Are You Having Omnichannel Dialogues with Your Customers?

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 14, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

omnichannel dialogue









Thanks to Swati Sinha of SAP and Kevin Poe of Experian for a thought-provoking presentation on "How Marketing Can Power Engagement: Using Analytics to Deepen Customer Relationships."


With more social media channels and apps, there's that much more opportunity to have a dialogue with customers and prospects.


Social media use has increased by 76% over the past year.


This has resulted in more personalized social interactions, as well as the expectation of instant gratification across channels.


It also generates real-time consumer insights in you listen intensely and interact with customers in-person or online.


We also have a real-time view of the customer which gives us information about:


  1. Consumer history -- purchases, engagement, channels for both.

  2. Future behavior -- able to predict lifetime value of the customer.

  3. Current context -- time, location, activities and emotions of the consumer.

  4. Identity -- attributes, public data, likes, interests, memberships, ownership, segments.

In order to have this information, you must be prepared to collect data from mobile devices, social media channels, websites, third-party sources and sensors and integrate into your CRM.


Doing so will enable you to create more engaging, richer customer experiences which will give you great opportunity to connect with prospects and customers one-on-one and provide them with instant gratification and "wow" customer experiences.


Creating a more responsive enterprise will enable you to:


  1. Create and shape demand in real-time.

  2. Rapidly match supply to a changing market.

  3. Deliver new products and business models more quickly.


Doing so will:


  1. Increase loyalty.

  2. Increase performance.

  3. Increase speanding.

  4. Increase customers.


However, a total reliance on data, technology and marketing automation can cause you to have a false sense of knowledge.


It's still about people and regardless of how much data you have about a person, you still need to have a dialogue with that person to really know what the person is thinking and what's driving their actions.


According to Forrester, 80% of companies believe they're delivering a good customer experience; however, only 8% of customers, from the same companies believe they are receiving a good customer experience.


Here are the four disconnects:


  1. Failure to have a dialogue with the customer to learn what they're really thinking.

  2. Lack of channel integration. Failure to provide an omnichannel experience.

  3. An internal view of the customer experience. Companies assume they know what the customer experience is without talking to customers to verify their assumptions.

  4. Unclear ownership of, or emphasis on, improving the customer experience.


Here are the five steps to take to close the gap between what companies, and their customers think:


  1. Customer data -- have an omnichannel, 360-degree view of the customer.

  2. Customer satisfaction surveys -- I prefer Net Promoter Score to ensure you know if the customer is sufficiently pleased with the experience you are providing to recommend your product or service to their family, friends or colleagues.

  3. Customer experience testing program.

  4. Predictive modeling with customer experience satisfaction results.

  5. Measurement of the impact of your customer satisfaction and customer experience initiatives.


Are you using all of the channels available to have a dialogue with your customers?


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


Tags: dialogue, customer experience, consumer insights accelerate sales, listen intensely, omnichannel marketing and customer service

10 Ways Professional Service Firms Benefit from Content Marketing

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Oct, 07, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

content marketing for professional services











I've had the opportunity to work on the client-side for, and on the agency-side with, a number of professional services firms including accountants, lawyers, consultants and financial advisers.


All of these firms, and the professionals that make up these firms, will reap multiple benefits from content marketing.


Here are 10:


  1. Build awareness of the firm and the professionals by sharing information of value, case studies and testimonials on a regular basis via blog posts on your website and in the social media channels where your clients and target prospect frequent.

  2. Provide a service, and build trust, by answering clients' and prospects' questions in an open, honest and transparent way. Make the buying journey easier by answering questions before they are asked or suggesting ways prospects should be evaluating a firm like yours.

  3. Gain trust by being an unbiased source of information in your area(s) of expertise. Be the first person, or firm, someone thinks of when they think of the services you provide.

  4. Become recognized as the thought-leader in the industry by addressing and raising relevant topics of interest and sharing your unique point-of-view on the issue.

  5. Drive traffic to your website via inbound marketing by having the appropriate calls-to-action on the information of value you are sharing.

  6. Generate leads for your firm and your professionals by providing more detailed information of value on your website or landing pages.

  7. Start a relationship and dialog with a potential client who has a need for the services which you offer when they respond to information you have shared.

  8. Nurture marketing qualified leads, with information of value before pursuing them as sales qualified leads. This will make the sales process much more productive for everyone.

  9. Improve grassroots SEO by generating more keyword optimized content on your website. You will be crawled more frequently by the search engines since your website is constantly growing and you'll be found more often since your site will have more relevant keywords.

  10. Drive sales. More visits = more leads. More leads = more sales.


A professional services firm has a lot of information of value to share with prospective customers -- from the solutions you have provided previous customers to the answers to questions that have been asked by your current prospects and customers.


The key is collecting, documenting and sharing the information of value.


If you need any help, please let me know and I'll be happy to put together a content marketing plan that will help you and your firm reap the benefits fo your knowledge.


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

Tags: dialogue, customers for life, trust, information of value, content, call to action

Be Responsive to Feedback

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 26, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

dialogue with customer







Whethers it's a customer, a prospect or influencer.


Over the past week I’ve had four situations where I’ve reached out to product and service providers I use, or might use, and haven’t heard back from one.


I’ve been eating Clif Bars ( for about 10 years after finding out I was allergic to wheat, milk and sugar. I eat them for breakfast or dinner when I cannot find a healthy alternative. Last week I opened one that had cobwebs(?) in it. After eating more than 1,000 Clif Bars I knew this was an anomaly and wrote the company, told them where I bought the product and the code number on the package. A week later, I’ve heard nothing.


I’ve hosted my personal website at GoDaddy ( for six years. After writing a blog and having a decent number of followers for nine months, I decided to try to get my blog on the home page of my website. Apparently that is not an option according to the CSR. Then I wrote an e-mail to complain and asked for a work around. A week later, I’ve heard nothing.


I’ve been banking at Wachovia, quickly becoming Wells Fargo (, for 30 years. I received an e-mail asking me to be kind to the planet and switch to electronic statements. I’m open to doing so but I would like them to stop charging me a $5 fee for something trivial in return. I responding to their e-mail with the quid pro quo. A month later, I’ve heard nothing.


I work in Greensboro, NC and my daily trips to Chipotle and the gym take me by a D.H. Griffin ( metal reclamation facility three or four times a day. The entrance to the facility happens to be adjacent to two sets of railroad tracks so all of the trucks going in and out of the reclamation facility get jostled. This past Tuesday on my way back from Chipotle, my tire was punctured by a metal shard just after crossing the railroad tracks. I wrote the owner of D.H. Griffin and the manager of the Greensboro operation. After a week, I’ve heard nothing. However, when I went by there for lunch on Wednesday, they did have someone in an orange vest picking up all of the loose metal near their entrance and the railroad tracks.


In every case, I’m trying to help these companies out or let them know what they can do to improve their product, service or image in the community.


When someone care enough to reach out to you with a thought, a suggestion or question, the least you can do is acknowledge their efforts and thank them.


Engagement them in a dialogue to better understand their needs and wants. Odds are they're saying what others are thinking.


If you don’t, someone who is listening will.


If you’re going to give customers an opportunity to provide feedback, at least acknowledge the effort they’ve made to correspond to you.


And, as I learned a long time ago, the first thing you say to someone who provides you feedback is “thank you.”


Do you thank your customers for the feedback they provide?


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

Tags: dialogue, be responsive, be real, connecting emotionally with customers

How To Improve the Customer Experience (#CX)

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Sep, 24, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

improve customer experience









Talk to your customers.


Ask them how you are doing.


Listen intensely to what they have to say.


Ask follow-up questions to let your customer know you're really concerned with what they have to say.


I am consistently surprised by the lack of contact with customers that top management has at some of the companies with which I've worked.


If you're wondering how to get started, use the three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey:


  1. On a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 is "definitely," what is the likelihood that you would recommend us to a family, friend or colleague?

  2. Why did you give us that score?

  3. If we have not done so, what can we do to earn a 10? 


NPS surveys are a great way to begin a dialogue with your customers.


If you're going to ask your customers what you can do to improve the customer experience, be prepared to address their suggestions. And, thank them for their feedback.


Improving customer service may mean focusing your effort on interacting with customers via social media.


When you have an actual dialogue with your customers, ask them what you can do that's best, easiest and most convenient for them.


Anything you can do to save your customers time and make their lives easier will be remembered, appreciated and shared by your customers. You will also increase the likelihood that they'll be repeat customers.


There's no substitute for asking questions and listening intensely to your customers.


It makes them feel invested in the company improving customer loyalty and retention.


It also gives you the opportunity to get insights into the consumer that has never occurred to you or your team. For example, have you ever asked your customers who they consider to be your competition? Do it, you might be surprised by their answers.


Empower your employees to engage your customers as well. The more your customers know you and your employees care about them, the more likely they are to develop an emotional connection with your brand. 

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

Tags: dialogue, customer experience, voice of the customer, empower employees, emotional connection, listen intensely, customer service

Customer Journey: From Funnel to Circle

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 16, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

customer journey









McKinsey & Company noted the change in 2009. The customer journey is no longer a funnel, it's a circle.


The traditonal purchase funnel of: awarness, familiarity, consideration, purchase and loyalty has been made obsolete by the internet and social media.


In today's digitally driven marketplace, the customer journey is more like a circle with four phases: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure and post-purchase.


In order to provide customers and prospects with information of value, you need to know where they are in the journey and what information they want at that particular point in the journey.


Begin mapping the customer journey by understanding all of the places your customers go for information before they ever interact with you -- search engines, social media, reviews, other online channels.


Understand what information the customer is trying to get at each touchpoint and strive to provide some information of value at that touchpoint.


The more information of value you provide, the more awareness and trust you build with your prospective customer.


Engage with customers during the pre-shopping, decision-making process. Do what you can to simplify their life, save them time and make a confident, well-informed decision.


When mapping the customer journey, make sure you are able to indentify barriers to the purchase process.


If you're able to remove the barriers, you've just simplified the buying journey, and the customer's life.


I buy running shoes from an online retailer. I'm also a "VIP" so I can get discounts and free shipping. However, this site is unable to recognize my VIP membership so I always end up having to call them to order what I want. A major barrier.


So far, they've overcome the barrier by being available by telephone; however, at some point, I'll just buy from Zappos since they are the masters of providing an outstanding customer experience.


Don't forget to follow-up after the sale to ensure your customer is happy with their purchase and that your product or service is solving the problem your customer purchased it to solve.


This follow-up is critical to ensuring satisfaction, building loyalty, obtaining feedback and referrals -- online and in person.


Don't assume you know the customer journey. Once you've mapped it, share your perceived customer journey with a few of your best customers and get their insights on what they really do and where they experience barriers in the process.


What have you learned by mapping the customer journey?


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

Tags: dialogue, loyalty, consumer insights, customer satisfaction, satisfied customers, customer journey, referrals

Voice of the Customer (#VOC) Isn't Just About Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Sep, 15, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

voice of the customer insights








I've used voice of the customer (VOC) research throughout my career to solve business problems.


However, don't let the term, voice of the customer, limit you to just talking to customers.


You can learn a lot by having one-on-one conversations with:


  • Your management team to determine is everyone is in alignment with regard to vision, mission, values and strategic positioning.

  • Your employees to understand if they know how they are contributing to the team or to learn what customers do and do not like about our products or services.

  • Members of your sales force to understand what elements of the sales process are working, where the process is breaking down, or if they're pleased with the quality of the sales qualified leads (SQLs) they are getting.

  • Channel partners to learn what you can do to make it easier for them to sell your products to their customers, as well as their perceptions of your products and service relative to other products they are selling.
  • Suppliers to understand how you can be a better customer and brainstorm on things you can both change to become more efficient.

  • Former customers to find out why they left and what you can do to improve your product or service to earn back their business.

  • Prospective customers to understand their perception of your brand relative to the competition and who they see as your competition.
I prefer in-depth one-on-one interviews for a several reasons:
  • It's more personal. Respondents can see and hear that you are truly interested in what they have to say and will open up and tell you more than you were expecting. 
  • People tell you what they are thinking rather than what they think is "politically correct" or what will make them sound smart to others in the room.

  • You can ask follow-up questions like, "Tell me more about that." or "Can you explain why you felt that way?" and get detailed answers to those questions that you do not get with open-ended questions in a non-moderated survey.

  • You can end the interview by asking, "Is there anything I haven't touched on that you think is important or relevant to the issue we've been discussing?" This gives the respondent the opportunity to answer a question that you didn't think to ask. It also gives the respondent the opportunity to add more detail to their answer to a question that you had asked earlier. 
Use surveys, use Net Promoter Score, use focus groups, use social media listening tools, use whatever methodology that makes the most sense to gather the information you need to make more informed business decisions.
It's amazing what you'll learn if you just ask.
The more you know, the more effective and expedient your decisions will be.
How have you used voice of the customer research to solve a business problem?
Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: dialogue, VoC, voice of the customer, vision, mission, values, listen intensely

Use Insights and Knowledge to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 09, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

 Farm Bureau sign resized 600


















A few years ago, after creating a tremendously successful campaign for Blue Cross and Blue Shield that reduced negative perceptions by 38%, increased positive perceptions by 19% and doubled inbound leads, they asked us to see if we could help Farm Bureau do a better job of selling Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.


Farm Bureau sells their own life, auto and home insurance and they are very well respected by their customers. 


At the time I began working on this project, Farm Bureau had 850 agents in North Carolina and those agents weren't coming close to making the annual sales goals that had been agreed to with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.


I recommended, and the client agreed, to let me have one-on-one interviews with 15 of their agents so I could better understand:

  • How they generated leads

  • How they scheduled appointments

  • What took place during an appointment

  • What worked and didn't work with regards to making a sale

  • Their perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance

  • Their customers' perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance


The one-on-one discussions with the agents were invaluable.


Each interview lasted anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes and gave me a much better understanding of the agents' mentality, how they went about their job and their perception of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance.


As I was presenting my findings to the vice president of sales, who had been managing the 850 agents for the past 20 years, he stopped me 10 minutes into my presentation.


He said, "How did you get this information? You've already told me two things I've never heard before and I've been managing these guys for 20 years."


I explained my methodology and hypothsized that his sales reps were telling me details they never shared with him, or amongst themselves, because they thought they were irrelevant.

Since they were all agents, they tought everyone was doing the same things and knew the same things.


While there were a lot of consistencies, they were also a lot of nuances that each agent had developed over time that helped them be more successful.


One, in particular, was an agent who only met with the husband and wife together at the kitchen table where he could see both of them simultaneously. He wanted to be able to see both decision-makers' reactions.


Based on what the V.P. of sales told me, this finding was subsequently added to the Farm Bureau agent training.


After presenting the findings from the one-on-one interviews, the V.P. of sales asked me to validate the findings, and see if we would learn any new insights, by conducting an online survey of the other 835 agents.


I created and implemented the survey. The results confirmed everything I had learned fromt he one-on-one interviews and provided no new insights since the online survey didn't allow for the all-important follow-up questions, "Can you tell me more about that?" or "Can you explain why you do that?"


The solution to the problem of Farm Bureau agents selling more Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance didn't come directly from any of the agents. 


The solution came from knowing:

  • There's a Farm Bureau agency on a major thoroughfare in all 100 counties in North Carolina.

  • Farm Bureau agents thought very highly of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance, even though they didn't receive as much compensation as they did when they sold a Farm Bureau policy.

  • Farm Bureau clients trust their Farm Bureau agents.

  • Everyone in the state of North Carolina recognizes Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance as the "gold standard."

  • Farm Bureau and Blue Cross and Blue Shield have tremendous brand awareness and equity. 


This knowledge resulted in the recommendation that Farm Bureau buy yellow plastic A-frame signs for every agency with a sign that says "Blue Cross and Blue Shield (logo) health insurance available here Farm Bureau (logo)."


The agents put these signs out in front of their office every morning when they opened the office.


Results: Farm Bureau met their 12-month health insurance sales goals in less than three months and spent less than $65,000 on the signs.


Today, you continue to see the A-frame signs in front of the Farm Bureau offices as well as car magnets of fans of local colleges and universities.


Use insights from your customers and your sales people to help you solve business problems.



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



Tags: dialogue, consumer insights accelerate sales, listen intensely, insights from channel partners accelerates sales

Know Your Customers' Answers to These Questions to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Sep, 08, 2014 @ 12:09 PM

consumer insights accelerate sales









If you think you know your customer, think again.


Are you and your employees having a meaningful dialogue with your customers?


Not sure what to ask them?


Here are 10 questions, beyond the standard net promoter score (NPS) question I recommend everyone ask, you and your employees should be asking your customers to improve the customer experience and convert more prospects to customers:


  1. How did your first learn about us?

  2. Who else did you consider before you decided to give us your business?

  3. What do we do that is "different and better" than other companies like us?

  4. What do we not do as well as other companies with which you do business?

  5. What social media channels do you use?

  6. What can we do to provide what you would consider a "wow" customer experience?

  7. What can we do to save you time or simplify doing business with us?

  8. What should we tell others to get more customers like you?

  9. Can you refer us to any family, friends or colleagues that may benefit from our products/services in the same way you have?

  10. Will you please let us know if we ever do anything to cause you to reconsider doing business with us?


The more you, and your employees, talk to your customers, the stronger the relationship, and the emotional connection with your brand, will be.


People like to do business with people they know, like and trust.



Customers also like to help those companies that are going "above and beyond" to provide a great customer experience.


Simply by asking customers for their feedback, you're letting them know that you are concerned with what they think about you and the experience you are providing.


Having a conversation, face-to-face or via telephone, with your customers is a great way to build trust and to let them know you, and your employees, care about them as individuals.


Listen intensely and record the feedback you get, ideally in your CRM, so you're able to review the feedback you receive and use it to improve the customer experience, empower your employees and create more effective marketing campaigns and messages.


What questions do you ask your customers that generate the most valuable insights?


Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales 

Tags: dialogue, emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, VoC, voice of the customer, face to face communications

Five Things that Create Customer Insights

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Nov, 05, 2013 @ 06:11 AM

consumer insights




Thank's to The Wise Marketer for the following:

Henry Ford was a smart man, and a great marketer. He said that if he'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses', but he knew better - suggesting that brilliance and progress comes intuitively, rather than by asking the customer what they want. It may have worked for Ford but, according to Kevin May, founding partner for marketing strategy firm Sticks, the idea that a customer strategy is even possible without proper insight is highly questionable today.

A part of the problem seems to be that the term itself has become abused. An insight has to be more than a notional premise for action. For an insight to be wholly valuable, it has to be at least five things:

  1. It has to be fresh 
    A real insight shines a light on something that previously had been hidden or undiscovered. Stale ideas and axioms aren't the stuff of insight, they're odd bits of received wisdom and verbal rubbish that people in the marketplace and beyond love to share. You're not going to garner much of an advantage off that sort of starting point. And what's the point of a strategy, unless it's going to give you some sort of advantage?
  2. It has to be penetrating 
    Superficial observations aren't insights, they're statements of the bleeding obvious. Insights go deep into the heart of the situation and land on something specific: the more precise the insight, the greater its capacity to help you reframe your perspective.
  3. It has to be relevant to the business 
    There are lots of insights, but no matter how interesting and inspirational they may be, if they have no direct bearing on the business - and how to build it - then they will be of very limited use in achieving a commercial objective.
  4. It has to be more than just plausible 
    It has to be probable. Just because it could be the case (in isolation) doesn't make it an insight. The more it coheres with all the other known facts about a situation, the greater the likelihood that it's actually true.
  5. It has to be capable of drawing predictions 
    The reason why insights need to be fresh, penetrating, relevant to the business, and more than just plausible, is because their real value lies in the extent to which they can be used to infer what is going to happen.


"Strategy only exists as a future prospect. But sadly, too much of the work of strategy is done in the service of retrofitting and post-rationalisation. It's not hard to identify the crucial factors in a situation and how they all fitted together after the event, but sizeably less useful than doing that work before the play unfolds," said May.

And insights come in many different forms. They exist at the macro level, where cultural, economic and anthropological factors are coalescing. They exist at the category level down to the level of basic truths about products and services. And they exist at the individual level in the hopes, fears, loves and lives of actual and prospective customers. But wherever they exist, eventually it all boils down to people and raw human insight.

That's not to say that the way to get the best insights about people is simply to go and ask them. People rarely know what they want, what will make them happy, or even what they think; interrogating them directly usually makes for poor information about them. Ford's reservations were about the source of insights, not the value of insights themselves.

But to suggest that Henry Ford built his empire with nothing but vision and gut feeling is clearly wrong. His vision was fed by a deep level of insight into people's feelings about mobility, affordability, comfort and freedom, and in his ability to mobilise a modern workforce and factory.

Much closer to the truth of Ford's real genius is another of his quotes: "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own". That is essentially what an insight does - and that is a customer strategy.

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

Tags: dialogue, emotional connection to the brand, consumer insights accelerate sales, be relevant

Consumer Insights Reduce Costs

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 30, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

consumer insights reduce costs







Doug Villone is the head of customer experience at Barclaycard, Barclays Bank's credit card unit.

Given the crowded credit card space in the U.S., Barclays' strategy for growing share was: 

  1. Reducing complaints
  2. Increasing customer satisfaction
  3. Reducing attrition
Given the low customer satisfaction ratings with leading credit card providers, the bar on all three of these metrics was low.
Doug began playing recordings of customer calls at company meetings. After a few of these meetings, participants began taking a different view of the customer and began validating their concerns.
Now, everyday at Barclaycard, a customer call is selected at random and sent to all employees' email by 7;30 a.m. so they can hear an accurate reflection of customer experience.
The emails helped employees see and hear how there actions helped create the customer experience -- be it good or bad.
Barclaycard instituted the "Customer Experience Roadmap" project that identified six areas of improvement and had senior executives sponsor initiatives and form teams to solve them.
One team delivered 200 improvements that resulted in a 70% reduction in complaints and saved Barclaycard $10 million a year.
A suggestion from one customer about improving the website saved Barclaycard a lot of money and improved the user experience for all customers.
Key takeaway: "In customer experience, sometimes the simplest things are the most impactful."
What are insights are you, and your employees, getting from your customers to make a positive impact on your business?
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book "How To Get Insights From Analytics" to Accelerate Sales

Tags: dialogue, consumer insights, customer experience, customer satisfaction measurement and improvement, employee empowerment