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Become Customer Centric - Get To Know Your Customers

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Mar, 08, 2016 @ 12:03 PM

 

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I just read a great article about Dominique Ansel, whose brainchild, the cronut has made him a baking "rock star" in New York and beyond - if he wasn't already.

While I've never had a cronut, and never will due to allergies (wheat, milk, refined sugar), Dominique has a great perspective on the importance of engaging with customers to become more customer-centric.

As he shares, "The experience is crucial to what we do. I always put myself into the customers' shoes and think, what would make me happy?" How many of us are putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers? If you're not, you need to in order to create informed buyer personas and to view the problem to be solved from the customer's perspective.

Other quotes from the article that indicate that Dominique "gets it:"

  • "It's about giving people something true and authentic."
  • "They're emotional dishes that connect with people."
  • "It's more important for me to interact with people in person and communicate with them myself."
  • "People can sniff out when things lack soul."
  • "Don't be afraid of trying: trying new things, or trying to understand the customer base and what they like."
  • "Emotions are very important."
  • "It's about connecting with people and knowing what they like and why they like it."
  • "Understanding your customer is the most important part of the business."

I've written blog posts on all of these topics, but Ansel's quotes get right to the point.

Big data will provide a ton of data that will encourage you to take certain actions and predict what customers will want and do. However, nothing replaces having a face-to-face dialogue with your customer to provide insight into:

  • What makes your brand "different and better?"
  • How did you find us?
  • Who do you consider to be our customers?
  • What could we do to make your life simpler and easier?
  • What could we do to provide a better customer experience?

When in doubt, talk to your customers.

 

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Tags: consumer insights, VoC, customer centric, face to face communications

Use Voice of the Customer (#VOC) to Reduce Churn

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Oct, 22, 2014 @ 11:10 AM

voice of the customer resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you know what your customers think about the products and services you and your firm are providing?

 

Are they likely to buy from you again?

 

Will they renew their contract?

 

If you don't know, you should ask them.

 

The insights you receive from a proactive voice of the customer program will let you know what is, and is not, working for your customers.

 

A customer who complains, and whose complaint is resolved, is more likely to be a long-term customer than the one who never provides you any feedback at all.

 

Customers that take the time to share their thoughts with you are engaged with you and your brand.

 

Don't you want to know the level of engagement your customers have with you?

 

Ask your customers about your transactions, as well as your relationships.

 

I prefer using a three-question Net Promoter survey. I find this to be an quick and easy way for the customer to let us know how we're doing and what we can do to improve.

 

Surveying heavy cell phone customers enabled us to learn how they wanted to be rewarded for their loyalty. By learning that customers wanted the lastet and greatest technology, we ensured they did and subsequently reduced churn by 9% and prevented $16 million in lost revenue.

 

For a swimming pool OEM, we surveyed 3,289 pool and spa distributors to learn what we could do to positively differentiate our products and sevices from the market leader. The insights provided by these B2B customers enabled us to make changes to our products and services that enabled our client to move from third-place to first-place in the industry.

 

As you can see, VOC can be used in both B2C and B2B markets.

 

After all, we're still people selling to people. It's important to understand what's on our customers' minds rather than assuming we know.

 

Consider spending time and money to prevent customer attrition rather than focusing all of your effforts on getting new customers. 

 

How have you used voice of the customer to reduce churn and improve the customer experience in your business?

 

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Tags: consumer insights, VoC, voice of the customer, net promoter score, connecting emotionally with customers, NPS

Use Voice of the Customer to Accelerate Sales and Improve #CX

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Oct, 13, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

voice of the customer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great presentation by Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian of Forrester entitled, "The State of VOC -- It's Time To Act."

 

How do your customers perceive the interactions they have with your company?

 

Do you know?

 

Have you asked them?

 

A customer's perception is their reality.

 

Emotion is the biggest driver of loyalty.

 

Do your customers have an emotional connection to you or your brand?

 

If you don't know the answers to these questions, you need a more disciplined approach to measuring the customer experience.

 

Here are the four steps to take:

 

  1. Repair -- identify problems that need to be fixed.

  2. Elevate -- make the people responsible for the problem responsible for fixing the problem. Hold them accountable. Document and report the results.

  3. Optimize -- learn what you are doing that pleases your customers and identify ways to continue to do more of those things.

  4. Differentiate -- understand what makes you "different and better" than your competition, in your customers' eyes, and continue to build on that positive differentiation.

Having an active voice of the customer (VOC) program lets your customers know you are interested in knowing what they think about the products and services you are providing.

 

Make voice of the customer feedback an integral part of your company's decision-making process.

 

Here are four steps to improve your VOC program:

 

  1. Listen -- focus on surveys, unstructured feedback and what your employees are saying about what customers like and don't like.

  2. Interpret -- have a holistic view of the customer experience and a 360-degree view of each customer. Collect and share what the customer is saying with management and employees. Discuss the implications of what you are hearing.

  3. React -- close the loop. If a customer complains have a system in place to ensure you resolve their complaint and you get back to the customer to confirm they are happy.

  4. Monitor -- measure the results of your VOC program, know the financial impact it's having on your firm. That's the only way management will continue to support the program. The biggest reason VOC programs fail is lack of executive support.

 

Following are eight steps to take to ensure your company, and VOC program, is successful:

 

  1. Be more customer-centric when collecting feedback. Give the customer the opportunity to provide both structured and unstructured feedback. Encourage your employees, and your management team, to make listening to customers a service that everyone provides.

  2. Listen to employees. Collect customer feedback in real-time. Your customer-facing employees are your brand to your customers and the one's most likely to facilitate an emotional connection to your brand.

  3. Integrate multiple data sources to hear everything the customer is saying about you and to learn the details behind the issues and potential solutions.

  4. Be stakeholder-centric when sharing information. C-level executives may want overall KPIs. SBU managers may want to know how they compare to other SBUs. While, front-line employees want to know exactly what the customer is saying and how others have successfully resolved customer issues.

  5. React faster to customer feedback. A customer who sends you a tweet expects a response immediately, while a customer who leaves a comment on Facebook expects a response before the end of the day. You cannot wait until you've triaged all your customer comments to respond. If you wait too long to respond, your customer will think you're either not listening or don't care.

  6. Prioritize improvements you want to make. Know your customers' buyer journey and identify the most significant barriers. If you don't know what these are, ask your customers and your customer-facing employees.

  7. Develop a business case to share with management to justify the time and money being spent on the program. Continue to measure, track and update performance metrics.

  8. Start small. Identify a customer issue. Fix it. Get feedback from the customer. Establish and measure success early and expand your program over time.

 

Are you and your firm using voice of the customer feedback to accelerate sales and improve the customer experience? 

 

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Tags: emotional connection to the brand, VoC, voice of the customer, consumer insights accelerate sales, customer centric

Use Social Media to Outsell Your Peers

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Oct, 02, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

social selling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Jill Rowley (@jill_rowley, #socialselling), sales reps that use social media outsell 78% of their peers because they:

  1. Establish credibility with compelling social profiles -- including professional photographs, accomplishments and references.

  2. Build relevant networks of prospects and like minded individuals that help maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospects and channel partners.

  3. Promote thought leadership that captures attention, builds their personal brand and attracts inbound opportunities.

  4. Listen to customers and prospects to understand needs, priorities and topics of interest.

  5. Measure their social activity to understand what's working, what isn't and to refine their approach.

Given that sales are all about relationships, then social media is a great way to initiate and enhance relationships. 

 

 

Are the members of your sales team using social media to make their calls more efficient and successful?

 

Give me a call if you'd like some help teaching them how.

 

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


 

Tags: consumer insights, trust, VoC, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, connecting emotionally with customers, people do business with those they know like and t, customer relationship management, channel partners, Trustability

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

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  

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

ISO Opportunity to Use Analytics and Insights to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 22, 2014 @ 06:08 AM

use data to accelerate sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

In reading the latest edition of Direct Marketing News, I came across the following statistics:

  • 80% of CMOs cite a lack of in-house talent to implement an effective omnichannel strategy.
     
  • 85% of CMOs attempting to implement omnichannel marketing are challenged by lack of access to data and inadequate tools/technology.
     
  • 82% of CMOs say inability to measure cross-channel performance is interfering with implementing an effective strategy.
     
  • 75% of retailers rate omnichannel fulfillment “very important.”

 

During a recent webinar, an executive from Adobe noted the lack of experienced marketing professionals with: 1) business logic; 2) buying cycles; and, 3) marketing automation skills.

 

During a meeting with the Triangle AMA Marketing Automation Special Interest Group (SIG) this week, I met a young man who’s been in marketing for four years.

 

He expressed concern that the companies for which he has worked did nothing to help him understand how his email marketing, social media marketing and marketing automation were supposed to be integrated with the rest of the firms’ marketing efforts.

 

While these skills appear to be lacking in many companies, they are skills I have personally employed successfully for numerous clients.    

 

I have used analytics to solve business problems throughout my career.

 

I’ve been using, and evaluating, marketing automation software for the past five years.

 

I have ensured that traditional, digital and social media marketing were all integrated and communicating a consistent message to prospects and customers.

 

Are you and your firm using the data you have to create buyer personas, understand and map the buyer’s journey and create a sales and marketing process that will generate more awareness, traffic, leads and sales?

 

If not, give me a call. I can help.

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: consumer insights, VoC, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, CRM, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, MQL, SQL, customer relationship management

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.

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

How to Deliver Smart Customer Service for a Great Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 10, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

customer experience = customer engagement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Scott Hays of Kana, Ann Ruckstuhl (#annruck), Kai Petzalt of SAP and Tim Pickard of New Voice Media for sharing their thoughts on delivering smart customer service.

 

Smart customer engagement leads to better customer service and a better customer experience.

 

An experience is something you have. Engaged is something you, or your customers, are.

 

To optimize customer engagement, you need to:

  1. enrich customer interactions;

  2. improve processes; and,

  3. optimize and empower your workforce to provide great experiences that will result in an engaged customer.

 

Customers expect personalized treatment. Personalization requires context -- "know me, work with me."

 

Customers are constantly connected via smart phones, tablets and PCs. This has resulted in a fragmented customer journey.

 

Touchpoints are neither integrated, nor leveraged. Each customer interaction lacks the context of an entire journey. There's tremendous dependency on historical data.

 

26% of a CSR's time is spent looking for relevant data. This results in an inferior customer experience.

 

The solution is customer journey management whereby you collect, detect and engage with the customer in real time. 

 

A better CSR experience leads to a better customer experience, which, in turn, leads to greater lifetime value of the customer.

 

Smart business insights are gained by having actionable insight while engaged with the customer on the phone, via online chat, via email, on social channels. You must integrate all of these channels to provide an outstanding customer experience.

 

Today's customers have more choices and they are more open to making changes if the level of service is inferior.

 

Social media is driving awareness of customer service levels and the "wow" customer experiences people are having.

 

Going forward, we can expect companies to be more proactive and better informed in order to improve the customer experience.

 

This is especially true for millennials who have grown up with technology and smart phones.

 

Companies must recognize that for millennials, the customer experience is part of the product/service, as well as the brand.

 

Key Takeaway: Provide customers with choice and make it simple and easy for them to do business with you digitally. 

 

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Tags: trust, customer experience, customer satisfaction, be reliable, be responsive, VoC, voice of the customer, empower employees, CRM, customer service

Top 10 Voice of the Customer (#VOC) Best Practices

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jun, 30, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

listen to VOC to improve CX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Allegiance for the following.

 

I had the opportunity to attend Allegiance's VOC Fusion conference in May and earn my Professional VOC Certification.

 

Sadly, most of the companies I see today are very short-sighted and are only concerned with meeting this month's/quarter's sales goals.

 

They do not care about establishing a long-term relationship with the customer that will lead to greater lifetime customer value and lower marketing investment.

 

Here are the 10 best practices:

  1. Listen, and act on, the voice of the customer. Listen intensely. Let your customers know you care about them and what they have to say. Thank them profusely for giving you feedback -- both positive and negative.  

  2. Open the gates to customer feedback. Ask for customer feedback. Let your customer know you're committed to improving but you need their help to do so.

  3. Make VOC feedback collection part of the routine for you and your employees. Make sure your employees understand the value of consumer feedback, both positive and negative. Don't penalize employees for negative feedback. Empower them to address the problem.

  4. Know what the feedback says. Take the time to read comments and answers to open-ended questions. If you aren't clear about what the feedback is saying, reach out to the customer and have a conversation with them. They'll be shocked that you cared enough to reach out and talk to them.
     
  5. Take real and deliberate action. The management team needs to agree on what the next steps are based on the quantitative and qualitative feedback. Root cause analysis may be needed to understand why a problem seems to be recurring. Assign a team, including frontline employees, to map the customer journey, you'll be amazed at what's falling through the cracks between the silos of your organization.

  6. Close the feedback loop. Let your customers know you appreciate their feedback, you heard what they had to say and what you are, or are not, going to do as a result of their feedback.

  7. Tell the world. Tell them you are committed to providing an outstanding customer experience and then share with them what steps you are going to take to do so. What you've learned and the steps you are taking as a result of what you've learned are great blog topics.

  8. Bring feedback to life internally. Share customer feedback and performance scores with your entire team. Empower and engage your team to share their stories and experiences. Your front-line employees can validate and add color to the feedback.

  9. Match employee behavior to discoveries. Encourage your employees to engage customers in a dialog to better understnad their needs and wants. Encourage and empower employees to provide an outstanding customer experience or to fix a customer's problem on the spot without having to go to their manager for approval.

  10. Celebrate success by sharing superior customer service stories with others in your organization. Nordstron and Ritz Carlton employees are proud to share their customer service stories, it's part of their culture of providing consistently outstanding customer service. What superior customer service stories are shared in your firm? 

 

Four additional steps you can take:

 

  1. Keep up steps 1 through 10 above. A commitment to provide outstanding customer service should never end. However, as c-level executives more concerned about making quarterly numbers and getting their quarterly bonus, they take their eyes off the commitment to, and the ultimate value of, providing outstanding customer service. Make customer service delivery as important as revenue goals.

  2. Measure. I find a three-question NPS survey to be very easy, very informative and very useful for creating a dialog and letting your customers, and employees, know you care. 

  3. Improve. Every company committed to providing an outstanding customer experiece understands that it's a "journey, not a destination" and that their customers will bring them new opportunities for improvement every day. 

  4. Engage employees to listen and provide feedback. Your employees have a better idea of what's an issue for your customers than you do. They interact with them daily. Listen, and act on, what your employees have to say about providing an outstanding customer experience.

If you want to have a profitable, long-term, viable business you can positively differentiate yourself from your competition by providing outstanding customer service.

 

The customer services bar is still very low.

 

Very few companies are listening intensely to the voice of the customer.

 

Companies that provide the best customer service, and make an emotional connection with their customers, will be more successful than those that do not.

 

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Tags: emotional connection to the brand, customer experience, customer satisfaction, VoC, voice of the customer, listen intensely