Limiting Online Reviews Inhibits Transparency, Integrity and Insights

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 31, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

Lack of transparency





My sister in-law is a frequent traveler who booked a three-day trip to New York to shop and visit museums with a friend of her's from Chicago.


She used Expedia to book the six-star Pierre, a Taj Property, and was disappointed and embarrassed by the service she and her friend received.


When she tried to post a less than stellar review on Expedia, she was told, "Your hotel review needs revision."


This is the gist of what she said:


  • The staff was polite but they didn't know what time their restaurants opened.  My friend and I were sent back and forth between the restaurants at the hotel because neither were open with staff telling us they were open when, in fact, they weren't.
  • My tea arrived on a pretty tablecloth but the waiter brought French toast which I didn't order.
  • The tea pot burned my hand because the handle was metal and had no cover.
  • The hair dryer was cheap and burned my hair,
  • When I checked out, we asked the porter for our 5 pieces of baggage.   he said "okay", then turned around and started talking to the other staff members.  when we reminded him we had a flight to catch, he went to get the bags, which we could see in the hallway.   It took three staff members to count our bags. How many staff members does it take . . .
  • All in all, I chose the hotel expecting first rate service and got just an above averge hotel stay.  I was so disappointed because I thought so highly of the hotel's reputation.
  • The location is superb; can't ask for better.


"When I told my friends at work about my experience, they said........"maybe that's why you can find that hotel on Expedia."


Expedia is not doing themselves, their customers or the Pierre any favors.


I saw recently where Four Seasons had just surpassed Ritz Carlton in terms of customer service.


If Taj Hotels don't get feedback from disgruntled customers, how are they going to improve.


Companies like Expedia are wasting the value of voice of the customer (VOC) feedback by trying to supress less than perfect ratings.


I've seen car dealers do this and they're just hurting themselves.


Be real, be reliable, and be responsive -- or be gone.

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"


Tags: consumer insights, transparency, be reliable, be responsive, integrity, be real, VoC, voice of the customer

3 Keys To Success -- Visibility, Credibility and Relationships

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, May, 28, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

3 keys to success for you and your company








Looking at the blog posts I've been writing over the past few years, I'm seeing a trend in the three things every person, and every company, needs to be successful today:

  1. Visibility

  2. Credibility

  3. Relationships

Following are my thoughts on ways for individuals, and companies, to improve each:

  • Visibility
  1. Build brand awareness by sharing information of value.
  2. The more you blog, the more awareness, traffic and leads you will get; your SEO rankings will improve as well.

  3. Use P.R. A lot of people think P.R. is dead in the age of social media. However, there are still plenty of vertical trade publications, and websites, looking for information of value to share with their readers. P.R. is another channel in which you can repurpose content.

  4. Leverage all of your content to educate your customers and your prospects. It's amazing what you can learn to do on your own by searching YouTube. C-level executives are 7-times more likely to look at a video than to download and read a whitepaper.

  5. Stay active on LinkedIn. Update your profile, your company's profile and actively participate in, and contribute to groups. I've found groups to be a tremendous resource when sourcing products and services.

  6. Have a mobile presence -- especially if you're trying to reach millennials. 80% have a smart phone, 85% of Hispanics. Ensure all of your digital communications are mobile optimized.
  • Credibility
  1. Build extreme trust. "Do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it."

  2. Be consistent. While some people say, "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," it's the only way to build trust. Consistency = trust. Inconsistency = confusion and distrust.
  3. Ensure your management team, and employees, are in alignment with regards to vision, mission, values and what makes you "different and better." Lack of alignment results in inconsistent messages to customers and prospects.

  4. Another reason to provide information of value is to build credibility. Providing information of value early in the relationship lets the prospect get to know you. Don't sell, just educate.

  5. Empower employees to deliver a consistently good customer experience. Consistency builds trust. "Wow" customer experiences will create "raving fans" that will help market your product or service.

  6. Put the customer first in everything you do. Help customers win, make their lives easier, and you'll have customers for life.

  • Relationships
  1. Strive to have customers for life. It's like aiming for the moon, even if you don't achieve your goal, you'll positively differentiate yourself from the competition.

  2. Have face-to-face conversations with your customers and prospects to get to know them as individuals. People like to do business with those they know, like and trust. Face-to-face conversations help to build long-term relationships.

  3. Help customers make an emotional connection to your brand by letting them get to know the people that comprise your brand. People connect with other people. Empower and encourage your employees to connect with customers and prospects -- in person and via social media.

  4. Listen intensely to your customers and prospects to understand their needs and wants. These consumer insights will lead to new product development, service enhancements, new revenue streams and repeat business.

  5. Referrals and word-of-mouth are still the most powerful, and cost efficient, forms of marketing. Give your customers experiences they want to share with others.

  6. As you enhance your relationships with your customers, you'll find that they want you to be successful. Don't be afraid to let them know how they can help you.

What actions can you take to make you and your company more successful?


Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"


Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customers for life, consumer insights, information of value, alignment, extreme trust, face to face communications

3 Keys to Improve Customer Experience (#cx)

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 27, 2014 @ 10:05 AM


3 keys to improving customer experience







Thanks to Shep Hyken, customer service expert, on his recent webinar, "What Happens When The Customer Experience Breaks: The Dark Side of Customer Experience."


Regardless of how customer-centric your organization, at some point your customer service will fail.


How will your customers respond?


If you've been providing a consistently positive customer service experience, they'll let you know and help you fix it.


A certain level of customer service is "table stakes."


Fortunately, and sadly, the bar is still low.


However, companies like Zappos, Lexus and Ritz Carlton are educating customers, raising the bar and raising customer expectations.


Social media gives the customer a voice.


A dissatisfied customer used to tell 13 people about their experience.


Today, they tell 100's or 1000's. Social media has magnified the customer's voice.


There are three actions you should have in place to ensure you are delivering a consistently positive, and occasionally "wow," customer experience:

  1. Journey map the customer experience. Be very detailed noting every touch point and every point of impact. Once you've completed your map, share it with a few customers to get their feedback. I'll guarantee your customers will point out some things that never occurred to you, or your team.

  2. Perform a causal, root cause, analysis of why things happen with regards to delivering customer service -- both good and bad things. 

  3. Create a complaint map of how complaints should be handled and how complaints are actually handled. Obviously you will end up with several different maps since most firms deal with several different types of complaints.

In mapping the customer journey, think in terms of: awareness, interest, selection, maintenance and retention.


Your focal points should be: demographics, entry and exit points in the journey, risk and failure points and mitigation strategies.


Moments of truth will vary by customer, but they're important to document. Ask customers what they consisder to be a "moment of truth" for them.


Your vision for the customer experience starts at the top. Executives set the tone, disseminate and share a crystal clear vision of the customer experience.


Lexus has The Lexus Covenant, part of which says, "Lexus will treat each customer as we would a guest in our home."


Ritz Carlton's credo is, "Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."


Both of these are easy enough for every employee to understand. Your firm's vision for customer service and the ultimate customer experience must be easy enough for all of your employees to understand.


Executives need to stay engaged by interacting with customers and customer-facing employees.


Ideally, every employee interacts with a customer at least once a month.


You cannot connect too much with a customer. The learning you will get if you listen intensely is invaluable.


When performing the causal analysis: aggregate, classify, analyze, modify and implement.


Focal points should be: data sources, demographic drivers, process modification, benchmarks and tracking. 


Use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to determine whether or not a customer will recommend your product or service to a family member, friend or colleague. It's easy to implement and you'll quickly learn what you are doing well and where improvement is needed.


To build a complaint map, think in terms of: capture, investigate, resolve, communicate and follow-up.


You should be doing this for both internal and external complaints.


Employees should be treating their colleagues with the same level of respect and decorum as a customer.


Focal points for the complaint map are: channel breadth and coverage, efficiency and accuracy, empowerment levels and agility and adaptibility.


Employees need to be empowered to address a customer's concern at the point of interaction.


Empower employees to act like an owner and solve the problem creatively.


Empower employees to say "yes" to the customer. If they're going to say "no," they must get approval from a supervisor to do so. 


The Ritz Carlton empowers all of its employees to spend up to $2,000 to provide the guest with an outstanding customer experience.


If someone gets a complaint from a customer, they own the complaint. It's their responsibility to resolve the complaint with urgency. Don't just fix the problem, restore the confidence of the customer. Earn the customer's trust that everyone in your organization will "do what they say they'll do when they say they'll do it." 


Service is a differentiator and brands are taking better care of their customers.


How long before you begn taking better care of your customers?


Once you hit your goal, set a new goal and keep learning.


Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: consumer insights, customer experience, customer satisfaction, empower employees, customer centric, social media, do what you say you'll do when you say you wil

Use VoC to Provide an Outstanding Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Apr, 25, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

voice of the customer improves customer experience









Are your policies standing in the way of delivering customer service?


Are your employees empowered and encouraged to provide a great customer experience?


Use voice of the customer (VoC) research to determine your customers' needs and wants as well as to learn how your are doing with regards to handling transactions, as well as overarching relationships.


Start by asking these questions:

  1. What is the mission of your business?

  2. How will a VoC program integrate with the mission of your business?
  3. Which customers do you want to measure?

  4. How are the customers interacting with the product or service?

  5. How can you and your employees provide a smooth and simple feedback experience?

  6. What metric(s) will you use to measure success?

  7. What data will enable you to make actionable decisions?

  8. How do you engage your stakeholders?

When you field VoC research, you will have detractors, passives and promoters.


Make sure to thank them all for taking the time to give you feedback.


 Six reasons most VoC programs fail:


  1. Program is perceived as "nice to have" rather than "must have." 

  2. Executives not bought in to the value of providing an outstanding customer experience or the ability of the VoC to identify the key drivers.

  3. The business is siloed, each silo is "doing their own thing" and not willing to share data, methodologies, or do what's in the best interest of the company as a whole.

  4. Inability or unwillingness to act on the data. Fear of having too much feedback to deal with.

  5. Improper staffing or training to follow back up with respondents, thank them for their feedback and get back to them with a resolution to their concerns or suggestions.

  6. Lack of believe in the value and the validity of the feedback.

Any company that does not value having a dialog with their customers to improve their product, service or customer experience can expect to be surpassed by those that do value their customers' feedback and take action on it.


The insights you garner by listening intensely to your customers will give you ideas of what you can do to improve relationships and drive revenue.


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales


Tags: outstanding customer experience, consumer insights, VoC, voice of the customer

Be Responsive: Adjust Your Strategy to Market Conditions

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Apr, 09, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

Execution is the strategy resized 600








Great webinar by Laura Stack, author of Execution IS The Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time.


As three and five-year business plans have gone the way of cold-calling, the internet and social media have changed the way we market and interact with prospects and customers.


Laura suggests four premises of strategic planning today:

  1. Interdependency -- Strategy and tactics are part of the same overarching process with an inherent relationship. Your strategy is only as good as how well you execute the tactics of the strategy.

  2. Fluidity -- Strategy must be more flexible in its tactics now than in the past making real-time course corrections based on information from the voice of the customer (VoC) that's gathered in real-time.

  3. Speed -- Strategy must be executed more quickly to be effective. The Internet and social media enable you to get real-time feedback on product concepts, service innovations and user experience (#ux).

  4. Validity -- Strategy must still be appropriate and strong or none of the first three premises matter. How does your strategy positively differentiate your brand, make you "different and better," in the eyes of your target persona?


There are no shortage of good ideas. It's not about the best ideas. It's about who executes their ideas the best.


This is why every B2B and B2C company needs to be focused on delivering excellent customer service.


Excellent customer service should be "table stakes" for any business, just like clean restrooms are for restaurants. However, it's not.


Customer service is generally poor. As such, it's an easy way for your firm to positively differentiate itself from the competition.


Listen to the people executing your tactics and see what you can do to remove barriers that will enable them to execute more quickly.


Laura identifies four conditions for successful execution:

  1. Leverage -- How to use leaders, team members and resources most effectively.

  2. Environment -- Having an agile organizational culture with engaged employees.

  3. Alignment -- Having the right people, the right leader, everyone on the same page with regards to the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm.

  4. Drive -- High levels of productivity. Commitment to accelerating change. Removing all obstacles to doing so.

 Break problems into one of four categories to prioritize:


  1. Life or death -- we need to discuss.

  2. Can become a crisis as time passes -- make sure it's addressed this week.

  3. Might become a problem if untreated but will never kill you -- monitor to see if it's getting worse or having a negative impact on the business.

  4. Pain -- minor issues, acknowledge them but don't spend time or resources on them.

New ways of thinking to set boundaries with others:

  • Refusing to do something doesn't mean you're not "nice."

  • Putting your instant message on do not disturb does not mean you're not a "team player."

  • Understand the true need. Do not break your own boundaries.

  • Understand what your customer wants.

  • Educate others on where to go to help themselves.

  • Stop being a professional volunteer.

Have you taken any of these steps to have a more responsive strategy to positively differentiate your firm versus the competition?


What's worked? What hasn't?


Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues 

Tags: consumer insights, customer satisfaction, improve customer experience to accelerate sales, be responsive, customer centric, listen intensely

Use Buyer Personas to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Mar, 18, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

consumer insights inform buyer personas








Great webinar presented by Adele Revella, president of the Buyer Persona Institute on Buyer Personas: The Five Insights Every Marketer Needs to Nail.  


Adele has also written an ebook, The Buyer Persona Manifesto.


Having conducted a lot of quantitative and qualitative research throughout my career and written an e-book about obtaining consumer insights, I found Adele's presentation to be very consistent with my experience.


Adele proposes using buyer personas to clarify the following marketing decisions:

  1. Where to prioritize your marketing investments
  2. When sales people and campaigns can engage qualified buyers
  3. How to focus creative and marketing efforts that impact buyers' choices
  4. Why your strategy has the highest potential to achieve its goals
  5. What to include in message strategy and marketing content
  6. Who salespeople and lead generation campaigns should target


I have used quantitative and qualitative research to answer all of these questions and the process is invaluable and one you cannot replicate simply by reviewing analytics.


We conducted quantitative research with 3,289 pool and spa dealers to understand their attitudes and perceptions as well as what they wanted from their equipment supplier.  This research informed a marketing and channel management plan that enabled PacFab to increase sales 35% in one year and to become the market leader in three years.


We conducted one-on-one interviews with Statoil Energy executives and telephone surveys with 1,300 corporate executives at 900 companies in 17 industries to inform the strategic positioning of the company and develop an integrated marketing plan which helped the company win customers, increase customer satisfaction and increase renewal rates.


We conducted in-depth interviews with Sappi Fine Paper merchants to improve channel relationships, and benchmark satisfaction for ISO 9002 requirements and inform the marketing plan.   Identified fine paper segments with the greatest revenue and margin opportunities to increase Sappi market share from 26.7% to 29.3% and rebuild relationships that had eroded.


We conducted quantitative research that resulted in the successful introduction of Mederma for Kids after obtaining insights from moms on how they feel about scars on their children. This informed our marketing communications efforts and resulted in the successful launch of a line extension.


Having a dialog with your prospects and customers is invaluable. You cannot imagine the insights consumers will provide until you speak with them and listen intensely. They will tell you much more than you can get by just looking at analytics.

Unfortunately, a lot of senior managers and sales people don't feel this is a good investment. They think they already know what their customers are thinking, need and want.

I can safely say that I have never done any research without finding something worthwhile and insightful that we did not already know.

How have buyer personas helped your marketing efforts?


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: consumer insights, dialog, accelerate sales, listen intensely

Curate Insights to Provide Information of Value

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Mar, 13, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

Consumer insights accelerate sales










Knowledge of the customer is key to providing information of value to the right person, in the right place at the right time.


Marketing and IT need to work together to have a digital biography of your customers -- personas, demographics, psychographics, digital journey, social media habits, interactions with your company in person, online and at tradeshows.


In order to maximize marketing effectiveness, companies need to ensure every interaction with a customer or prospect provides more awareness of the products and services that match the needs, attitudes and expectations of the customer.


Ideally the interaction is captured in the CRM which is integrated with the marketing automation software.


Most companies lack the full range of skills and capabilities to apply internal and external data to build effective targeting models. Identifying people with these skills, or training them, will be critical as customers become more sophisticated and have higher expectations of their product and service providers -- B2B and B2C.


Sending untargeted, nonpersonalized email is asking to be deleted, or worse, unsubscribed. You're better off not sending any email than sending untargeted email. Untargeted email will cause your subscriber list to shrink and make a bad impression on the recipient.


Response/conversion rates are 10% higher for prsonalized messages versus non-personalized.


Every communication does not have to sell one of your products or serivces.  Provide information of value to earn trust.


Road Runner Shoes always sends me a promotion on running shoes. They would earn my trust and respect by sending me information on nutrition or warm-up/warm-down that has nothing to do with shoes occasionally.


What information of value can you send your customers and prospects they will find useful and therefore think more highly of you because you're looking out for their best interest rather than just trying to sell them another product or service?


The trust of your customer is hard-earned and easily lost. Send them enough email and snail mail that's not relevant and you'll lose their trust.


Engage in a dialog with your customers to know how you are doing. A great way to open the dialog is with a three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. This survey has two open-ended questions that let you get voice of the customer feedback that you can respond to and that will give you insight into customers' needs and wants.


Once the customer has completed the survey, make sure you thank them for completing the survey and for their valuable feedback.


In all cases, look for client needs and determine how you can meet those needs.


For "promoters," those that gave you a 9 or 10, reach out to them to thank them for their feedback and ask if they are willing to provide a testimonial, serve as a reference, provide referrals or share their thoughts about you on their favorite social media channels.


For "passives," those that gave you a 7 or 8, thank them for their feedback and delve into what you can do to address their concerns so they will continue their relationship with you and give you the opportunity to provide a better experience than they currently perceive you providing.


You need to reach out to "detractors" immediately. Thank them for their feedback and let them know you're very interested in addressing their concerns. You don't want to lose their business and you don't want them sharing their negative experiences with you on social media.


The more you know about your customers, the more you are able to identify inflexion points at which time certain communications or offers should be made. 


Based on a study IBM conducted, the return on investment for tools that enable a highly personalized experience for the customer can reach 600%.


How are you curating insights from analytics and qualitative data to communicate more effectively and efficiently with your customers and prospects?


Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: consumer insights, dialog, information of value, CRM, promoters, passives, detractors

15 Ways to Increase Loyalty and Customer Engagement (#cx)

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Feb, 25, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

increase loyalty and customer engagement









Thanks to The Wise Marketer for the following.


Providing an excellent customer experience has never been more essential for retailers, according to research firm Rapide which has highlighted eight key strategies that should leave customers feeling more loyal and engaged.


Recent research suggests that 70% of customer defection is down to poor customer experiences, and that 96% of unhappy customers don't tell the company involved! And we've all heard that a 5% reduction in defection can increase profits by up to 50% (according to Bain & Co).


So, what are so many retailers missing when it comes to the customer journey, and what are the eight simple strategies that can help keep customers coming back repeatedly?


In brief, they are:


  1. Make all of your customer communications both convenient and relevant throughout the entire customer journey;
  2. Bring the online and offline worlds together seamlessly, so that customers see the same messages and offers no matter which channel they prefer to use when interacting with the brand;
  3. Embrace and empower your employees, because a good customer experience starts and ends with them;
  4. Engage your customers actively at every point of interaction;
  5. Turn "moments of truth" into moments of opportunity by allowing your customers to voice their ideas, opinions, praise, and complaints, and to tell you how they feel;
  6. Act on every piece of actionable insight you can gather, proving that customers are important to the brand;
  7. Mobilize and enable your brand advocates through every channel possible, including mobile and social media;
  8. Do everything in real-time, making sure that all information is gathered, processed, analyzed and acted upon immediately.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, no consumer experience happens as often, grabs share of wallet, and stimulates the senses more than grocery shopping. And in the face of commoditization the grocery sector has turned to the customer experience to help grow top lines and maintain margins.


The company reported that engaging today's shopper, who is usually armed with mobile apps and virtual offers, depends on offering exactly the right blend of self-service and helpful staff.


The report went on to define five key behaviors that companies can adopt to both enhance the customer experience and to create more value:

  1. Make it Fast!
    Fast lines matter the most in convenience. Fast checkouts account for 30% of memorable great experiences. Be transparent with "waiting" by empowering customers with information on checkout times and wait times. Boost digital convenience and savvy with mobile checkouts and coupons that let shoppers check out on their own via smartphone apps and staff handheld devices.

  2. Create an emotional shopping experience
    Create relationships with customers by evoking positive emotions based on what they care about. With 10% of premium customers willing to pay for a storewide discount loyalty program, personalize shopper experience by investing in robust loyalty programs to reward customers with personalized deals. Customers embrace brands that reinforce their lifestyles. For example, expand organic offerings to lure the fast-growing number of consumers who care about their organic lifestyle and are often willing to pay a premium for organic produce. With growing awareness of global warming and recycling, invest in sustainable solutions to bring shoppers in the door.

  3. Balance high-tech with high-touch
    As the most important factor in determining preference, staff quality impacts where customers shop one-third of the time. As most customers still shop for groceries in person, invest in employees to deliver engaging experiences, motivating shoppers to return and employees to stay. While high-tech self-checkouts are essential, some customers feel more at ease with conventional methods and will pay a premium for attendant checkout to avoid technology difficulties.

  4. Avoid spoil
    Shoppers are easily frustrated and 40% of customers never return after a bad experience. Customers often do not provide feedback to their grocers, but they are quick to warn their social networks instead. Create a vigorous social media strategy to listen intensely to your customers to fix issues and create incentives for customers to provide feedback. Develop a thorough, well-advertised service recovery strategy that includes a catch-all return policy.

  5. Empower customers to make satisfying choices
    While 20% of shoppers rank product selection as a top purchase driver, customers are inundated with product information and seek ways to make easier shopping decisions. Invest in a labelling strategy to help customers cut their clutter. Establish yourself as a trusted go-to resource by offering recipes, nutrition tips and advice to create stronger relationships. Offer new product samples and let customers try new products and return them if they aren't satisfied.

With 98% of shoppers still shopping for groceries in a physical store, staff can make or break a shopping experience - and rude employees account for almost one third of bad experiences.

To keep customers coming back, grocery retailers need to make even greater use of the latest technologies and innovations - such as geo-tagged mobile coupons - in addition to other tried-and-true interactions (such as a cashier's friendly smile) in addressing the most demanding customers.

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: emotional connection to the brand, consumer insights, transparency, customer experience, empower employees, integration

5 Ways to Deliver an Improved Customer Experience (#cx)

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Feb, 11, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

improved customer experience











Accenture's 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research was recently published.

While companies are spending a lot, and talking about the importance of providing an improved customer experience, little progress is being made in understanding what customers want and need.

Companies are not making it easier for customers to do business with them.

This is likely a function of companies continuing to focus on revenue and their own products and services versus the needs of the customers.

51% of U.S. customers, and 66% of global customers, have switched providers because of poor experiences. In the U.S., these switches are typically among retailers, retail bank and cable and satellite providers.

Primary reasons for switching include:

  1. 91% are frustrated with having to contact a company multiple times for the same issue.
  2. 90% for being put on hold for a long time.
  3. 89% are tired of repeating their issues to several company reps.
  4. 85% switch because companies don't make it easy to do business with them.
  5. 84% are frustrated by companies that promise one thing and deliver another.
  6. 58% are concerned with inconsistent experiences across a provider's different channels.
I think we've all experienced these issues and have our own unique level of tolerance based on out past experience with the company.
DirecTV had earned my trust and referrals over 15 years. However, when they were unable to provide me with high definition service without even engaging with me to consider other options, all the equity they had built over 15 years was lost. 
Companies are generating and collecting a lot of data on their customers. They may have the analytical tools to glean tremendous insights into what customers need and want. However, all of this work, and more importantly its results, are not being seen by the customer.
Companies need to learn from every customer interaction and tailor future communications and interactions to make them more relevant and meaningful to customers.
I have written before about the need to have a dialog with your customers. Big data can provide a lot of analytics; however, at the end of the day, it can't tell you why a customer did, or did not, do something and what they were thinking at the time.
To this day, I'm not sure DirecTV knows why I'm not a customer. They're still sending me "win-back" mailers even though they left me in the lurch.
I have also written before on the need to have a system which allow you to collect all of the information you learn about the needs and wants of your customer, what they buy, their social media activity and all their CRM data. This information needs to be at the fingertips of every customer-facing employee so they can deliver a personalized interaction witht the customer.
Following are five specific ways you can deliver an improved customer experience:
  1. Deliver a more customized and tailored user experience. Let customers know you hear them, especially their compliants, and that you are addressing them. Actions speak louder than words. Use all of the data you are collecting and provide it to your customer-facing employees so they can provide a great customer experience.

  2. Create a seamless experince across all channels. Customers expect to receive the same level of excellent customer service whether they're in your store/office, on your website, on the phone, on email, on social media. Be prepared, and prepare your employees, to deliver an excellent experience across all these channels.

  3. Use technology to give customers access to your products and services when and where they want. Make it simple to do business with you -- anywhere, anytime. The easier you can make your customers' lives the more value you are providing them and the more equity you are building.

  4. Be mobile friendly. Make sure your website and email are optimized for mobile. This is frequently the first point of contact your prospect with have with your company and it's how 67% of your customers will open your emails. Ask customers about their mobile experience with your firm to understand what's working and what's not working for them.

  5. Engage customers on, and monitor, social media. This is a great way to know how customers really feel and what they're sharing with their friends and colleagues about you and your competition. Empower your employees to engage with customers on social media. 
The more ways and the more places you and your employees can engage customers, the better. Listen intensely to what they have to say.
If a customer complains, say thank you and then figure out how you will address the complaint. Let the customer know you heard them and what action is being taken.
Most importantly, do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. This will earn the customer's trust.
Be open to other suggestions from consumers. They know what they like and they don't like. Encourage them to share with you. If they don't, you won't know or won't be able to ask follow-up questions to get a better understanding.
What are you and your employees doing to improve your customers' experiences?
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Tags: consumer insights, dialog, empower employees, satisfied customers, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement, listen intensely, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

5 Questions to Ask that Will Provide Insights & Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Feb, 07, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

consumer insights accelerate sales









I have used analytics and qualitative research to provide consumer insights for more than 80 clients in 18 different industries.


The best insights come from having a face-to-face dialog with the respondent.


Regardless of if I'm talking to prospects, customers, channel partners or employees, there are five foundational questions that I've found will yield invaluable insights.

  1. What makes __________ (your product or service) different and better?
  2. What steps do you (or the customer) go through in the evaluation and buying process?
  3. What should __________ (your company) do to improve their product or service?
  4. What should _________ (your company) do to build a better relationship with you?
  5. What have I failed to ask that you think we need to know in order to __________ (objective of the research)

These are not the only questions to ask, but they're a great place to start.

I find respondents typically take a few minutes to "warm" to you and tell you what's really on their minds rather than telling you what they think you want to hear.

I also find that by letting the respondent know I'm not very knowledgeable about the industry we're discussing, they'll provide a lot more insights and details.

When interviewing insurance agents I provided a couple of insights to the Senior V.P. of Sales who had been managing these agents for 20 years. He was blown away. Since he was an agent himself, the agents he was managing likely assumed he already knew what I did not.

That's why I believe it's important to get down to the fundamental details of what the respondent does, why they do it and the process they go through in making a decision.

I always ask a lot of "why," or "tell me more about that," follow-up questions. These follow-up questions are usually much more revealing than the answer to the initial question.

I also find that wrapping up an interview with the "what have I failed to ask" question gives the respondent the opportunity to bring up subjects or situations that I would have never thought to ask about, as well as go back and provide more feedback on an earlier question that came to them later in the conversation.

Once, when intervieiwing fine paper merchants, the final question revealed that the CEO of our client was not able to personally visit a couple of groups at a recent sales meeting due to an emergency. While the respondent certainly understood the situation the CEO was in, He was disappointed he did not get the opportunity to meet her. By giving the respondent the opportunity to raise an issue we were not aware of, we were able to remind the CEO to reach back out to those paper merchants she may not have connected with due to the situation.


We later heard from the CEO that she had terrific phone conversations with those merchants she had missed.

An example of a seemingly insignificant event actually being a big deal.

It's amazing what you'll learn if you listen intensely. Respondents need to know you care about what they are saying before they'll open up and share specific details that didn't seem significant when the interview began.

  • Don't assume your management team is in alignment with what makes you different and better.
  • Don't assume you know your customers' evaluation and buying process.
  • Don't assume you know what the customer thinks you need to do to improve your product or service.
  • Don't assume you know what you need to to build a better relationship with your customers.
  • And, most importantly, don't assume you know all the questions to ask.

I am continually amazed by the number of online surveys I that don't any open-ended responses.

Surveys without open-ended responses tell me that the company that's doing the research doesn't really want to know what's on my mind. They just want the answers to their questions. Not a very customer-centric approach that will ultimately cost them.

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Tags: consumer insights, dialog, earn your customers trust, listen intensely, strategic positioning