The Customer Advocacy Compass (P.A.C.E.) Process: Part 2


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Whatever form the qualitative research follows in the Assemble stage of the P.A.C.E Process, the company will be in a position to move to the third step: Comprehend, or understanding the dimensional and segmented voice of the customer or prospect base. This is the step during which quantitative research is conducted. The objective is to learn which areas of performance and complaint, and what elements of a loyalty marketing concept or program – as well as relationship and service processes – have a positive influence on customer loyalty and value, and which can impact attrition and possible defection.

Remember, though, that if you are merely trying to create higher satisfaction, customers may say they’re satisfied such as they might with automobiles, office products retailers, banks, supermarkets, or restaurants – and your web site as well – and still defect. As we’ve discussed, many American companies have learned to their dismay that defectors are often just as likely to be satisfied with products and services as loyal customers. Has the company created barriers to exit and true commitment, even advocacy and bonding? That’s what we want to learn.

Many things come clear as a result of information generated during the Comprehend step. In the United States, as in the U.K. and elsewhere in the world, companies tend to latch on to quick-fix and copycat programs in their efforts to capture the affection of customers. The automotive, telecom, and supermarket industries, to cite three, tend to know relatively little about what creates true loyalty and value for their clients. Most frequently, they compete on a single dimension: price. As a result, they experience a great amount of migration and churn. We have spoken with a French expert in telecom churn who estimates that, of the customers they lose, 80% will immediately go to a competitor, drawn away by an equipment upgrade or what appears to be lower price.

If companies in these industries wish to learn and understand how to keep the customers they want, how to re-establish value for customers on the verge of defection, and how to reclaim attractive customers they have lost, they can achieve this with well-designed loyalty or recovery research and intelligent data analysis. When combined with the demographic and psychographic information they can generate about their customers, this yields a powerful customer loyalty information system

If you want to create or modify a frequency marketing program, or develop more positive and permanent relationships and support processes with your customers, the insight coming from the Comprehend step should be invested only in resources that create customer value. The knowledge and insight from this step should also include the quantitative input of your own staff, for purposes of counterpoint learning, new or modified program buy-in, and possible targeted loyalty training. Such programs and operational improvements come from the final step, which is Employ, or take action.

These actions can be simple, such as alterations to the scripting of customer service staff during interactions, or complex, such as developing the components for a new frequency marketing program, new approaches to sales relationships, or new customer communications initiatives; and it may take a few days or many months to put them into place. It all depends, ultimately, on which performance attributes have the greatest, most leveraging impact on customer loyalty behavior.

To respond more quickly to product or service inquiries, for instance, you may need to form a cross-functional team of staff from several departments to examine your customer service follow-up procedures and then recommend solutions. Or it may require specialized customer service support software. In our work, we often lead such teams and facilitate their process or program development activities. Be sure, as well, to give these improvements and programs a chance to kick in. They won’t affect loyalty until customers recognize and understand them. Several months later, you can survey customers again to see how well you did in creating value and determine what is still left to be done to optimize their loyalty.

The P.A.C.E. Process can be a highly effective customer loyalty and advocacy behavior tool for your company. Like achieving almost anything really worthwhile, the process does require a bit of discipline.

There is a good old American baseball analogy to the P.A.C.E. Process. In the movie A League Of Their Own, Tom Hanks, the manager of a woman’s baseball team during World War II, said to Geena Davis, one of his star players who was quitting the team because her husband had returned home, and baseball had become difficult, and no longer fun: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great!” Our sentiments exactly. Discipline, and the willingness to keep to a research strategy, are two of the factors that separate the great companies from those that have yet to understand the P.A.C.E Process concept.


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