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- Body Language and Gestures,
- Career Development,
- Customer Service,
- Elevator Speech or Mission Statement,
- Human Behavior,
- Marketing Communications,
- Messaging and Content Development,
- Networking and Relationship Building,
- Professional Speaking,
- Sales or Outreach,
- Series - Presentation Reviews,
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- Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship,
I just returned from my Thanksgiving holiday with family. It was an enjoyable weekend filled with warmth, lively and engaging conversation and a chance for us to reconnect.
To help pass the travel time, I brought along the December issue of 'Washingtonian' magazine. Among the articles that caught my attention was the one entitled, "50 Great Places to Work." What struck me about the article was the role "warmth" of the office plays in creating and sustaining job satisfaction (i.e., "Does it feel like a place you want to go to? Do you get along with the people you work with?").
As I read the article, it wasn't hard to see the value of family relationships in the workplace. When employees feel like they are part of a family, they feel trusted, valued and appreciated. There is a palpable sense of warmth in the office. People like coming to work and engaging one another. Employees are invested in the success of the company and are passionate about promoting the brand to friends, family and customers. For them, work is more than just a place to earn a paycheck; it is a great place to be.
How warm are the relationships among the people who work at your company? Do the people you work with treat each other in a way that makes them feel like family? Is your company among the 50 great places to work and, if so, why?
Your brand’s business return on social media isn’t always about return on investment (ROI). Sometimes, it’s more about the return on relationship (ROR) and how well it is engaging members, customers and other stakeholders.
During a recent visit to my gym, I tweeted that I was having “another great morning in my Lifetime.” What made this tweet fun was the play on the word, ‘Lifetime.’ I wasn’t really talking about my lifetime in the generic sense; I was specifically referring to the Lifetime Fitness brand of fitness centers – where I have been a member for the last 14 years. I included a picture of the brand’s signature atrium in my tweet, along with a mention of Lifetime’s Twitter handle (@LifetimeFitness).
Within the hour and as I was working out, I received a direct message on my iPhone from @LifetimeFitness. Picking up on the double entendre of my first tweet, the brand responded back with a playful tweet of its own: "@duanebailey Is there ever a bad one? ;) Thanks for the shout out, happy Friday!"
What just happened?
Aside from the personalized greetings I had received from various members of the staff that morning, Lifetime found yet another way to engage and acknowledge me – this time, over a digital medium like Twitter. It was a fun and memorable member experience. And it’s the kind of interaction that continues to build and strengthen my relationship with the brand.
I was just having fun in my Lifetime. While I did not purchase any additional products or services that day as a result of that exchange, it's one more reason I'm planning on maintaining my membership as a loyal Lifetime member for years to come.
If your salespeople are not in front of your customers, who is?
Chances are one (or maybe more) of your competitors is. And the human touch your competitors are providing to your customers is differentiating their brand and building the kind of relationships that will result either in your losing the account or slashing your margins to save it from an unforeseen competitive threat.
The power of the human touch is most compelling in commoditized industries. A few years ago, I wrote about my experience selling telephones. One of my largest and most loyal customers once told me and a group of my colleagues that our ability to differentiate our brand and to command a premium price resided within each of us.
You see, the things he valued most were neither the products we were offering (he perceived them to be the same as everyone else’s) nor the price we were selling them at (even when discounted, our prices were also perceived to be the same as everyone else’s). What he did value – and was willing to pay a premium for – was a relationship with someone who genuinely cared about and understood his business, was willing to take accountability for things that occasionally went wrong and who came to the table with solutions.
Every interaction a salesperson has with his or her customers is an opportunity to differentiate your brand and to build strong and profitable relationships. How often are your salespeople in front of their customers?
For more on the power of the human touch in sales, please see:
• Low Customer Retention? Maybe You’re Just Selling Mulch
• May I Help You?
• Sales Is Not a Spectator Sport
"Charlie" (name changed) shared this change of address post card with me. The design is nice and well-formatted. The message is light and engaging. There's just one problem...I noticed it right away...can you? Scroll down to the bottom for the answer.
No where on this postcard does the name of the company appear. Oops! The new address in and of itself does not offer any clues. Charlie is stumped and a little frustrated. Because of the mystery postcard, Charlie is focusing on the negative, something humans tend to do. What will Charlie think of the firm once a) he figures out which firm it is or b) the firm reaches out to rectify its mistake? Sometimes missing even the little things has negative big impact.
Most mistakes happen because of two reasons: a break-down in the review cycle or the project was rushed. Before going-live with your next important marketing materials, here are some suggestions:
- Outsource a review to an editor
- Outsource a review to a firm (e.g., marketing, PR, and advertising)
- Upon completing the final version, wait several days and review again before going live
- Ask colleagues outside of marketing/communications for their review
- Do not cut any corners or skip individuals in your review cycle. If you are under a time constraint, conduct a group review with as many participants as possible in a conference room
I still remember the feeling I had when my parents dropped me off at college for the first time. We said our goodbyes outside my dorm and then they were off. I was alone. It was a little scary, I’ll admit.
As I walked back into my dorm, it hit me. This was my time. A chance to build something new. It was a chance to carve out a niche for myself in this unfamiliar territory I knew as college. It was a time for building...new friends, new relationships and new communities.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize college dorm life offers many lessons in customer relationship management. The dorm is analogous to the office, the people you encounter are your colleagues and customers, and the world around you is your market.
Here are five lessons I learned about customer relationship management in my college dorm:
- The best ideas are hatched in an environment of open doors and spirited collaboration, where residents trust and respect the people they live and work with
- There is no pride of authorship…none of us, not even our best friends and professors, has all the answers
- The markets where your ideas are implemented and tested…the classroom, the campus and the local community…are diverse and unfailingly candid
- Your best memories involve people, not books or exams, and are borne of open doors and authentic transparency…the relationships you build in college will last you a lifetime
- It takes four years to build a reputation and a fleeting moment of selfishness or foolishness to destroy it…operate with integrity always and treat the people you encounter the way you would want to be treated
If you’re in the business of serving customers, think back to your own college dorm life experience. What lessons can you apply to your customer relationship management efforts?
This morning I was driving my daughter to school. Out of nowhere she says, "Why is that man not smiling?" I look around car to car to car without seeing any man scowling. As such I said to my four year-old, "what man?" And she pointed right in front of my car and said, "the man on the car."
It then hit me. I am bombarded with images every day. The bad ones pass me by. This is a great example of a bad advertisement. I grabbed my handy smart phone and took the picture below.
Changing the name of the agent, website, and telephone number, can you see the man's face? I wouldn't say he is grumpy or scowling. I also wouldn't say he is happy either. To me, in the world of customer service, a smile means everything, whether in person or on the phone.
Ensure you provide appropriate guidance, advice, and coaching to your sales/service/outreach teams to ensure your target audiences don't say the equivalent of "Daddy. Why is that man not smiling?"
Are you starting a new business? Building a brand? Seeking to turn around a declining brand? Then innovate.
Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Innovation is what makes you, your culture, your value proposition, your products and services, your customer experience and everything else about your brand unique. It’s what makes you memorable. It’s your source of competitive advantage.
Instead of following someone else’s best practices, take the lead. Create the future. Write your own best practices. Take some risks. Innovate.
For more on the impact of innovation on your branding strategy, please see:
• How Innovation Drives Sustained Growth for Your Brand
• What Makes Your Company Different?
• Accelerate Growth and Innovation - Encourage a Culture of Risk-Taking
I dropped my eldest son off at college earlier this week. He is an incoming freshman at Virginia Tech, a nationally ranked university with a main campus that includes more than 125 buildings, 2,600 acres and 31,000 students. As you can imagine, Virginia Tech is a big place. At first glance, this might seem like a place where newcomers might easily feel disconnected and unengaged.
From a branding perspective, one of the things Virginia Tech excels at is welcoming new members to its brand community – in this case, new students and their parents. During Freshman Orientation, my son and every other new student received a maroon t-shirt with the following question and answer exchange printed on it: “What's a Hokie? I am.” With that simple declaration, they joined existing members of the Hokie community and became the newest faces of Virginia Tech.
On move-in day, we were greeted curbside as we pulled our loaded minivan up to my son’s dormitory. We were met by several student volunteers, or Hokie helpers, who we recognized by the blue shirts they were wearing (a Virginia Tech move-in day tradition for incoming freshman). Starting with Eli, they welcomed us to Virginia Tech and introduced themselves by name. They took a few moments to learn more about each member of my family before loading my son’s belongings into a cart and transporting them to his dorm. My youngest son and I waited with the van. Eli returned a few moments later to let us know my son’s belongings had been safely delivered to his room and that my son would be back in a few moments with a parking pass.
To us, Eli and the other Hokie helpers who greeted us that day are the faces we call to mind when we think of Virginia Tech. They are the human side of the Hokie brand. From the moment we arrived, they helped us feel welcome in this new and very large community. As a result, my family and I are proud to say we are all members of the Hokie family now…as parents, a legacy and, of course, a Hokie.
How does your brand welcome new members to its community? Is your brand providing the kind of memorable experience that allows its newest members to easily connect and engage with the people who represent your brand?
When most of us choose one brand over another, we do so with an expectation. An expectation that the product or service will fulfill a promise made by the brand. What happens, though, when the promise isn’t kept?
This is where the resolution portion of your brand’s customer experience can help. Brands that provide disappointed or inconvenienced customers with an overwhelmingly positive resolution experience are able to recover quickly and restore the trust that may have been lost.
As many of you know, I own a Jeep Wrangler. One of the things I have learned about Jeep Wranglers over the years is that the windshields are particularly prone to cracks and chips caused by small rocks and other road debris. When my windshield needs replacing, I turn to Safelite AutoGlass®. Each time, I receive a professionally installed OEM windshield that is every bit as good as the original (i.e., the brand promise).
Recently, however, the rearview mirror that was attached to my windshield fell off (a not-so-uncommon problem, I discovered, in places like Las Vegas, where it is really hot). So I called Safelite AutoGlass® and scheduled a repair. The customer resolution experience was flawless – minimal effort was required on my part (they came to my home), the mobile technician was professional and knowledgeable, the repair was completed promptly and it was covered under warranty (I paid nothing for the repair).
My windshield is once again every bit as good as the original. So, of course, I would trust them again with the replacement of any future windshields...on any of my cars. And, yes, I would recommend them to a friend or colleague.
Think about your customers and the times where your brand may have fallen short on delivering its promise. How would they rate your resolution experience?
For more insights on what makes a great customer experience, please see:
• All Great Customer Experiences Begin with a Smile
• Communication Is the Foundation of a Great Customer Experience
• Anticipating Needs Is the Key to Customer Retention
What if you could gather hundreds of your targeted prospects and customers in one place on a single night? What if you had a shared interest in something that would bring them together? How would you use that to build a loyal community of customers?
On Saturday night, Pacers Running Stores gathered over 1800 runners and volunteers for the Crystal City Twilighter 5K. This annual event is organized by Pacers and is aptly billed the area's favorite summer twilight race. With a flat and fast course, a lively post-race party and a chance for me to meet up with my family at the Good Stuff Eatery afterward, the evening did not disappoint. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience, from start to finish.
Pacers races offer “fabulously fun courses, great swag, and an incredible group of runners.” Every customer touch point – including online registration, packet pickup, bag check, the start, the race itself, the finish and the post-race party – are true to that promise. The paid staff and volunteers go out of their way to make the events fun, the stuff we all get (SWAG) is awesome and the participants are united by their shared passion for running.
It’s also an opportunity for these runners – many of them Pacers customers and prospects – to benefit from the expertise the Pacers staff can provide when purchasing new running gear, apparel and accessories. My own enthusiasm for Pacers running events has spilled over into the brand and I am proud to count myself a member of the loyal community of Pacers customers.
I can hardly wait until next year's Crystal City Twilighter! How about you?
For related posts on my passion for running and its relationship to branding and customer communities, please see:
• Beyond Price…How One Small Business Is Building Strong Community Ties to Differentiate
• Why Personal Relationships Are Important In Personal and Business Life
• A Trail Run and a Harmonious Customer Experience
Let’s pretend for a moment you’re in the business of selling transportation to college students. What, do you suppose, is most important to them: price, time, convenience, comfort or safety?
After you conduct your market research, you determine what matters most to your target audience is time. So you develop a value proposition and service offering that guarantees a five-hour bus ride from the student’s college to his or her hometown. Your business begins to grow.
A few months go by and somebody else comes along offering students a faster ride home (time) with door-to-door service (convenience), an impeccable safety record (safety) and extra legroom (comfort) at a comparable fare (price). Your business begins to decline.
What just happened? While you were building a business by offering customers what they told you they wanted, someone else came along and, with a little innovation, came up with an improved business model. By replacing buses with cars, your competitor found a way to provide your customers with better and faster service at the same price.
The moral of the story is this: it’s not enough to simply ask your customers what they want and then give it to them. Brands that enjoy sustained growth are continually innovating and finding new ways to serve their customers. Sometimes, that means providing your customers with something they will value before they even ask for it.
Nobel Laureate and Physicist Kenneth G. Wilson once said “the hardest problems of pure and applied science can only be solved by the open collaboration of the world-wide scientific community.” If you’re like me and think there is an element of science (as well as art) to business, then I suppose the same can be said about the challenges your business may be facing.
Falling profit margins, increasing customer attrition rates, a slowdown in the rate in which new customers are acquired, an erosion of investor confidence and even a lack of brand awareness are all typical problems many businesses face. I know from my own experience leading sales teams in a Fortune 500 company, along with my recent roles as a project manager in two week-long volunteer service projects, the best ideas for solving problems often come from the very team members tasked with figuring them out. In fact, I‘m certain I have never met a team leader who actually has all the answers.
If your business is facing some tough challenges and not seeing the results you desire, it may be time for some open collaboration with the people in your community – your employees, your customers, your business partners and even your shareholders. Collaboration is the key to solving some of your hardest problems...and the way forward.
This week, for the second year in a row, I am volunteering as a contractor and will be joining several hundred youth and adults from my faith-based community to perform home improvement work in the homes of needy people living in an economically depressed area. The 140 or so projects we will complete include painting, roofing repairs, deck and wheelchair ramp construction, window replacement, kitchen and bathroom enhancements and even the construction of a new home (in partnership with Habitat for Humanity).
This program, which is called WorkCamp, brings people together from many different walks of life. Participants are assigned to crews of 5-7, with each participant responsible for a specific role regarding the crew’s assigned project. One of the amazing things about WorkCamp is seeing how people who have never met can come together to accomplish the extraordinary within a few short days.
As a contractor, my role is to manage our project to completion. While the goal is to finish on-time and within budget, equal if not more attention is given to the experience our youth and adult leaders will encounter during WorkCamp. This is, after all, a hands-on experience where everyone has an opportunity to learn about social justice, teamwork and home improvement. It’s a chance for all of us to touch the lives of the people we serve.
It’s also an opportunity for me to hone my leadership skills in areas like planning, project management, delegation and collaboration. And, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, it’s an opportunity for me to take some risks by moving outside my comfort zone and taking on projects that challenge me.
Together, my crew and I will share our time and talents to make a difference and, in the eyes of the people we serve, we will accomplish the extraordinary.
For more on servant leadership and how it can improve your ability to accomplish the extraordinary, please see:
• Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey
• Your Brand and the Community It Serves
• What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others
Today is the third year people can say to me, "Happy Father's Day." As an older parent, having children makes you (I believe) more acutely aware of your personal and family life. For me, it also makes me think of how grateful I am for my good friends, trusted colleagues, and loyal clients.
What positive things does it make you think of?
In an instant, I can always tell what my experience is going to be with a brand, company or organization I am interacting with for the first time. In most cases, I can see it. Where I cannot see it, I can hear it. And regardless of whether I can see or hear it, I can almost always feel it. In a word, it’s a smile.
A smile is contagious. It starts with your employees and how they greet one another at the beginning of their work day. It extends to how they greet your customers at every touch point in their experience with your brand, company or organization. You don’t need a magnifying glass to observe it. And you won’t see it measured on any report. You will, however, know it when you see it.
So the next time someone asks you to look into improving your customer experience, start where it matters…at the beginning. How are your employees greeting one another? How often do they smile when they are at work? Can you see the smiles on their faces? Or hear them in their voices? Or feel them by their presence?
Remember, all great customer experiences begin with a smile.
I read an article by best-selling author and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay (“Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive”) in the Washington Business Journal the other day where he cited research that shows “buyers are not reaching out to contact salespeople and sales organizations until they’re 60-70 percent along in the decision process.”
The simple truth is customers are doing their homework. They are going online and researching the answers to their needs and problems. They are forming opinions on who they think can best help them. Then they are reaching out to sellers for the one thing they cannot get online – a better price.
This is where the value of preparation comes into play. In today’s selling environment, salespeople need to provide value by telling buyers something they don’t already know…answers to questions like:
• What makes you and your products different?
• How can you and your products help me?
• How do you know you can help me?
The sellers who can answer these questions with thoughtful and relevant responses are the ones who are most likely to make the sale, often commanding a price premium even in today’s market. Those who cannot are the ones who will most often find themselves responding to RFPs, attempting to sell highly commoditized products at the lowest price.
I recently posed the question, “How do you really know what your customers want?” I offered a simple answer by suggesting the way to truly understanding what your customers want is through continual engagement with them.
I’m going to take that a step further today by offering another suggestion – the formation of a customer advisory council. A customer advisory council is a group of customers (and non-customers, too) who meet on a regular basis with representatives of your brand. Each of them would be paid a nominal sum for their participation and their purpose would be to serve as an external sounding board for your marketing team. Their candid feedback would be used to inform current and future marketing strategies and campaigns, with the intent of improving customer acquisition and retention rates.
The real benefit of a customer advisory council is that it allows you to define your brand, your products and your offers from the perspective of your customers and prospects. Too many brands make the mistake of defining these elements from their own internal perspective, based on the company’s needs and wants. This flawed, internally-focused approach was the subject of a 1960 Harvard Business Review article, “Marketing Myopia,” by Theodore Levitt.
The next time you encounter repeated customer objections to one or more elements of your marketing strategy, resist the urge to overcome them simply by offering more and clever rebuttals that merely aim to justify the needs and wants of your company. Instead, focus on why your customers are raising those objections in the first place. Place yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to understand how their needs and wants are causing them to perceive your brand, your products and your offers.
Ask your customer advisory council for help in seeing the long-term picture from an outward looking perspective. Their insights, and your willingness to act on them, could mean the difference between a great marketing strategy and a mediocre one.
If I were to ask, “What Makes Your Company Different?” how would your employees answer? How would your customers answer? Would their responses be the same?
This question is at the heart of your company’s marketing strategy. As noted author and Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter notes in Competitive Strategy (The Free Press, 1980), “differentiation…creates layers of insulation against competitive warfare because buyers have preferences and loyalties to particular sellers.” When companies lack differentiation and a product or service is viewed as a commodity, “choice by the buyer is largely based on price and service, and pressures for intense price and service competition result.”
So, what makes your company different? Is it price, service or something truly unique and innovative? Now may be a good time to re-engage your employees and customers to see what they have to say.
For more on marketing strategy, please see:
• Low Customer Retention? Maybe You’re Just Selling Mulch
• Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?
• Beyond Price…How One Small Business Is Building Strong Community Ties to Differentiate
LinkedIn looks to be launching a major game changer in social media. I have not used it nor seen a demo. My opinion is based on the press coverage, release announcement, and screen shots. Google was very successful in creating hyper buzz with limited gmail email accounts. LinkedIn seem to be doing the same with a waitlist (see the bottom). We will see...
Here is the information from the blog post announcing the new, LinkedIn Contacts.
Have you ever wished for a personal assistant who reminds you when your colleagues are celebrating new jobs or birthdays? Or have you wanted to quickly pull up the last conversations you had with people before you head out to meet them?
Today we’re proud to announce the launch of LinkedIn Contacts, a smarter way to stay in touch with your most important relationships. With this new product, we bring all your contacts from your address books, email accounts, and calendars together with the power of your LinkedIn network. Contacts is available both on LinkedIn.com as well as a brand new app for iPhone. Over the coming weeks, we’ll start sending invitations to try LinkedIn Contacts to a limited number of members in the United States.
With the new LinkedIn Contacts experience, we’ve introduced features in three areas:
Bring all your contacts to one place
LinkedIn Contacts brings together all your address books, emails, and calendars, and keeps them up to date in one place. From these sources, we’ll automatically pull in the details of your past conversations and meetings, and bring these details directly onto your contact’s profile.
Never miss an opportunity to say hello
Get alerted on job changes and birthdays in your network, a perfect opportunity to stay in touch. Also, you can set reminders and add notes about the important people in your life.
Take it on your mobile device
Stay connected on the go. LinkedIn Contacts is available as a standalone app for iPhone, so you can stay in touch with your contacts wherever you work.
If you’d like to learn more or be one of the first to check out this new experience, visit http://contacts.linkedin.com to join our waitlist.
I celebrated a personal milestone this week when I reached the 3,000 follower mark on Twitter. Later that day, a friend and I were having lunch when he asked me to tell him about my success. Without hesitation, I gave him this simple explanation. It's all about branding.
My experience with social media has provided me with some powerful insights. One of those insights is that developing an engaging presence on social media is a lot like building a brand. I started by defining my brand, a promise and an audience. The next step was to deliver on it. Consistently and regularly.
Let me share with you ten branding lessons I've gained from my experience with social media over the last four years:
1. Be yourself.
Your friends and followers will like you for the person you are, not the person who you think they want you to be.
2. Always be true to yourself.
Actions speak louder than words. Your followers will see through actions that are inconsistent with your identity.
3. Make it about them.
Share content your followers will find helpful, valuable or meaningful.
4. Engage them.
Embrace the notion that you are managing relationships with people, not selling something to them.
5. Be present where they are.
Establish a consistent presence across multiple social networking sites (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, weekly blog, etc.).
6. Avoid unexplained absences for extended periods of time.
Stay active and let your friends and followers know when you decide to take a break (or pre-schedule your posts).
7. Listen to your followers.
Your followers are smart. Listen and learn from them. Share their content. Exchange ideas with them.
8. Know that real engagement is more than just the number of followers you have.
Large numbers aren't everything. It's how you well you engage that matters. Kred (shown above) and Klout provide some measure of engagement in areas like reach, amplification, network and influence.
9. Never buy friends and followers.
Followers who are bought tend to be less engaged and are far less likely to stick around.
10. Respect and value your friends.
When it comes right down to it, they are the reason for your presence (and success) on social media.
For more insights on brand building and social media, please see:
• Brand Building Through Social Media
• How Social Media Is Making an Impact on Marketing
• Why Social Media Should Be Part of Your Marketing Communications
• 5 Insights on Marketing Your Brand on Social Media
• Social Media Is About Building Relationships
How do you really know what your customers want?
One of the most common answers I hear is, “Because they told us….” Yet, for me anyway, this answer only invites more questions. Who? When? What did they tell you? How did they tell you? Was it an interactive conversation? Are you sure you really understood what they were telling you? Have their wants changed?
If understanding what your customers want is the foundation of your marketing strategy, listening to customers is going to require more than a one-time investment in classic market research tools like focus groups and customer surveys.
The markets in which you compete are evolving. Customer preferences and wants are continually changing. New competitors are emerging. The one constant is your customers are talking. The key to truly understanding what they want is continual engagement – through social media, one-on-one interactions, public forums and even sales calls. Getting in front of customers and engaging them in conversations should be a required part of every marketer’s job – from the CMO down to the marketing specialist.
Your customers are still talking. When was the last time you listened?
If I were to ask who your biggest competitor is, who would you say? Now think about your changing competitive landscape and where you would like your business to be in five years. Who will be your next big competitor? How will you compete?
The world is changing. Your customers are changing. The competitive advantage that made your business successful in the past may not be an effective source of differentiation tomorrow. Businesses that thrive over the long term understand their current competitors and how customers respond to them. They also seek to identify emerging competitors before they become a threat. Early identification of emerging competitors provides companies with an opportunity to modify their existing marketing strategies in ways that allow them to acquire and maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.
Astute marketers are always on the lookout for the next big competitor. What are you seeing when you look across the horizon? Are there any relative "unknowns" who might be threatening to disrupt your industry with powerful innovations? If so, how will you prepare to meet this challenge? Will you be ready?
Recently I purchased an item from the online Disney Store. A few days after delivery the email pictured below, arrived.
Here is the text of the email:
Title: THANK YOU FAIRY MUCH
How can we make it even better?
We want to hear all those thoughts flying around about how we can make your DisneyStore.com experience the best ever. Please fill out a brief survey - it will help us make sure that your experience was everything you wished for.
It will only take a few minutes of your time and no one will see your answers but us.
Thank you for your purchase. And thank you for letting us know what you think!
It about 80 words or ~15 seconds to skim/read Disney gets across a) They care; b) My time is valuable; and c) Brand consistency. On the bottom of the email, you can see all of the social media links, sign-up for the newsletter, and event alerts. Very well done.
I buy landscaping mulch every year. I’ve been buying it from the same local nonprofit now for several years…until this year, when they were unable to supply me. So I took my business elsewhere. Another “customer for life” gone forever.
Mulch is a commodity. I can get it anywhere at the same price. Regardless of where I purchase it, the product and the price are the same. Delivery to my driveway on the 3rd Saturday in March is free. And the one thing that bound me to my former supplier – the relationship I once had – had grown distant.
The decision to go elsewhere was an easy one. It wasn’t hard to find another supplier. I wrote a check and walked across the street to my neighbor’s house to drop it off. On Saturday, while I was away, my order was delivered and stacked on the sidewalk beyond my driveway. My expectations were exceeded. In years past, my other supplier would stack the bags in my driveway, which required my having to move them to the sidewalk in order to access my garage.
Later that afternoon, as I went out and began moving the bags to the area of the yard where they would be emptied, my neighbor’s SUV pulled into the driveway. Five guys from the delivery crew – all friends of mine – got out and began moving the bags to the rear of the yard. We laughed and we joked. Although I wasn’t looking for help, they insisted. Again, my expectations were exceeded. I knew then I had found a new supplier...one that I am hoping to stay with for years to come.
I share this story because it highlights the importance of differentiation in selling a commoditized, low-interest product. Marketers who succeed in retaining customers for life are the ones who consistently deliver and who find unique ways to differentiate their customer experience. Nurturing customer relationships and exceeding customer expectations are two of the best ways to accomplish this.
Think about your products and how they are positioned in the market. Are you just selling mulch?
For more on customer retention and ways to differentiate your customer experience, please see:
• Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?
• Anticipating Needs Is the Key to Customer Retention
• “You’re Going to Like the Way You Look…”
In last week’s post, I spoke of the importance of providing a great customer experience across the various business processes that define your customers’ interactions with your brand.
I started with an assumption of customer dissatisfaction and the need to improve your customer experience in response to this feedback. I talked about the benefits of a great customer experience – increased customer loyalty, lower price sensitivity and higher profit margins. And I left you with a challenge – how to identify the process improvements that are likely to have the greatest impact on your brand’s customer experience.
The idea of looking at all of the various business processes across an organization – digging deep into the complex sets of activities that comprise their respective processes, identifying root causes of breakdowns, implementing improvements and measuring the impact of your efforts – can be overwhelming. To simplify, try looking across the various processes for areas of commonality (e.g., are there one or two things that can be done better across all processes to achieve your desired results?). These areas of commonality are foundational elements. Addressing these foundational elements early on often yields the biggest gains.
One such foundational element is communication – who, what, when, where and how you are adding value to your interactions with customers – at every process during the customer experience. Too often, organizations do great work and accomplish extraordinary things in service to their customers. Their customers just don’t know it because no one is communicating with them regarding expectations, status updates and resolution. As a result, your customers are left with an unsatisfactory customer experience that leaves them feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
In this sense, communication really is the foundation of a great customer experience. Finding ways to do it better across the various business processes that define your customer’s interaction with your brand will likely have the greatest impact on your customer experience.
I was at an all-day conference a few days ago. Each of the sessions was a panel. During the second session, one panelist said "That's a great question." Then it became a contagious virus. The second panelist said "That's a great question." And of course, the third panelist followed. Subsequently, EVERY single question was followed by "That's a great question" or something very close. The woman next to me leaned over and said, "I bet that's a great question" and we both laughed and cringed.
This prompted me to write the Tip of Week with the same title. I included the tip below...
Saying “That’s a great question,” detracts from your credibility, no matter what. If you are like some, you use it all the time hoping to make everyone feel positive about asking questions. In this case, no one feels special as it is used every time. And by the third or so time you use it, “great question” sounds disingenuous.
If you say it occasionally, then you alienate those that did not receive a “great question” response…immediately.
Instead, remain neutral throughout your time with your audience. Respond and acknowledge points without tipping the emotional balance.
Here are a few suggested responses after receiving a question:
- Thank you for your question
- Please (and gesture/point to the person encouraging him/her to begin talking)
- Thank you for asking that question
- Yes (and gesture/point to the person encouraging him/her to begin talking)
Your customers interact with your brand in a variety of ways. These interactions may include some or all of the following business processes: pre-sales, sales, support, billing, and customer service. The customer experience you provide at each and every one of these phases in the customer lifecycle forms an indelible impression of your brand and what it means to do business with you.
Now, suppose your customer feedback reveals dissatisfaction with the customer experience that occurs during a number of these business processes. How would you improve your brand’s overall customer experience? Where would you start?
Best practices suggest starting with the big picture. The big picture includes a vision of what success will look like if the business process improvement efforts achieve their desired results. It also includes the new skills and other tools your employees will need to succeed, as well as a clear and consistent communication of goals and milestone targets. Finally, it includes rewards – bonuses and other forms of recognition – for members of the business process improvement team when goals are met and exceeded.
Business process improvements that result in a great customer experience can be a source of competitive advantage for your brand. Brands that provide a positive customer experience enjoy increased customer loyalty, lower price sensitivity and higher profit margins than their competitors.
Visit us next week for ideas on how to identify the process improvements that are likely to have the greatest impact on your brand's customer experience.
I was at the gym the other day and couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between two C-level executives. The exchange went something like this:
“How is that _____ working out for you?”
“We think we’re paying too much so we’re looking for a better deal. I’m talking to a rep from a firm down in ______, who says she can get me a lower rate.”
“Let me know when you find one. We may want to give it a try, too.”
As a seasoned salesperson and an experienced brand manager, alarm bells immediately sounded in my head. Wow, I thought, the incumbent salesperson has no idea his or her customer is out “looking for a better deal” and is about to leave. What makes customers get to this place?
Here are some observations:
• On an individual basis, it would appear neither the incumbent salesperson nor the brand has successfully engaged this customer beyond the initial sale.
• On a larger scale, the incumbent’s marketing team has failed to differentiate its product or service on anything other than price, effectively positioning it as a commodity and needlessly exposing it to price competition.
• Finally, testimonials from other customers can be strong influencers. These C-level executives clearly value each other’s opinions and one of them is likely to influence the other’s future purchase decisions more so than any salesperson might be able to.
And here is what my experience tells me:
• If you are not in front of your customers, somebody else is. The key to a successful engagement plan is regular and interactive communication...beyond the sale.
• With few exceptions, selling on price alone is not a sustainable long-term strategy. Find ways to differentiate your product, service and brand. Make them worth paying more for. Give them a reason to stay. Customers whose only purchase criteria is lowest price will leave when they find a better deal.
• Establish yourself as a thought leader and develop an integrated marketing strategy that allows you to join conversations your customers are having (those conversations aren’t just happening at the gym, by the way…they’re happening online in social media apps like Facebook and LinkedIn, in college classrooms and in other professional forums and events, as well).
For more on the relationship between customer engagement and loyalty, please see:
• What Does Customer Loyalty Look Like for Your Brand?
• The Power of a Personal Connection
• All Customer Relationships Are Personal
Today I was working with an executive client on her storytelling. Tanya wants to use more stories in her meetings, presentations, networking, etc.
As part of the first step of developing engaging business stories, we develop a story list. This is simply a list of Tanya's favorite stories and a few notes beside each story title.
After sharing a variety of stories, I asked her to rank her favorite ones. When she identified her all-time favorite, I prompted Tanya to share it.
Nearly three minutes into telling it, I identified the "make me care" moment.
During our discussions Tanya agreed that yes, this was the most important part...this was the business take-away.
For you, two suggestions:
1) Shorten your business stories, generally to a max of two minutes. Three minutes if you are able to keep your audience's attention the entire time2) Message/craft the words of your stories around your "make me care" concept. Be deliberate
I walked into the dry cleaners the other day to drop off a new dress shirt and a pair of slacks. I am a regular customer and, as you might expect, am frequently greeted by name when I walk in. By the time I had arrived at the counter, the assistant manager had already pulled up my account in their database. He was able to retrieve my account without my having to provide my phone number (an impressive feat, given the large number of customer transactions they process in a given day). He also knew how I liked my shirts (lightly starched, on hangers) and didn’t have to ask me.
He must have sensed I was in a hurry because, when he discovered I was leaving new items that needed bar-coded labels (they use these to identify and keep track of their customers’ garments), he told me to go on ahead and he would take care of it. When I asked if I needed a receipt, he said, “No, I got it.”
I returned later that evening and, without a receipt, said I was there for a pick-up. The employee behind the counter quickly retrieved my shirt and slacks, I paid for the dry cleaning and was soon on my way.
I share this story about my customer experience with Crest Cleaners because it is a big part of why they have been able to retain me as a loyal customer for many years. The relationship we have built is one of familiarity – I could walk in, leave my dry cleaning on the counter without saying a word (if I really wanted to) and know it would be ready that night. It’s also a relationship of trust – after all, there aren’t too many places where I would feel comfortable leaving over $150 worth of clothes without a receipt or claim check. Most of all, it's convenient. It makes dry cleaning the easiest part of my day.
Are your employees making the extra effort to anticipate your customers' needs? It might mean the difference between customer retention and attrition for your business.
For other insights on the important role people play in customer retention, please see:
• “Refrigerator Rights” and Why Organizations Covet Them
• Be Different – Thank Your Customers
• Service Before Self: Why Strength of Character Compels Others to Do Business With You