Every few days there seems to be another customer service disaster that fills the newspapers and goes viral on social media. These usually happen when an organisation does not adopt a customer first strategy.
Almost every single organisation, big or small, recognises the importance of their customers. They talk about customer centricity but very few actually go beyond voicing their opinions. Why?
A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! So how come most businesses get it spectacularly wrong? I think one reason is because they don’t see the immediate return and it costs money to implement. Or perhaps it’s because they have hesitated starting and now feel left behind; they just don’t know where to begin. What do you think? If your in one of those situations, then help is at hand. Read on for some of the most useful tips I’ve seen on the topic of adopting a customer first strategy.A customer first strategy is not that difficult to implement. Just think customer first in everything you do! #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet
REASONS TO ADOPT A CUSTOMER FIRST STRATEGY
There has been enough research done to prove that the return on a customer first strategy is significant. Here are just a few of the most noteworthy numbers I found during my research online; if you are still not sure it’s worth it this data will convince you:
- 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. (Source: CEI Survey)
- 74% of consumers have spent more due to good customer service (Source: Entechus.com)
- 89% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. (Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
- By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. (Source: Customers 2020 Report)
- A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. (Source: Bain & Co)
Those are numbers that would make any CEO sit up and take notice! But will it make them act? What’s holding yours back from investing in your customers rather than (just) in the products and services you offer?
I believe that those numbers can no longer be ignored. It’s time every CEO started to adopt a customer first strategy. NO more excuses! This has to be (one of) your organisation’s top priorities!It’s time every CEO started to adopt a customer first strategy. NO more excuses! This has to be (one of) your organisations top priorities! #CustomerFirst #CEX #CRM #Customer Click To Tweet
If you’re ready to put your customers first, sign up to watch my Customer First Strategy Webinar. In it, I share many Tips, Tools and Templates to improve your Customer Targeting, Understanding & Engagement, to Grow your Business Faster. You will immediately make noticeable progress.
MARKETING IS TOO BUSY BUILDING BRANDS
With so much information available today, marketing is being challenged to demonstrate its ROI. This might explain why they are still putting their efforts into brand building, sometimes to the detriment of their customers, consumers and clients.
However, an analysis by IBM on some research carried out in the UK by the Callcredit Information Group gives a different reason. They found that the majority of marketers are feeling overwhelmed by all this data. Their explanation for this is that “only 29% of marketers believe they have the necessary skills to analyse data, with 44% planning on investing in further training over the next two years to boost confidence within their organisations around the handling of information.”
According to a Forrester report, 44% of B2C marketers are using big data and analytics to improve responsiveness to customer interactions. But of equal importance in terms of top two mentions, is the desire to generate insights. ( Source)
It surprises me that despite the constant flow of data into companies they still lack insights into their customers. As I’m often quoted as saying:
“We’re drowning in data but thirsting for insights.”
Marketing is clearly so busy using data to manage pricing, distribution and communication channels, that they are not using the information to get to know their customers better. This conclusion is confirmed by a Forbes article which mentions that marketing is using big data to provide answers to “which content is the most effective, how to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.” It would be good if they (also) used it to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, no?
Big data has actually done customer understanding a disfavour since organisations are hardly increasing their spend on market research according to ESOMAR’s latest industry figures. The industry grew a measly 1.0% in 2017, down from a 2.2% growth the previous year, the first “significant” increase recorded in the previous five years!
Compare this to the more than 4% increases recorded for ad spend over the past five years.
But there is some hope. A recent report on the KPIs used by marketing showed that Marketers are using a variety of metrics to measure the impact of their brand marketing activities. (OnBrand Magazine study) In surveying more than 560 global brand managers and CMOs, the analysis concludes that new customer acquisition (75%) and social media engagement (72%) are the two primary ways they use to determine the success of their brand marketing efforts.
However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. A 2016 Spencer Stuart Survey shows data analysis and insights are one of the three main areas where CMOs need the most development as a leader. Unfortunately, they are also the skills which more than a half of them say are most difficult to find when building a team!
So if CMOs can’t develop insight about their customers, shouldn’t market research be more not less important to them? After all, it’s the one profession which spends its whole time trying to understand the market and customers. So what’s going wrong?
MARKET RESEARCH IS SEEN AS A COST, NOT AN INVESTMENT
Companies still need market research to understand their customers. Yes, there is a wealth of information flooding into organisations with the IoT, but those numbers don’t tell you their “why.” That’s where market research comes into its own. It needs to provide more “why” answers and not just the mere statistics they seem comfortable dropping on the laps of executives and marketers alike.
I believe that (a large?) part of the issue is also the researchers themselves. They’re not sociable, speak a language others don’t understand and seem afraid to voice their own opinion let alone make recommendations.
This was confirmed in The Vermeer Millward Brown Insights 2020 research. It clearly showed the advantages of a senior market research position at board level. But to get there, most researchers need new skills. The critical capabilities which were said to highlight the biggest differences between leaders and laggards were in business acumen, creative solution thinking, storytelling and direction setting.
It seems a real pity to me that the very people who should benefit from the explosion in data availability are not profiting from it. As if their needed skills are not enough, there is also a real opportunity for them to lead the customer first strategy in many organisations.
CUSTOMER SERVICES ARE SEEN AS COMPLAINT HANDLERS
When I was first hired to head up the global consumer excellence division for Nestle, I found a group of siloed departments which rarely shared information. Even worse, the customer care centre was seen as mere complaint handlers. Their image was of a group of women who spent their days on the phone talking to other women!
I don’t think Nestle were the only ones who had this negative image at that time. I still find similar perceptions in many organisations which thankfully become my clients through a desire to make changes.
You only have to take a look at companies which excel at customer care to realise the business benefits of putting the customer first: Amazon, Southwest, Zappos to name but a few.
An excellent article by Shep Hyken called “Ten customer service and customer experience trends for 2017” details the essentials of a forward-thinking customer-first strategy and what it means today. In it, he mentions that “According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard.”
The Forrester report from which Shep quotes was from an ongoing analysis that has been run each year since 2010. Although it is a couple of years old now, the conclusions are still just as valid. The key findings from the 2016 report showed:
- In all five sectors they covered, companies with higher customer experience (CX) scores outperformed their rivals in revenue growth
- CX leaders showed an annual growth rate of 17% compared to just 3% for the others.
- The cable and retail industries beat the field in CX by 24% and 26%, which is a huge boost to the bottom line.
- Even in the sector with the smallest range (airlines), there was a 5% difference between companies.
- This also translated into subscriber growth – in the cable industry leaders grew internet subscribers by 23.9% more than others and video subscribers by 13.9%
Along with the previously mentioned statistics, I can see no reason for a company not to invest in a customer-first strategy. If you can think of any yourself, then I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Are you ready to adopt a customer-first strategy? If so, then it’s time to identify the priority changes needed through our proprietary C3C Evaluator tool. Complete it now and then book a free half-hour strategy session so we can go through the results together.
This post is based upon and is an updated version of one first published on C3Centricity in 2016.
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I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a couple of years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer. They weren’t speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and comfortable with data. They were referring to the growing need for marketers to stand up to the challenge of taking local brands global. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.
In this networked world, more and more successful local brands are attempting global roll-outs. What does it take to repeat the success you’ve had at market level, when you launch globally? Here are my five rules to fortune:
1. Understand the Market
This is the basis of any new product launch and applies just as well to global rollouts as it does to local brand developments. Today’s consumers are demanding, so find out as much as possible about them. Understand their rational needs but also their emotional desires, even if they don’t openly articulate them.
For global rollouts, an additional information concerning the comparison of similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets must also be considered. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t developed future scenarios, as I recommend here.
Let’s look at some of the latest trends which are growing across regions today.
- I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get answers as well as making use of visual search that enables them to buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea Place offers shoppers the possibility to snap and then see an article in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings, before you purchase it.
- Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.
- Join the Club! Another use of personalised data is in providing privileged services – at a price. This idea is used for the regular delivery of razor blades and tampons, as well as for personalised exercise routines and menus. Consumers are happy to join a “club” to pass on mundane tasks to a (virtual) assistant to make their lives simpler. Some successful examples of these include Dollar Shave Club, Freda, and Amazon Dash buttons.
2. Understand the Customers
What does the product stand for in the eyes and minds of your customers? Do those in the new market have the same sensitivities as the ones in the local market where your product has met with success? Will the consumers in the new target market perceive the same benefits in the same way?
If not, is this really a potential market, or are you just rolling-out there due to geographic proximity? I am still amazed how many organisations base their roll-out strategy on geography rather than the customer! Big error!
Examples of such disasters include:
- Kellogg’s Cornflakes launch into India. It failed because they ignored the Indian habit of having a boiled & sweetened milk rather than using cold milk for their cereals, so the flakes went soggy.
- P&G’s Pampers was launched in Japan with the image of a stork which confused consumers. Whereas a stork is fabled to bring babies to parents in the west, this is not the case in Japan.
- Mitsubishi (Pajero), Mazda (LaPuta) and Chevrolet (Nova) all had issues when rolling out their cars into Spanish speaking countries. Had they bothered to check the meaning of the model names in the local language, they would have avoided the negative connotations and the need to change their names after launch.
3. Position Based on a Human Truth
One of the similarities that brings all consumers together is their basic human needs. Think parenting and wanting the best for your children, used by many, many brands, including Nestlé’s Nido and Unilever’s Omo / Persil.
Or what about women and their frustration with not being considered as beautiful as the retouched models in their magazines, which is very successfully used by Unilever’s Dove?
And how about men and their need to charm women, to affirm themselves, that is used by Lynx / Axe from – you’ve guessed it – Unilever, again. (They really do know their consumers better than any other brand builder today!)
Human Truths or Needs are used the world over and form the basis of many very successful roll-out communication strategies. So before you dream of taking your local brand’s success to global stardom, think about what human truth you are using to build it. If you can’t identify it, there is a far lesser chance of your repeating its local success in other markets.
4. Can You Use Your Local Heritage?
Many countries and regions have strong, stereotyped images that can play to inherent qualities associated with certain product categories coming from them. Examples of these include French perfume, Swiss watches, Russian Vodka, Italian fashion, German or American cars and Japanese technology.
If your brand has a strong positive association with local tradition or nationality, then make use of it. Even if consumers in the new market may be less aware, authenticity and tradition are strong current sensitivities on which you can build your brand in new markets. (Just make sure you check trend levels of them before choosing the new countries for rollout!)
5. Understand the Category
As I mentioned above, many companies get their rollout strategy wrong by looking at geographical proximity, rather than the closeness of the customers’ social sensitivities in them. Just because countries are geographically close, doesn’t mean their populations are similar when it comes to category image and usage.
When planning product roll-outs, also consider how alike the customers are in terms of usage and behaviour, as well as the category trends. By doing this, you are more likely to better prioritize the markets most open to the local brand’s product launch.
One Final Idea
I’d like to end with a final comment on global roll-outs. C3Centricity’s partner PhaseOne, wrote a guest post for us on the risks of implementing a global creative strategy. As communication experts, PhaseOne knows what it takes to succeed in engaging customers across the globe. The article makes a great complement to this post and you can read it here: “Why Implementing Global Creative is Risky”
Many companies have effectively rolled-out local brand successes to other countries in the region, if not the world. But many more have failed. What would you add to the list to increase the odds in favour of a regional or global roll-out? I would love to read your own thoughts in the comments below.
If you would like to know more about improving your branding and communications, then please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com
C3Centricity uses images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity.”
This post has been adapted and updated from ones which were first publicised on C3Centricity Dimensions in 2012 and 2013.
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If you work in consumer goods you probably think you have nothing to learn from healthcare, right? After all, you have consumers in your industry name and well healthcare’s reputation is not that great.
But think again. I was recently in a clinic for surgery and was surprised by how customer (patient) centric they are.
I remind my clients that exceptional customer service examples can come from anywhere! So they keep their eyes and ears open and find inspiration everywhere. Do you? If not, then these lessons will come as your wake-up call so you start opening your eyes to new possibilities. Do this every day and your business will only get better.
Before I give you the lessons I learned, I think I owe you a little background to what led up to this list.
I had been suffering from a bad back for a while. Unfortunately, not so unusual for those of us who spend too many hours at our desks. However, one morning I tried to get out of bed and fainted as an explosive pain shot down my back to my right foot! I was totally immobilised in three seconds flat!
Now living alone I realised that this was serious as I couldn’t move. Luckily my mobile was by my bed so I called the emergency services who immediately sent an ambulance. I ended up spending a night in a local University Hospital for the first time in my adult life.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Two days later I fell down the stairs because my leg had become partially paralysed. Another visit to the emergency room, an ankle brace fitted, a consultant’s assessment, an MRI scan and finally emergency surgery the following day.
All these experiences of hospitals and doctors gave me the superb opportunity to see the health service from the patient’s perspective. I work a lot with the Pharma industry but luckily have never been a patient, at least until now.
As you probably know, actually becoming your customer and seeing the market from their perspective, is one of the exercises I suggest to better understand them. How often do you do it? Ever?!! You really should, because you’re missing out on a valuable – and free – experience.
Perhaps surprisingly, this incident showed me that many of the practices of the nurses and doctors that I witnessed in my heavily sedated state, are easily transferable to any business. This is why I decided to share them with you.
So here are my seven learnings about customer service excellence:
1. Introduce yourself
Every time someone came to my room, they introduced themselves and explained why they were there. Over the course of the days I spent at the hospital and then the clinic, I saw many different doctors, nurses. cleaners, waiters etc. I appreciated that they themselves always started by introducing themselves and stating what their responsibility was in caring for me.
How you can apply this idea: In business, we often forget to introduce people in meetings and when we do, we forget to explain their responsibilities, why they are there.
Perhaps if we did this, there would be far fewer people in meetings, as only those with a real reason to be involved would attend! That already is a time and money-saving idea. But there are even more applications of this idea when it comes to our customers.
Direct contacts with customers, whether by phone, email, chat, social media or in person, deserve the same detailed introduction. This moves the connection from a somewhat cold, professional exchange, to something far more friendly and personal, if not actually personalised.
I often wonder how we so easily forget that customer service is after all just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit. Is that how your own customer care centre exchanges feel? If not, how about making them friendlier?How do we so easily forget that customer service is just two people connecting and engaging for mutual benefit? #CEX #CRM #CustomerService Click To Tweet
2. Confirm that you know me
Although I myself saw many different specialists in the university hospital, it made no difference to how I was treated. I felt comfortable that my details had been transferred between the staff members, so they didn’t have to ask me to repeatedly explain what had happened. They also always started by checking my name, to make sure they were speaking with the right person.
How you can apply this idea: While I accept that checking names and wearing wristbands are essential in a medical environment, most businesses could benefit from confirming who their customers are too.
Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company needs to immediately recognise a (returning) customer.Whether by careful targeting for marketing purposes or by reviewing notes of previous interactions with customer services, a company must immediately recognise a (returning) customer. #Customer #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet
Have you ever been frustrated when calling back a company only to be asked to explain who you are and why you’re calling? I know I have. It always makes me feel that the organisation doesn’t really care about me. And with automation systems easily available today, there is no excuse for this sort of lack of knowledge.
Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. In fact, this is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future.Personalisation has become essential in all engagements between companies and their customers. This is one of the most important uses of Big Data, both now and for the foreseeable future. #BigData #CEX #CRM Click To Tweet
3. Ask if I am happy/comfortable
Whatever the reason was for the medical practitioner to see me, they always asked if I was comfortable. They openly encouraged me to share any negative thoughts, feelings or sensations I was experiencing.
How you can apply this idea: Do you encourage critique of your ideas from your colleagues? It takes a strong and confident person to constantly put themselves up for criticism. Too many people look (only) for positive support when asking for opinions, rather than a truly constructive assessment.
Many years ago, one of my first bosses mentioned that when he asked for opinions in a meeting, it was me he listened to the most. Why? Well, not because I knew more than my colleagues. No; it was because I said what I really thought, not what I believed he wanted to hear. Although he didn’t always agree with what I said, he knew that what I said was what I was truly feeling.
Over the years, I came to realise that he was one of a dying breed of true leaders. Many organisations today are political hothouses, where supporting the boss is the only way to keep one’s job!
I hope you are not in this situation because according to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you are in such a situation at the moment, my advice to you is to GET OUT NOW! You will more than likely end up leaving one way or the other, so why waste your time with a boss who lacks this essential leadership skill? You’ll get the support you deserve and more importantly need, to grow, elsewhere.According to a Gallup study, around 50% of employees leave their company to get away from their bosses. If you're in such a situation today, my advice is to GET OUT NOW! #Leadership #EmployeeSatisfaction Click To Tweet
And what about your customers? Do you encourage them to share complaints and ideas? If not, why not? It’s much better to know what’s wrong and put it right quickly, than to continue in blissful ignorance until your customers leave because of it.
According to“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, you are unlikely to hear from more than just a fraction of dissatisfied customers. And most of those dissatisfied customers will never come back to you. Therefore it makes sense to not only pay attention to complaints but actively search them out – before they damage your business.
4. Ask if you can do more
As anyone who has been to the emergency room of a hospital knows, patience is important. You don’t get seen by order of arrival, but by the importance of your ailment. In other words, if your problem is not life-threatening, you will pass after the road accident, whose victim is more seriously injured. I know this and was happy to actually be left to “float” in a drug-induced relaxation between staff visits.
Whenever they woke me up to “check my vitals” or to inform me of the next tests or treatment planned, they always finished by asking if I had any questions or needed anything else. I was made to feel that nothing was too small or unimportant to them, if it made me feel more relaxed and comfortable.
How you can apply this idea: According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.”It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Click To Tweet
Business, therefore, can no longer afford to merely satisfy their customers, they need to delight them. Do you ask both yourself and your customers what more you can do for them? If you do, you might just find a new product or service concept that answers their desires and gets you ahead of the competition.
5. Don’t stop before the end
When I was admitted for surgery, I was told that the average stay was between 6 and 12 days in hospital. Having thought I was there for just a day or two, this came as quite a shock.
As my progress after the operation was good, I expected to leave the clinic within five days. (I always want to be better than average!) However, with the added complication of the torn ligaments in my ankle, the professor had other ideas. I ended up spending ten days there and was then on a month of complete bed rest before starting physio!
How you can apply this idea: As the well-known Napolean Hill quote goes
“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you’re one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming.Some people are great at ideation; perhaps you're one of them. However, ideation without action is just day-dreaming. So get active today! #Innovation #Ideation #Action Click To Tweet
Therefore don’t think your job is done when you’ve come up with an idea or two. You need to follow up to turn the ideas into actions.
Entrepreneurship is very popular today for both individuals and even within large corporations. However so many entrepreneurs try an idea and when it doesn’t immediately work, they give it up for a different one.
Yes, there have been many huge successes recently, but most “overnight” triumphs have come from years of just plain hard work and dedication.
Therefore, as they say “plan the work and work the plan.” Did you know that the origin of this quote is unsure, although it has been used by many people? These include Vince Lombardi, Margaret Thatcher, and even Victor Hugo. With such illustrious support, perhaps you could work your own plan a little better, no?Plan the work and work the plan. #Plan #Action #Learning Click To Tweet
But remember, today’s world is one of constant change, so even if you do plan, remember to also stay flexible and adapt to the changing circumstances of the market or your brand. And never totally give up your plan at the first sign of failure either. Just because one part of the plan didn’t work doesn’t warrant throwing out the whole thing.
6. Don’t wait until it’s urgent
As I tried to wean myself off the painkillers, I found myself alternating between extreme pain and none whatsoever. The carers told me that while it’s a good objective to reduce drug usage as quickly as possible, it is counter productive to not take painkillers when they’re needed.
By my deciding to “wait and see” if the pain got worse before asking for medication, I found that the drugs became less effective.
Small, slow steps work better than giant leaps in so many areas because they are sustainable. Think New Year’s resolutions, like crash diets, new fitness regimes, or changes in lifestyle habits. It’s the small, almost imperceptible changes that tend to last and lead to success.
How you can apply this idea: So many adjustments in business involve making significant changes, whether cultural or process-wise. As the well-known saying goes:
“The best way to eat an elephant is one slice at a time.”
Therefore when introducing large changes within your organisation, break them down into more “humanly” manageable steps. Want to make a radical change in one of your processes? It is often more effective to start by modifying the beginning and the end of the process. The middle steps then adapt automatically as new needs are identified.
For example, in updating your innovation process, start with better identifying the target customers and their needs. Then look how the launch will be rolled out and monitored amongst them. You will quickly realise that brainstorming in a vacuum or testing multiple concepts just before launch is no longer effective – if it ever was! These parts of the process will then be adapted to the new demands.
Time to revamp your own processes? Find out more about our I3: Improved Ideation and Innovation and other 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions HERE.
7. It all starts and ends with the customer
During my hospital and clinic stays I realised that the staff were there for me, not vice versa. I am extremely independent and had to learn to accept the help of others, even for some of the most intimate actions. It was “normal” for them, but not for me.
They recognised that and did everything they could to make me feel at ease. From being there just when I needed them, to eclipsing to leave me alone when I needed space. The staff knew and demonstrated that it was I who was important.
How you can apply this idea: Take a look at your website, your communications, your plans; do they all start and end with the customer?
Do you publish content your customers want to read, or just what you want to tell them? Does your contact information include every possible way a customer can connect with you or just a static form and drop-down menu?
Are your communications relevant and emotionally validating for your customers?
Do your plans mention the customer as often as the brand? Remember:
“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.”
Do they also show images of customers and include extensive knowledge and understanding about them?
If not, then perhaps you found inspiration for change in the above examples. Take one small step and make one of the changes mentioned; the benefits will be quick to appear.
For more ideas about improving your customer understanding, why not watch the FREE Customer Centricity Champions Webinar? It shares many tips, tools and templates to catalyse your business and improve your customer understanding immediately.
So there you have them. The seven lessons I learned about customer service excellence from a short stay in various hospitals. As you can see they are all relevant to almost any business environment and industry, whether B2B or B2C.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and also share what learnings you have yourself found from your own experiences. The world is full of inspiration if we just look more closely.
Need help in identifying, connecting and engaging the very best customers for your business? Let us help you catalyse your customer service excellence. Contact us here and don’t forget to check out our “Customer Centricity Champions Webinar.” Reserve your slot before you forget!
C3Centricity used images from Denyse’s book “Winning Customer Centricity.”
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How Can You Provide Better Services For Your Client? This is a great question isn’t it? It was asked recently on Quora and I answered it, as I do many posed on topics such as brand building and customer understanding.
But this question is I believe very different from most of those asked on Quora. That’s because it is one that every company, product, service and brand should be asking!
The answer is actually in the question itself if you look closely.
Provide Better Service
Firstly what is better service? Is your clients’ perspective the same as yours? And better than what or whom? Whenever a comparison is made it is vital to understand with what it is being compared.
To answer that, we need to understand what is important for customers. What is essential and can’t be forgotten, and what else would delight them and make them not just satisfied, but delighted and maybe even surprised. That’s a lot to ask I know, but even that is not enough!
We also need to ensure that we are better than our competitors, assuming that they are to what we are being compared. You’d be amazed how many brands are not competing in the category in which they think they are. We need to understand the exact category in which we are competing so that we can also identify the major competitors. Let me give you some examples.
Are dried packet soups competing with other dried packet soups? Or also with canned soups, or boxed soups, or homemade soups? Depending upon the answer to each of those questions, the competitive set is going to be vastly different.Depending upon the category you identify as being the one in which you are competing, your competitive set is going to be vastly different. Are you sure about yours? #Brand #Marketing #Competition Click To Tweet
Once you know with which other brands you are competing, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. You should be able to identify one thing at which you excel in order to have a reason for customers to buy your offer rather than a competitors.
Now it is obviously difficult to be better at everything, but we should strive to be better than every other competitor in the category in at least one area. That should be our USP or unique selling point. It should be what we are known for and hopefully also the reason people buy what we have to offer.
To identify this, we need to know our competitors very well and understand why their customers buy them rather than us. Is there anything about these customers that we could satisfy better than they are? Is there anything about our competitors that their customers are still dissatisfied about? Is there something we can offer that our competitors can’t? Then when we have found it (them), all we have to do is to make sure our current and potential customers know.
Here are some great examples:
TOMS: With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One®
Target: Expect More. Pay Less.
Avis: (We’re number two.) We try harder.
- Southwest Airlines: We are the low-fare airline.
FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
M&Ms: The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
Domino’s Pizza: You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.
In most of these cases the USP has also become the brand and communication slogan. What others can you think of? Add them in the comments please.
Deep Customer Understanding
The second part of the question is answered by not just knowing but also deeply understanding our customers. By that I mean not just knowing their demographics – they are men 18 to 24, or housewives with young children at home, but a much deeper intimacy with them. I use what I call the 4Ws when learning about Group of customers. WHO they are;WHAT they buy, consumer, read, watch, surf etc,; WHERE they buy, consume, read, watch, surf etc; and most importantly of all WHY? Why do they choose the category, the brand, the pack size, the shop, the time, the location, their hobbies, etc?
Once you know who your customer is (and potentially too) and why they are buying your brand, you will know exactly what better service means for the. Then all you have to do is deliver – beyond their expectations. That is what makes better service great service.
Hopefully this short yet still detailed answer inspires you to now go out and do it for your brand. Enjoy the journey!
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All marketers know their marketing 5Ps, but how do you update your marketing when you adopt a customer first strategy? Here are some tips and ideas for you to adopt – or adapt.
This is the easiest of the marketing 5Ps for a customer centric organisation to adapt because a customer first strategy is all about your customers. However, in recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of employees, some even suggesting that they are more important than customers!
I discussed this in detail in a post a couple of months ago, called ” Customers Care About Products & Value, Not Employees.” Click the title link to read my perspective on this topic.
Personally, I believe that customers are your biggest asset, as they are the ones who pay your wages and make your business thrive. It, therefore, makes sense to know them intimately. If you have a different perspective I’d love to hear it; just add a comment below.
In C3Centricity we use the 4W™ Template to record and describe the customer personas of our clients’ brands.
If you still haven’t downloaded our FREE persona template, CLICK HERE to get your free copy and instructions.
In addition to knowing and describing your target customers in detail, the other tip I give when you want to update your marketing when you adopt a customer first strategy. is to start and end every meeting by asking the “magic question.” What is it? It is this: “what would your customers think about the decision you have just taken?”
This one simple idea is incredibly powerful in identifying actions which are not customer centric. I will give examples of these in the remaining 4Ps below.
So a customer-centric approach to your customers is both thinking about them in every action you take, as well as knowing them as deeply as you can and keeping this knowledge constantly updated.
This is often seen as the most important to address when you decide to update your marketing. After all it is what you are selling. It is also the one thing you think about day in and day out. But it’s not the most important in a customer centric organisation. Surprised?
Think about it for a second. Without knowing the P for people in great detail, you won’t be able to optimise your offer in terms of the other four Ps. That’s why it’s a customer first strategy that works better than any other.Without knowing the customer in great detail, you won't be able to optimise your offer of the other Marketing 5Ps Click To Tweet
Here are some examples of how companies realised they get their product wrong when adopting a customer first strategy and a couple of right actions for inspiration:
- WRONG! Any business that reduces pack content without informing its customers of it and the effective price increase. Read JD Roth’s “Hidden price increases at the grocery store” for more on this.
- WRONG! Exaggerated claims or twisting the numbers of contained calories by having unnatural serving sizes – seven potato chips anyone? Or saying a product is 95% fat-free, but it refers to the weight, not the calories! I once heard that everything written on the front of a pack is a lie!
Check this out with any pack and you’ll see what I mean; there’s sure to be something not strictly correct on it. Please share any funny or annoying examples you find in the comments below.
- WRONG! Making variant identification difficult for customers. Have you ever bought the wrong product because packs were the same colour and just the names changed? I know I have. Or tried to understand the differences between variants that have five or seven descriptors?
- WRONG! Running frequent product tests only comparing to the latest version. Although this is standard procedure, if you make regular tests for small changes which go unnoticed in the short term, they can amount to a big, noticeable change over the long term. Better to compare results also to past best ones than only using the current benchmark.
- WRONG! Any company that makes it difficult for its customers to use their product. Think large bags of pet food or kitchen rolls without easy-carry handles; salad sauce or shampoo bottles which are impossible to open with damp hands; sealed bags which split when opened and need to be stored in a different container.
- WRONG! Making pack or logo changes without finding what your customers like or dislike in the current one. Think about the much-publicised Tropicana disaster back in 2009, or the Gap logo change.
Or more recently the Coke holiday edition white can that consumers confused with the diet version, and were understandably disappointed when they realised they had bought the wrong variant.
- RIGHT! Taking the customers’ perspective when designing your packaging. Think deeply about how your customers will purchase, open and use your product. Don’t make them struggle in any way, whether to carry, open, close or store it.
- RIGHT! Working with your customers to perfect current and develop new products. This is by far the best way to guarantee that you stay connected to changing preferences.
- RIGHT! Be transparent, in your operations, your actions and your plans. If you aren’t, whatever you try to hide will eventually be uncovered and then made public on social media, probably with an accusation of unethical behaviour. United have discovered this many times.
A customer-centric approach to the product when you want to update your marketing is therefore once again thinking about your customers when developing it. And ideally actually involving them in your decision-making whenever possible.
Pricing in my opinion is the most difficult of the marketing 5Ps to get right, especially when updating your marketing when adopting a customer first strategy. You may think that a customer-first price is the lowest possible. It’s actually not! People estimate the value of products and services they purchase, based only in part upon its price.
For example, how many “cheap” products have you bought, perhaps on sale, only to wonder why you ever bought it when you were home? You’d bought on price alone, excited by what appeared to be a “good deal” and then realised your purchase didn’t meet your needs or desires when you contemplated it more rationally at home.
Research shows that customers value a better experience above price and it is expected to surpass both price and product by 2020.Customers value a better experience above price and it is expected to surpass both price and product by 2020 Click To Tweet
Retailers like Aldi and Lidl have used their pricing strategies to position themselves against more traditional competitors. In these new super-discounters, consumers accept limited choice for the sake of rock bottom prices. However, as they expand their offering to include more well-known brands, they have positioned themselves to appeal to a growing target of purchasers.
However, many manufacturers lose out as their margins are stripped to almost zero. This is why we are now seeing a slow realisation that there is a better way to do business than mere price cutting. Both retailers and manufacturers are adapting to new consumer demands of value and not just low prices.
Consumer goods companies, in particular, have for too long relied primarily on price promotions to meet their sales targets. Amazon has forced pricing down in most other categories because people now check online before buying in many categories. However, as Amazon starts trialling their Fresh online groceries and their bricks and mortar stores the whole world of retail is about to change forever.
As if lowered prices is not challenging enough, people expect to receive something for free in exchange for their personal information online. Data has become the trading currency between consumers and product or service providers. This has resulted in many companies even changing their business models. Just one example of this is telecom that has become geolocalization data providers to many other industries.Data has become the trading currency between consumers and product or service providers. #Data #Marketing #SMX #CEX Click To Tweet
A customer centric pricing strategy will enable businesses to continue to grow, by understanding how to fix pricing levels more carefully. Knowing the value of what you offer and the importance of brand or service will enable retailers and manufacturers alike to continue to thrive.
This is a major difficulty for every brand, especially if they have a lot of variants. The answer to improving your distribution is your customers – of course!
The more variants you have the more difficult it usually is to gain a wide distribution. If you know your customers as deeply as you should, then you will be able to identify their differences by region. You can then use these to make decisions about what to sell where.
Since most retailers provide limited shelf space to each manufacturer, it is best used by showcasing your top selling variants in that area, plus eventual new offers to test their acceptance.
Another “place” that it is important to understand today is social media. The Pew Research Center provides a 2016 US analysis of the major channels by demographics which is a great starting point. Ideally, you should know both where your customers are and when. That way you can be present when they are open to messaging. But more about that in the next topic.
This P is relatively easy for a brand to be customer centric. You just have to offer what your customers need, where and when they need it.To have customer-centric distribution, you just have to offer what your customers need, where & when they need it Click To Tweet
I know it’s easier said than done when you don’t have full control over your distribution. This is one reason why many manufacturers are now offering their products directly to their customers through online shops.
The change will certainly have a significant impact on retailers and it is only a question of time before they increase the prices of making goods available in physical stores. In so many categories today, outlets are mere showrooms for people to see before they buy – online.
As with place, knowing what messages your customers are interested in receiving from you and even more importantly where and when are one of the keys to successful communications.
Whether it is advertising, price promotions, social media sharing or other advertising activities, understanding your customers deeply is the other foundation of success.
An organisation which makes it difficult for customers to connect using their preferred channel is not customer-centric.An organisation which makes it difficult for customers to connect using their preferred channel is not customer-centric Click To Tweet
Take a look at your own website contact page. Does it include email, postal and street addresses? Does it have a telephone number or live chat option? It should.
But if not, then I bet it has a contact form with possibly a drop-down menu from which a customer chooses their reason for reaching out. You probably also ask them for all their details, while not providing them with yours. Definitely not fair play is it?
Another related area of promoting your brands is PR. Quickly owning up when you’ve made a mistake, rather than trying to hide it. This builds trust and customers will even forgive companies that do this. Honesty is definitely the best policy when it comes to your customers.
A customer-centric organisation provides their customers with valuable information where and when they need it. They also communicate in ways which enhance their relationship and shows they value their business. If things go wrong they own up quickly, inform the public, say how and why it happened and what they are doing to put things right. They then go on to do just that by taking the appropriate actions, all the while informing their customers of their progress.
Interested in updating your own Marketing 5Ps?
Check out our 1-Day Training courses and download the brochure for more details on each of them.
What Do You Think About Adopting a Customer First Strategy?
Did you notice that the new way of thinking about each of the Marketing 5Ps that I am suggesting involves the customer? Thinking and above all following a customer first strategy is the new marketing objective that gets results.Thinking and above all following a customer first strategy is the new marketing objective Click To Tweet
I believe that both manufacturers and customers will benefit from a customer-first strategy. In fact, research from both Forrester and Gartner has now proven this; customer-centric organisations grow seven times faster and are 60% more profitable. Makes you wonder why companies are not rushing to change, doesn’t it?
Marketers have been working with the marketing 5Ps (and 7Ps) for decades, so perhaps it’s time for an update. What do you think? Should they be translated into a more customer centric approach? What do you see are the major challenges in doing this? Why are some businesses still hesitating about moving to a customer-first strategy? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.