What is going to matter most to all companies in 2013? Only one thing, whether you are a MomPopoly (great new term – thunk up by Carlos Dunlap et all at Colloquy) or a Fortune 50 corporation.
Not the news, the wars, the disasters. Not the constantly shifting regulations, the “cliffs,” or the larger trends.
Nothing matters as much as your customers’ experience, every time they interact with your product, people, or processes.
Their experience determines what they say about you to others who are considering buying from you. What they say determines if you prosper or struggle in 2013. It’s that simple.
Even something as basic as your phone system will make them want to do business with you or want to avoid you; recommend you to others or warn them to stay away.
Let’s look at this as if we were the customer.
When you call a company to ask a question, you only do it AFTER you have looked online and have been unable to find the answer.
When you call, what do you really want?
YOU WANT A HUMAN BEING TO ANSWER THE PHONE ON THE FIRST RING. Yes, I typed that in caps for a reason.
Further, you want that person to be pleasant and helpful. You want that person to be so knowledgeable about the company that she can connect you with the right person to solve your problem – or solve it herself. Or, if she has to pass you on, you want her to stay on the line until she is sure that the person understands your problem and that your problem will be solved. (Suggestion: Call this person a “customer concierge,” because he or she will be much more than a receptionist.)
You don’t want to be “greeted” by a machine. You don’t want to be told “please listen carefully, as our menu has changed.” You don’t want to be ordered to press one for this and two for that, and you certainly do not want to be stymied by the fact that none of the options presented will solve your problem.
And, you especially don’t want to be told that “you can also get your questions answered on our website, which is [the whole website address, as if you never used the web].” Duh. Of course you already expected to find it there. You went there first – and looked, didn’t find what you needed, and finally had to call the company, only to be tortured in voicemail hell. They replaced a helpful person with a slimy, uncaring, copycat recording that says they care, when they obviously don’t. (And don’t get me started on music on hold, or bad music interrupted by commercials, which you are forced to listen to as you try to do something else while waiting!)
You know perfectly well that the only reason the company is using this voicemail system is for their convenience, not yours, in spite of their sugary sentences to the contrary. The truth is, they don’t want to be bothered to answer your question or solve your problem.
Why weren’t you able to get your question answered when you went to the company’s website? Because the company folks don’t even know the questions that real customers ask. They think they know, but they don’t.
Gerry McGovern recently lamented how unengaged senior management is with the reality of the interaction the customer has with their website, in an article called “Management practice lags behind technology innovation.” He’s right.
The C-suite treats the corporate website as if it were just another brochure, something they can “set and forget,” like they did in the old days of advertising, print, and PR. They have no idea that their digital presence has become the company. In the mind of the customer, it is the company.
Why is management so clueless?
Every single time, after I interview my client’s customers and present my findings, even the most confident, savvy CEOs look at me, shaking their heads, incredulous. “Wow. I had no idea.”
They have just realized that all those beliefs they held, the perceptions about their customers, their strengths and weaknesses, their opportunities, their systems, and their position in the market – all of these – were “off.” Often they discover that the positive products and services they offer have not been communicated successfully, so that customers believe something completely different.
Whatever the specifics – and it is different for every company – company managers are not in sync with what their customers are thinking, what their customers want to do, and what their customers want them to do.
This doesn’t mean that the company has to change everything. On the contrary, it usually means that the company’s managers have to make some changes. Some of them will be minor, and others will be major, but they will all make sense, and will all be enthusiastically implemented as soon as the company is able to do so. We always start with the low-hanging fruit. The success of those changes will prove to everyone that this is the right thing to do and they will embrace the more difficult undertakings.
As management makes these changes, the employee water-cooler talk starts to take on a different tone. “Wow – management got a clue! Did you hear what they’re doing?” Customers, prospects, and partners will be pleasantly surprised. They will think: “That was easy. Easier than I thought it would be. Easier than before. Easier than the competition. Good.”
The amazing thing about all this, is that you can know exactly what your customers want from you, within a few weeks, using the phone interviewing method I describe in my book. Or, heck, just hire me to do it. 🙂 I’d love to give you that “Wow” moment, and help your customers get to their own “wow” moment while interacting with your people, processes, products, and pages. That’s what I live for, because it is the most powerful change lever that managers and owners can use to increase revenue.
Regardless of how you get there, the point is, you really do need to do this in 2013.
By the end of 2013, any company that is still clueless about what their customers really want will be hanging by a thread. There are enough forces working against you right now; you have control over this one, and it is pivotal.