can’t help me? Why all these rules, policies, processes, systems and protocols? Why is it that the first person I speak to can’t help me? Why does such a simple request become a Kafka-esque nightmare?

Plus, you don’t seem to listen to me. When you do ask for feedback, and I take my time to give it to you, you don’t ever seem to do anything with it. Or, if you do, you certainly don’t tell me. What exactly do you do with my feedback?

  1. BE ON MY SIDE

I’m not naive. I know you have to make money, and that’s fine, but it’s how you do this that interests me. If you make a lot of money by penalising me – if I make a mistake, or forget, or don’t understand something or lose something – then that feels more like exploitation than a ‘relationship’.  I don’t want you to con me – it would be great if I could feel that you were trustworthy and on my side and gave me the benefit of the doubt from time to time. After all, I am a customer of yours, I’ve chosen to give you my money, so it’s not too much to ask for is it? 

“Everybody’s talking at me, I don’t hear a word they’re saying”. Are companies really listening?

12 Dec

BLOG listeningSo went the Nilsson song in that great film, Midnight Cowboy. Business 101 says Listen to your customers, and act on what you hear. Not rocket science is it? But even listening still seems like a tall order for some, these days. I have a long drawn out complaint with a major parcel delivery company, and 10 weeks in, no response as yet. I’ve enlisted the help of a nice new service via twitter called ServiceReply30; when I asked them for an update they said that the outfit concerned sometimes responds to their approaches, sometimes not.

But in the press at least, the L word – listening – is big news. Last week, two major and ‘damaged’ brands, Starbucks and Barclays both announced they are listening. Hmm. Big deal. Are they really hearing what people are saying?

In an open letter to customers and the world at large, announcing a plan to pay more corporation tax, the Starbucks UK CEO said “We’ve learned it is vital to listen closely to our customers – and that acting responsibly makes good business sense.” Take a break, Sherlock. Since then, this gesture is already close to being written off as a sham, if the weekend press was anything to go by.

In the same week, a Marketing Week article reported that the retail arm of Barclays is promising a “relentless focus on customers” and is seeking opinions on its products, in a bid to “shape banking” around their needs.

The problem is, we consumers (the 2.0 variety) live in a once-bitten-twice-shy kind of world, and we are increasingly sensitive and alert to PR puff, corporate propaganda and empty gestures. And, isn’t “listening” a bit last century, anyway? Haven’t you heard enough already? When did ‘we’re going to listen now’ become a key strategy?   

Internal vs External Perceptions

The Marketing Week article is interesting though as there is a reference to the gap between the external customer perception and the internal employee view: a spokesperson said “I see what the organisation believes internally and it is not the organisation that is portrayed, the organisation people see from the exterior”. To be fair to Barclays, I’m sure this is right; the desire to do the right thing, to be liked and appreciated will be as strong in the Barclays rank-and-file as it is in other organisations. As the old cliché goes, no-one gets out of bed in the morning determined to screw things up for customers. We all want to do a good job.

This reminds me of Edelman’s 2012 ‘Trust Barometer’ which reported that while consumer trust in CEOs as spokespeople of their organisations had declined, willingness to trust the average employee has increased. After all, most of us will relate far more easily to ‘people like us’ who we feel are more likely to tell it like it is, than we will to your average CEO.

All this prompts two questions;

  • Often the first barometer of public opinion is the workforce itself  – a rich source of insight, feedback and ideas. Ignore at your peril and all that. How are companies like Starbucks and Barclays truly harnessing that voice?
  • What more could companies do to break down the external perceptions, and reveal the good stuff behind the scenes? An insight into the real voice of the employee might be much more powerful in helping convince us sceptical consumers that the organisation is indeed made up of people ‘like us’ and is trying to do the right thing, than any number of ‘we’re listening’ external press releases.

What do you think?

How to lose customers. A handy checklist.

6 Dec

Great piece from Jeff Haden in Inc on how to lose your best customers, and what to do about it, short of fencing them in with barbed wire, that is.

(www.dreamstime.com/barbs-imagefree249952)

It’s al good thought-provoking stuff, but there are two types of no-no’s listed in the article that I find really interesting. Firstly, what you might call ‘strategic’ mistakes driven by the relentless hunger for profit from customers, and secondly, those to do with failing to recognise the critical role played by the firm’s own people.

So, in the first category you’d have to put focussing on price (“good luck maintaining that advantage”), pushing too hard to grow revenue, and the classic trap of exploiting-existing-customers-and-hoping-they-don’t-notice! (See also my earlier piece on the Penny Dreadful customer experience, a tale of seduction ending in betrayal).

It is this kind of corporate world-view that leads to blood-chilling statements like ‘our customers are our greatest assets’ where the unvoiced part of this sentence feels like it ought to be…“…so let’s make sure we sweat those assets hard while we can”.

Personally, when I choose to place my business with a company, I don’t consider that I’ve somehow acquiesced in becoming an asset to be henceforth ‘owned’ by the company. Or, ‘prey’ to be targeted and hunted down.

In the second group of mistakes, we have those to do with the ‘people’ side of the business (or… ‘human capital’, a phrase I heard yesterday at a conference). So, yes, madness does lie in the direction of the seventh mistake : asking for one behaviour – let’s respect and love our customers – but rewarding a different behaviour, selling, for example.

But it’s the first and fifth points that are particularly important, I think. It’s a useful reality check to be reminded that “It’s tempting to assume long-term customers love your brand. More often than not they love your employees”, which is why high turnover – especially in the front line – is such a challenge to the business.

There’s a load of research out there that constantly reinforces the importance of consistency – plain boring reliability – as the cornerstone of a successful customer experience strategy. And, the more often the cast changes, the more inconsistent and unpredictable the experience. Which is why, for example, I sometimes find it hard to fill in Net Promoter surveys; while I might be willing to recommend the person I just dealt with, and I consider them a great ambassador for company X, how confident am I that I, or my friends, would have the same experience tomorrow, with a different person?

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