Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Your Customers are Saying (and What They Really Mean)

Image courtesy of highersights
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by James Johnson of Questback.

How often do you listen to what your customers have to say?

I don’t mean have you heard (or read) what it is that they’ve said. I don’t mean when’s the last time you ran a customer survey. I mean, when do you sit down and listen carefully to what it is that they have to say.

Because what you hear, and what they’re saying, may be two completely different sentiments.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you already know that, “Yeah, sure!” can also mean, “If you do that, there’s a good chance all your things will be on the lawn in the morning” in the right situation.

And the exact same can be happening with your customers each time you reach out to them. What you interpret as good feedback could, in reality, be a complaint in disguise.

That’s why getting feedback isn’t enough. It really comes down to:
  • Listening to what your customers are saying
  • Understanding the reason behind it
  • Taking the right action to improve their experience
In this article, I want to show you which common responses are actually complaints in disguise. And, how you can better listen to the reasons behind what your customer is saying.

The more you know, the better their experience will be.

A Simple Trick For Getting To Their Reasons
Now, you’re more than likely not sat in front of each one of your customers hearing exactly what it is that they have to say. And there will be some comments you get frequently that you can’t find in this post.

Don’t fret.

A great way to get a deeper understanding of what your customer is saying comes from Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of Made To Stick.

After you read a piece of feedback, ask yourself the question, “Why is that important?” three times over. Firstly, for their answer. Then the next two times for your own answers.

For example, if your customer declines to say anything:
  • Why is that important? Because they were too busy to speak to us.
  • Why is that important? Because if they had something good to say, they would have made time to comment.
  • Why is that important? Because our service (or experience) didn’t give them what they were looking for.
It might sound simple and basic, but it’s a method that’s going to let you learn more from the feedback you’ve gathered. No matter how concise – or blunt – it may be.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common comments and what they really mean then, shall we?

Comment #1: “I Like Your [Product/Service]”

This would be really easy to take as a compliment, right? Just like if someone in the office was to tell you that they like your new shoes.

However, you’re just waiting for the word, “But…” after that statement. Because what they’re actually saying is, “I like it. But, I don’t love it.”

Well done for getting this far! You’ve got them into your brand, and that’s a huge step in itself. But now they’re looking for a reason to stay with you - or to go with a competitor.

That means you can’t sit back and hope that time – or convenience – will turn them into a loyal customer. Instead, you need to dig deeper and find out what you can add, or change, to improve your service and make that customer fall in love.

Comment #2: “I like it, but I also like [X]”
When you’re compared to another product, it’s easy to think that this means the two of you are on par. When, in fact, it can often mean the exact opposite.

If I was to use coffee shops as an example:

I really like the coffee at your coffee shop, but I also like New Tea Power across the road” could actually be saying: “If I want a Cappuccino, I’m going to come here. But if I want an Americano, I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The same goes when you’re compared to someone else, too. It means that they’ve found something in the other experience that they can’t find in yours.

You should be asking the questions:
  • Is this a common piece of feedback for us?
  • What does the other product/service deliver that we don’t?
  • How can we incorporate that into our own experience?
This doesn’t mean you should become a carbon copy of your competitor. Not at all. Instead, it means that you should be looking at how you can improve your own customer experience – and incorporate the missing elements – to set yourself apart from the rest.

What, on the surface, seems quite a nice compliment is actually a great learning experience for you. So be aware, and pick up on it.

Comment #3: They Say Nothing
You say it best, when you say nothing at all” is more than just a cheesy 90’s pop song. Despite being silent, this is one of the loudest pieces of feedback you can get.

Although, when a customer won’t comment, you probably think:
  • They didn’t have anything to say
  • They were just too busy to comment
  • They couldn’t find anything to complain about
And whilst there are times where this may be true – I mean, we’ve all turned down a survey because we were busy at one point or another – there is a deeper meaning behind all of this. Even when you think you’re just too busy to stop.

What you’re really saying here is that whatever the survey was about wasn’t worth your time to comment on. It wasn’t remarkable enough for you to stop what you were doing and leave the feedback.

But if you were asked to give feedback for your favourite – or least favourite – brand, you’d almost definitely have something to say.

The same goes for when people are filling out your surveys, too. They haven’t commented because their experience wasn’t good (or bad) enough to need a comment.

As Seth Godin once put it: “Remarkable doesn't mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to me. Am I going to make a remark about it? If not, then you're average.”

That may be a little blunt. But the point shines through. If you want your customer experience to be infectious – and worth commenting on – you need to improve it from where you are right now.

It’s great that there was nothing to complain about, but now the question is: What can you do to give them a reason to comment?

Comment #3: “Your product/service could really use ‘X’ feature”
You can easily take this as a suggestion of ways to improve. Then just stick it in your back pocket and come to it at a later date. Because, on the surface, it just seems like a piece of friendly advice, or a throwaway comment.

Yet, in reality, this translates to, “Your product really is great. But, it’s missing something.”

Now, here’s the problem you’re faced with:
  • Do you add the feature based on the suggestion?
  • Or find out more about what it is you’re actually missing and focus on how to improve that experience?
The answer here is to probe deeper. You can never have too much information on what your customer want, right?

It’s also a bad idea to just add features because your customer has asked for it. That customer may want this one single feature, whilst a large portion of your others might not; but they may still feel it’s missing something.

Comments like this then are a great learning opportunity for you. Because you may uncover:
  • A bigger problem: The hidden reason behind why they think you need that feature.
  • A better solution: How to solve this problem more cost effectively for more customers.
  • A new idea: A different direction, or improvement, for your product that you had never even considered.
Don’t pass up on this learning opportunity and brush it off as a simple suggestion. Take the time to find out why their suggestion was brought up and how you can address it properly.

It could just be the missing piece in your customer experience puzzle.

Comment #4: “It costs too much”
There’s an argument here that you should just let this customer slide by and keep your focus on the ones who value what you’re doing.

But there’s also a counter argument; you need to provide more value to justify the cost.

When a customer feels they can’t justify the price of your product, they’re going to complain that they’re paying too much for what they’re getting.

However, if they feel they want your product – and are getting the value they deserve – they’ll pay it without question. Especially if the service is good. In fact, 81% of customers are willing to pay more for good customer service.

To identify the problem here, you need to look at two separate issues:
  • Have you priced out your target audience? Sometimes the people who want your product, and the price you’re charging, don’t match up.
  • Are you adding enough value? Personally, I don’t need to buy my favourite bottle of Whiskey – especially not for the price it runs me – but I’m happy to pay the money because I want the way it makes me feel. That’s my cost-benefit.
Can the same be said for you? Are you providing enough value for the price you’re charging? Or, does the cost outweigh the benefit?

Sometimes, but only in extreme cases, it’s the first option. Mostly it’s because the customer feels the need to get more value for the price you’re charging. Because, well, money is only ever an obstacle if it doesn’t fit the value.

In this case, you need to make your experience provide that value for them. By giving them a service that screams value. That, at every turn, they feel a part of the system and that everything you’re doing – or that they can do with your product – justifies that cost.

Once you show them the value; they’ll show you the money.

There’s Always More To The Story…
Hearing what your customers have to say about their experience, and actually listening to what they’ve said, isn’t the same thing.

Gathering feedback is important for the success of your customer journey. But, what really enhances the experience is listening to what’s been said and acting upon it - going to that next level and unmasking what the customer wants.

Remember to:
  • Ask yourself, “Why is it important?
  • Not write certain types of feedback off; use them as a learning opportunity
  • Always look for the reason behind why they customer has said something
As Marsha Collier once said to me in an interview, “You’re a customer; you know what you like.” So picture yourself in the customer's situation, filling out your survey, and think about what you’d be doing faced with the same.

James is the inbound content creator for Questback; he's working to help people understand their customers, improve their experience and make the most of the feedback they do have.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Image courtesy of muffet68
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on October 22, 2014.

How well do you vet any process improvements or other changes within your organization before you make them?

I've used this quote, i.e., Pearson's Law with my addition in bold below, in posts and presentations several times in the past, but it's one worth repeating:

When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, and acted upon, the rate of improvement accelerates.


So I started thinking about what happens when we accelerate improvement – and that’s when the proverb "measure twice, cut once" came to mind. Why? Well, especially given my addition to it, I think it's important to not only measure performance to accelerate the rate of improvement but also to make sure you plan accordingly and prepare thoroughly (measure twice) before taking action (cut once) within your organization.

Let me step back a minute. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to my original question: How well do you vet process improvements or changes before you make them? What factors come into play and become serious considerations when you make those decisions? Maybe that's a silly question, but you'd be amazed how often these things aren't thought through completely.

In a previous post, I wrote about the change management process. But before we can undertake this process, we really need to do our homework. We need to make sure the changes that we're about to make are the right ones, that they have the right effect and make the right impact, where and when it's important.

In that post, I outlined some of the things you need to do to execute your changes, to transition to some desired future state. But as we think about that transition, what else should we do? What other guidelines should we adhere to? Well, measure twice, cut once reminds us of a few things. Since measure twice is all about the preparation, we should...
  • understand our customers
  • understand what they are trying to do
  • listen to customers
  • ask the right questions
  • measure the right things (take the time to identify the appropriate metrics and KPIs for your company)
  • measure what matters (to the customer)
  • analyze thoroughly (but not to the point of over-analyzing)
  • make changes that matter (to the customer)
  • think before we act
  • not rush into things
  • plan ahead to minimize waste and to save time (haste makes waste)
  • prepare thoroughly
  • be informed (to make informed decisions)
  • think about issues that might arise (conduct a pre-mortem)
  • clarify expectations about outcomes
  • consider all constituents
  • pay attention to details
  • not take shortcuts
  • proofread or QA
  • test our hypotheses
I know that’s a lot to do and some are likely duplicate ways of saying the same thing, but as Ben Franklin said: take time for all things; great haste makes great waste. Take the time to do things right – or take the time to do them over. Your choice. We want to make sure that when we make changes to policies, processes, the organization, or the customer experience we don’t inadvertently introduce more waste and inefficiencies.

There’s definitely a trade-off between speed and accuracy, and there’s also a difference between speed and urgency. We don’t want to delay any important improvements, and yet we certainly want to convey the need for change. But, at the same time, we want to do the right thing and do things right. You’ll find that balance as you outline the steps you’ll take to implement changes within your organization, whether you create your own process or use Dr. Kotter’s 8-Step Process that I mentioned in a previous post.

Does this mean we’ll always get it right, even when keeping all of this in mind? No, but that’s OK. It happens. But recognize and acknowledge it quickly. If, in the end, the change you made doesn’t work as anticipated, re-measure and recut. Adjust accordingly.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. -Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Raving Fans vs. Fairweather Fans

Image courtesy of afagen
Are your customers raving fans or fairweather fans?

Given that it's the start of the baseball season, it was timely (albeit, intentionally so) that I received details about Brand Keys' 23rd annual Sports Fan Loyalty survey results a few days ago.

Brand Keys interviewed 250 self-declared fans in each baseball team's area; insights from the interviews were designed to enable league and team management to identify improvement areas.

The top five and bottom five teams are as follows, with last year's ranking in parentheses:

Top 5 Teams - 2015 Rankings

1. St. Louis Cardinals (#1)
2. San Francisco Giants (#5)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (#6)
4. Detroit Tigers (#6)
5. Washington Nationals (#8)

Bottom 5 Teams - 2015 Rankings30. Houston Astros (#30)
29. Arizona Diamondbacks (#21)
28. Colorado Rockies (#26)
27. New York Mets (#22)
26. Texas Rangers (#19)

Their research gives teams an apples-to-apples comparison of the emotional intensity with which fans support their home team versus corresponding fans of other teams in that market. They note that team win/loss ratios only drive about 20% of fan loyalty. The final score isn't the only thing that matters to fans; there are four other factors that come into play when they calculate their loyalty score:
  • Pure Entertainment: How exciting is their game?
  • Authenticity: The press release defined it as, how well do they play as a team? Examples given were  a new stadium and new managers. Given that, and the label itself, it might be better to define this as being real or delivering on the brand promise. Do they do right by their fans and their players?
  • Fan Bonding: Are the players respected and admired?
  • History and Tradition: Is the game part of community rituals, institutions, and beliefs?
That's all really interesting. But it got me thinking about raving fans vs. fairweather fans. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know the things I've said repeatedly about raving fans (think about the Seahawks' 12th Man), with some new additions; they...
  • want to see the brand succeed and grow
  • are happy to provide feedback, good or bad, to ensure that that success happens
  • are less price sensitive
  • require less support because they are more familiar with your products
  • choose your brand over the competition
  • can't live without your brand and accept no substitutes
  • are advocates or, even stronger, evangelists, spreading the word about your brand
  • wear your brand, and want to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves
  • openly recruit new members to the community
  • are more likely to be using several of your products/services, not just one 
  • care about each other, want to help each other
  • feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves (think "tribe")
  • wait in line - long lines, early morning lines - to buy your products
  • elevate your brand, affording you favorable placement in stores and more
But what about fairweather fans? What's their deal? Do brands have fairweather fans, too? Well, let's start with a definition, as I like to do. According to wiseGEEK, a fairweather fan is...

...someone who is only interested in a sports team when it is doing well. ... A fairweather fan tends to root for the team that is doing well, ignoring that team if it starts to fail and sometimes switching loyalties, even to an opponent.

When it comes to the customer experience, how does that translate? Fairweather fans...
  • might be a fan because friends are, but they are not necessarily loyal/committed/devoted
  • are fans because the brand is popular, not because of their own experiences or love for the brand
  • might be a fan - or just buy from the brand - when there are deals or coupons
  • remind me of the Mercenaries segment of the Apostle Model
  • don't provide feedback or may only do so when things go bad
  • head to the competition at the first sign of anything going wrong/bad
  • continue to buy other brands, as well, since they aren't committed to only purchasing/using your brand
  • can't necessarily articulate why they love your brand
  • are excited about "the big game," e.g., launch of Apple Watch, but aren't always cheering for them during the regular season, e.g., don't purchase or use all or many other Apple products
  • take offense if you call them fairweather fans, yet know deep down that that's what they are
  • brag and talk big about "their team (brand)" when things are going well but are the first to defect when the chips are down (product problems, bad service, etc.)
Brands do have fairweather fans, much more so than raving fans. How do companies feel about them? Sadly, and quite honestly, they love them. If they can re-engage a customer - any customer - by offering coupons and discounts or by gimmicky advertising, then they can perpetuate the focus on acquisition over retention. And we all know that this is the focus of too many companies today - to simply make a buck, regardless of how they achieve it. But eventually, fairweather customers will leave, as all fairweather fans do.

Is there a spectrum of fans, where raving is the extreme? What other fan types are there? Which would you prefer?

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. -Oprah Winfrey


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Achieving A Single Customer View Through Cross-Channel Data Integration

Image courtesy of dsearls
Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for Confirmit in March 2013.

What steps are you taking to create a single view of the customer so that you can deliver a more-personalized customer experience? None? Don’t worry! You're not alone.

Why is this important? How do we achieve that single view of the customer? Let me start with an old story that provides a great analogy for the importance of that single view.
Three blind men, who had never seen an elephant, thought it would be great if they could at least touch an elephant so that they could get a sense of what it was all about. As they were talking, a man who owned a herd of elephants happened to walk by and overheard their conversation. He offered to bring one of his elephants by so that the men could touch it. He came the next day with an elephant, and the blind men each took turns touching it – each one touching a different part of it. Depending on the part they touched, they came up with different conclusions as to what it was: a tree, a spear, a fan, a rope, a wall. The three, however, could not come to an agreement that what they touched was, indeed, an elephant.
How can you understand or describe the whole thing without knowing the sum of the parts? How do they all add up? How do they all work together?

That is the risk we run into with multichannel and cross-channel customer experiences. Without knowing the big picture, we can't really understand who our customers are and what they are trying to achieve – and as result, we can't deliver personalized customer experiences.

Today, there are many sources of data from and about our customers:  surveys, POS data, CRM data, phone interactions, website visits, social media content, and more. The problem is, wherever the data are collected, that’s often where they stay. Data doesn’t get shared across departments. And when we have disparate data or data sources that are not connected in any way, i.e., they are siloed, then the customer experience suffers. At each touchpoint, customers end up saying, “Wow. You don’t know me at all.” And that equates to a lot more effort for the customer. At this point, we know that's a bad thing.

How do we make sure all of that disparate data is combined in such a way that we can create a single view of the customer and, hence, are able to deliver a more-personalized experience? How do we break down those silos? How do we get a holistic view of our elephant?

Quite simply, the best place to start is with a customer journey map.

Several years ago, journey maps were very basic, with a simple mapping of high-level touchpoints, or companies mapped the lifecycle and called it a journey map. At the same time, there weren’t as many channels or data sources as there are today. Today, customer journey mapping is imperative and requires a cross-functional effort to create.

First things first. A customer journey map is a view of customer interactions with your organization; it’s created by taking a walk in your customers’ shoes as they purchase and consume your products and services - as they try to achieve some task with the organization. To begin to create a journey map, you must first know who your customers are – and how their needs differ. Different customers have different journeys, so you’ll need to define your personas and then uncover and prioritize those Moments of Truth that are most important to each persona.

I call a customer journey map the backbone of your customer experience management strategy. Why? Because everything the customer does with you feeds into it, and everything you do for them stems from it. But how does that allow us to break down the silos and get that single view of the customer? Well, there are some basic tenets of journey mapping that must be adhered to in order to do that.
  • They link the customer to the employee. Included in your journey map is the linkage between the customer interaction and the department with which the customer interacts. In the end, this helps employees in each department - customer facing or back office - understand how they impact the customer experience.
  • They evolve as the business evolves. Journey maps are not static depictions of the journey; as your business, products, processes, etc. change, as the customer's needs change, so must your maps, in order to accurately reflect new experiences customers are having.
  • They require collaboration. Customer journey maps are not meant to be created solely by one person or by a centralized team. They must be built in conjunction with cross-functional teams. This helps to create buy-in and understanding, and opens the doors for data to flow freely across the organization.
  • They must be shared. These maps cannot just sit on a shelf or on someone’s desk; they must be shared throughout the organization so that everyone understands the customer journey and buys into the organization’s primary focus: the customer.
Does any of that sound like it can be done in a vacuum? No, right? Those rules explain how and why you’ll break down silos with journey maps. You’ll work together and share data, and - through that -  achieve that single view of the customer.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river, and he's not the same man. -Heraclitus

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The DNA of a Successful Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Hindrik S
What are the Six Pillars that Nunwood has dubbed "the DNA of a successful customer experience?"

I was recently sent an advance copy of the 2015 Nunwood US Customer Experience Excellence Report. The report focuses on best practices in the US market, investigating which businesses excel, why, and how UK brands can learn from US customer experience leaders. (Nunwood is based in London.)

The part of the report that intrigued me was the Six Pillars that form the basis of their assessment; the Pillars are: personalization, integrity, time and effort, expectations, resolutions, and empathy. (The Pillars are coupled with advocacy - likelihood to recommend - and loyalty to generate a customer experience score, which they use to rank the brands evaluated in this study.) They were derived from years of research and driven by the need to define what a good experience looks like.

From Nunwood's website...

The Six Pillars are the universal characteristics of all brilliant customer experiences. Strong performance across all six is shown to:
  • Increase acquisition, via advocacy
  • Create long-term shareholder value
  • Guarantee a market leading customer experience ranking
The report states that the top 10 brands (based on customer experience) achieve an almost 10 times greater increase in share price growth than the norm.

Nunwood refers to the Six Pillars as the "DNA of successful experiences," "the definition of customer experience excellence," and "pivotal to top 10 performance." So let's look at the Six.

1. Personalization
Defined as: Using individualized attention to drive an emotional connection. Demonstrating that you know the customer and his specific needs or circumstances and adapting the experience to what you know is key.

2. Expectations
Defined as: Managing, meeting, and exceeding customer expectations. Expectations are pre-experience beliefs about how a product or service will be delivered. These serve as a reference point against which the performance of an organization will be judged. Expectations are set through the brand promise, as well as through consistent delivery of the experience. Obviously, knowing customer expectations is the only way to meet or exceed them.

3. Empathy
Defined as: Achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive rapport. Empathy is the emotional capacity to show you understand someone else’s experience. Empathy can be taught. The report gives examples from customers about how employees show they care: (1) they pay attention, listen, and show they understand; (2) they go out of their way for the customer; and (3) they do a little something extra or unexpected.

4. Time and Effort
Defined as: Minimizing customer effort and creating frictionless processes. This is huge. If companies focus more on being easy to do business with, imagine the delight customers would feel, in general! Talk about expectations; I think this is an expectation we all have when we interact with a company. Why does it have to be so painful?

5. Integrity
Defined as: Being trustworthy and engendering trust. Integrity is an outcome of consistent organizational behavior that demonstrates trustworthiness. The top 10 brands demonstrate that they are not in it purely for the profit; they put the customer before profits and do right by the customer.

6. Resolution
Defined as: Minimizing customer effort and creating frictionless processes. While the definition makes it feel like this is redundant with Time and Effort, digging deeper into this Pillar reveals that it's more about service recovery. Their statement that "a sincere apology and acting with urgency are two crucial elements of successful resolution" makes for a better explanation of this Pillar.

Nunwood believes that the best brands will achieve success when they focus training, processes, technology, and culture on these Six Pillars. Personally, I can't argue with any of the Six.

In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts. -Jeff Bezos