Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Archive for June, 2007

Friday Musings

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 29, 2007

people.jpg Rockin’ on Friday

Heard on KPRI 102.1 San Diego this morning:

Marketers wanting to build customer loyalty can take a lesson from musician Chris Isaak.  He is one of the few rockers who will stay after a concert and sign anything fans want him to sign, and stay until everything is signed.  When asked by the KPRI morning DJ why he does this, Chris shared a story from when he was a kid.  One of his favorite musicians growing up was B.B. King.  Chris tried to go to one of B.B. King’s concerts and was stopped by the guard at the door, who told him it would cost $8 to get in.  Chris only had $2.  Feeling sorry for him, the guard let him in the concert.  Afterwards, he got to meet B.B. King, who asked Chris if he wanted an autograph (apparently, B.B. stayed after concerts to meet the needs of all his fans).  Chris commented to the DJ that the way to get in with people is to be nice to them.  Chris seems to be one of the nicest rock-and-rollers out on tour!

(For more Rockin’ on Friday, be sure to check out Lewis Green’s blog, where he focuses on rock ‘n roll every Friday!  Today’s post is about Lou Reed.  Rock on, Lewis!)

Support vs. Sales Treatment 

I have blogged before about how one is treated differently when one is a support customer versus a sales customer.  I had a perfect example of that last week with AT&T.  Our DSL modem completely stopped working (wouldn’t even power on) last Friday morning, and I called AT&T Technical Support to help me troubleshoot it. I was first connected with Ben (from India), who walked me through the usual script (“We are very sorry you are having problems with your DSL modem today, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you”).  After determining it was not a simple solution (we had cycled power, unplugged everything then plugged it all in again, etc)., I asked Ben how long these modems should last (I had it less than 2 years).  He did a “warm transfer” to Angel (also from India) who I was told could help me diagnose the modem.  Angel walked me through another script, very similar to the one Ben had walked me through (but this time, I was told to take the model into another room to plug it in!).  After a few more pointless exercises, and modem was deemed officially dead.  I again asked the question of how long this modem should last.  Angel told me “we have many customers who have been using your type of modem for several years, and they are still working fine).  This did not make me feel better; I actually felt worse, as this is the second AT&T DSL modem I have had in the past 4 years!  Angel offered to transfer me to a sales rep so they could help me figure out what my options are (translation: sell me a new modem).  She said the sales rep might be able to do something for me, since I had bad luck with the modems.

Enter Michelle from the “retention center” in Los Angeles, California.  I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy another modem from them, and I shared my story.  She said, “What would you like me to do?”  I asked her if there were any deals she could get for me.  15 minutes later, I had a new modem on its way, a $50 rebate for the modem (a promo going on), and a $50 VISA Gift Card coming to me.  I asked Michelle if the gift card was part of the promo.  She said, “No, that is from me to you.”  After chit-chatting a bit more while the transaction was being processed, the call ended pleasantly and with my needs being met.

How do I feel about my experience?  Well, the support transaction felt frustrating.  I had a dead modem, and they couldn’t fix it.  OK, that was not the frustrating part.  I was not really “talked to” with support.  I was grilled via a script, which felt very impersonal.  The only empathy was also completely scripted.  It didn’t feel genuine.  Of course, when a customer has an issue, they don’t necessarily want to sit around and chit-chat!  But something a bit more warm-feeling would be a good start.  The sales transaction felt like talking to a friend (no, really, it did!).  She was professional yet caring, and we talked about her vacation coming up, among other things, while we waited for processes to be performed by the computers.  It was very pleasant.

I am glad I stayed on with them and talked to Sales.  If I had hung up before that, I would have a bad taste in my mouth from the support experience.  Every touchpoint counts with our customers, especially those where there are a lot of emotions involved!  Customer service and support, often viewed only as a cost center, needs to be viewed as a key customer contact.

Next week, I will share the interview I had recently with Diane Berenbaum at Communico, author of the book How to Talk to Customers, and you will see more about how to make the customer service experience shine.

(Photo credit: solarseven)


Posted in Customer experience | 9 Comments »

Can the customer experience be managed?

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 28, 2007

puppet.jpg Let’s think about the word manage

From Merriam Webster’s online dictionary:

1 : to handle or direct with a degree of skill: as a : to make and keep compliant <can’t manage their child> b : to treat with care <managed his resources carefully> c : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of <manage a business> <manage a bond issue> <manage a baseball team>
2 : to work upon or try to alter for a purpose <manage the press>
3 : to succeed in accomplishing <managed to escape from prison>
4 : to direct the professional career of <an agency that manages entertainers>

As I was reading a blog post from David Armano on Total Design, it caused me to start thinking about what we really mean when we say we want to manage our customer’s (or user’s) experience.  Can we truly “direct with a degree of skill” all the pieces?  David references Adam Greenfield’s excellent write-up about the shift towards “Total Experience”.  Here is the text that made me stop and think:

“Ensuring that all phases and aspects of someone’s interaction with a product/service ecology align with the desired vision requires that something little short of total control be asserted over their choices. This, in turn, leaves little room for the self-evident (and lovely) messiness of our lives, not much in the way of flexibility should the scenario of use deviate to any significant degree from that contemplated at design time.”

David has paired some of his insightful images alongside excerpts from Adam’s post, so I highly encourage you to go and check them out on his site.  

When organizations tell me they want help to “manage” the customer’s experience, they often mean they want help in creating a perfectly branded experience where every step is moving the customer closer to that organization’s goals.  They want to exert total control over the customer and their experience.

I agree with Adam and David.  We can no more “manage” our customer’s experience than we can control the rising of the sun, as our customers all have free will.  They may choose to take the path we have laid out for them to take, or they may blaze their own trail.  So where can we have an influence?

Roger von Oech moves us in the right direction with his post on getting good things from the unexpected.  Customers blazing their own trails show us a lot about their way of thinking, their desires, and how they want to be served.  What can we do as an organization?  We can engage and interact with them.  As Roger states:

“…it’s important to get engaged with the process and do something. Not too many surprising things come to those who sit around waiting for something to happen.”

Blogs provide one good method of interaction, but any customer touchpoint can give us this opportunity.  Each time a customer engages with us, regardless of where it is in the customer lifecycle, we can interact and learn from them how best to meet their needs.

The “management”, then, should be on the internal side.  Managing our customer’s experience becomes a strategy for the organization to ensure we are engaging with our customers at each opportunity, we have a structure to capture what we learn from those interactions, and we use it to help meet the needs of our customers at each place where they touch our organization.  If we do it right, customers will be delighted with our offerings, they will continue to purchase from us, and they will tell others to do the same.

(Graphic: caraman)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing | 6 Comments »

Customer Lenses

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 25, 2007

three-d-glasses.jpg Have you asked your customers lately how they view your business? 

Mary Schmidt of Mary’s Blog shares how customer perceptions vary.  Here is how she describes it:

We humans see everything through our own personal prisms (experiences, preferences, prejudices, moods, hormonal fluctuations). That means everything – life, business, religion, politics…someone’s choice of socks…

Customers are always wearing a different “hat”, or looking through a personal prism. I may be a businesswoman and blogger now, but in 30 minutes, I may be picking up the kids with my “mom” hat on my head and trying to decide what is for dinner.

How I perceive what someone has to offer is based on my point of view, prism, or customer lens.  Marketing is most effective when it looks past our demographics, even our behaviors, and looks to showing us how a product or service can meet our needs.  When I am wearing my business hat, I am not going to be interested in the email from a retailer who has an online sale (at that moment).  When I am trying to get my DSL line up and running again, I am not going to be interested in a discussion about getting my cell phone switched over to that carrier.

Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent has a good example of understanding others from the world of photography.  In her post on what we can learn from the Italian photographer Guido Harari, she shares this insight about his portraits, which applies equally well to understanding customers:

It’s about the subject, the person in the photograph, not about the photographer. When we approach a project, are we patient enough to look at it from a natural angle? In other words, can we let go of our opinions and biases and immerse ourselves into the question, the problem posed? Are we in listening mode?

If you are listening to your customers, you will begin to understand them.  When you really understand them, you understand these things:

  • The lenses they are currently using to view your offer
  • Their needs in this situation
  • What they are trying to accomplish

Ryan Karpeles of Living Lightbulbs blogged about what it takes to meet the needs of others.  He outlines these best practices for marketing:

Listen, don’t talk.
Focus on their needs, not yours.
Care for others, and they’ll care about you.
Provide value, and you’ll be valued.

I couldn’t agree more.

(Photo credit: nruboc)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer strategy, Marketing | 12 Comments »

Blogs That Make Me Think: The Thinking Blogger Award

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 22, 2007

thinkingblogger.jpg I have been honored to be given the Thinking Blogger award by two wonderful bloggers!  First, my Z-list friend Lewis Green nominated me in this post.   Lewis shares his passion for business and customers on his blog, and I can always find a wise word in his posts.  I look forward to his new book!  Second, my new blogging friend Matt Dickman has nominated me in this post.  Matt’s blog is a great place to go if you like a solid mix of the lastest marketing trends with a techy spin (perfect for me!).  Thank you to both of you gentlemen!! I am truly honored.

The meme started with Ilker Yoldas wanting to highlight blogs that are truly “meaty” with great content.  He started the Thinking Blogs Award to help publicize great blogs.

Now it is my turn to share some of my favorite thinking blogs with you.  My apologies if some of you have already been nominated!  I highly recommend you give these a read.

Five Blogs That Make Me Think

Mack Collier: The Viral Garden.  Mack is a thinker extraordinaire and builder of communities.  He is always positive, and I love the way he encourages companies to engage in conversation with their customers.  Thanks for the encouragement, Mack!

Ron Shevlin: Marketing ROI.   Ron comes from the banking world and tackles marketing and customer-focus issues in a very direct fashion on his blog.  I also enjoy the many doses of humor he interjects throughout, such as this post on Rejected Titles for the Sopranos.  Thanks for the laughs and insight, Ron!

Steve Woodruff: Sticky Figure.  Steve has been the sheriff of our BrandingWire posse (a group of 12 bloggers who tackle one branding challenge monthly), and his posts have gotten many in the blogosphere thinking!   He also created a great Marketing Portal, which is an easy place to read all your favorite blogs in one spot.  Thanks for getting the collaboration going, Steve!

Doug Meacham: NextUp.   Doug is a blogger who straddles the border of technology and customer experience.  He has done some amazing things in his career to further the customer experience, some of which you can get a feel for in his lastest series of posts on Disney World experiences.  Thanks for keeping the faith, Doug!

Roger Anderson: Modern Magellans.  Roger puts forward many thought-provoking posts on his blog for entrepreneurs, as well as in his new book Maps for Modern Magellans (which I will be reviewing soon!).  Thanks for the challenging business discussions, Roger!

Posted in Customer experience | 17 Comments »

What Makes Great Customer Service?

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 20, 2007

customer-service.jpg As a regular attender at Ben and Jackie’s Church of the Customer, I want to help highlight their call for assistance.  Jackie is speaking later this week (any day now!) to a large wireless carrier, and she is looking for stories about a WOW customer service experience in the wireless/telecom industry, especially those that are about call centers.

She has received various stories so far, some good, some generic, and some from people who are just frustrated with service.  I highly recommend going to her site and reading the stories in the comments for yourself!  I shared the story from a previous post that was sent to me by Scott Westerman about the importance of the human factor (not directly about call centers, but a great story!).  Please go to her blog and share your story in her comment section; don’t forget to tell us about it here, too!

As I read the comments, I noticed that the positive stories have many common threads with stories I have discussed over the past few months when talking about great customer service.  There are certain “customer service success skills” which are consistent regardless of the channel – online, phone, or retail.  Here are seven key success factors I have observed for a great customer service interaction with customers:

  1. Answer quickly.  Customers want their call to be answered quickly, as well as have their question answered/problem resolved in minimal time.
  2. Have a great attitude.  Customers are most satisfied when they speak with a phone rep who is courteous, polite, friendly, and professional.  Genuinely care.
  3. Treat customers with respect.  Most customers are calling because they have a question that they couldn’t figure out the answer to themselves.  This can be challenging when some callers are irate, but the best agents are able to calm the caller enough to speak with them coherently (most of the time!).
  4. Take responsibility for the outcome of the call.  Customers are most satisfied when they don’t get bounced around from one agent to another.
  5. Be knowledgeable on your subject.  Make sure you are able to answer most questions or get to the information quickly.
  6. Be a good listener.  Listening to customers helps them feel they can trust you and your company.
  7. Follow up.  If you say you will do something, do it, then let the customer know you did it.  Customers seem to appreciate someone who follows through and follows up to make sure all is OK (when appropriate).  It is amazing how many people miss this one!

In one of the stories on Jackie’s post, a customer almost felt like hugging the rep at the end.  Now that is empathy! 

One of my goals on this blog is to help companies understand what it takes to be a Customers Rock! company in each area where they touch customers, and customer service is a key touchpoint.  Customers should be able to look back on their service experience with a company and think on it favorably.  These types of experiences will help to affirm trust on the customer’s end and will elicit positive feedback for the company. 

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Technical support | 1 Comment »

Getting to Know You in San Diego, and Chicago

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 19, 2007

sd-bloggers-061807-small.jpg It finally happened: the San Diego Blogger Meet-up!  I had been trying to get my SD blogging friends together for awhile now so we can meet each other, discuss ideas, and relax.  Tim Jackson (of MasiGuy and Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid) was there along with Stephanie Weaver (of Experienceology).  We were missing one of our invitees (Maria Palma of CustomersAreAlways), but we had a great time!  Tim had us in stitches as he told us the sad story of Rainbow Bear (with a happy ending!).  He also brought his camera and had the waitress take a picture of us (Tim is the one in the middle!).  Stephanie, on the left, has just come off her book tour for Creating Great Visitor Experiences, and she was nice enough to give a copy to both of us.

I love putting the people together with their blogs.  I have been doing quite a bit of this lately because the voice-to-voice element is an important one for me.  In fact, Ryan Karpeles (of Living Lightbulbs) was just telling me about that today in his email to me after our great phone conversation (he is based in Chicago).  What a great guy – loads of enthusiasm and good ideas!  It was fun to speak with him, especially as we are so like-minded when it comes to customers.  Ryan, you rock!

SO – to any San Diego bloggers that want to join us next time, send me an email or leave a comment here, and I will put you on the invite list!  And to any bloggers that want to have a voice-to-voice conversation, just ask.  I would love to talk with you!

Posted in Blogging, Customer experience | 9 Comments »

The Blockbuster Online Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 18, 2007

masks.jpg Netflix vs. Blockbuster.  Two services, similar prices, similar offerings.  One has a retail store, one is only online.  Which offers the better experience?

There have been many articles over the past several months outlining this very thing.  For some people, they prefer the convenience of ordering their movies from home and never having to step foot in a video store (can we still call them video stores now that it is mostly DVDs?).  Other people prefer looking through the shelves for the newest releases where they can pick up the boxes and quickly scan the movie summaries.

We have been Netflix subscribers for quite awhile (My Account in Netflix says it is since July 2004).  However, after we moved last year, it seemed like the movies were taking longer to get to us (either that, or we are a “frequent renter” and get the movie delivery slowed down – thanks, Techcrunch!).  So, we decided to go for the “free two week trial” on Blockbuster Total Access.

Blockbuster Online Experience 

The sign-up process was quick and painless – even the taking of my credit card number (so they can charge me for any rentals not returned, we are told).  I then got busy and forgot to put movies in my queue.  Oops!  Let’s walk through my experience.

Blockbuster Online reminded me about the queue 5 days after my trial started (half way over by that point).  I received another email reminder the next day.  The next reminder that my queue was empty was 6 days later, which was also two days before my trial was about to end.  The day before the trial was to end, I received a survey from Blockbuster Online.   Three days after my trial ended, I received an email to tell me I could use my E-Coupons to rent video games for free.

Free Trial Ends 

I never received an email to tell me my trial was about to end, nor did I get an email to tell me it had ended.  I forgot about it and, of course, I now have a full membership to Blockbuster Online being charged to my credit card.

Why didn’t Blockbuster Online remind me about my trial ending?  Many marketers are afraid to tell their customers when a subscription or free trial is ending for fear the customers will terminate the subscription.  Blockbuster Online seems to fall into this category. 

Interestingly, there was a great case study put out on this very subject today from Marketing Sherpa (open access for one week from today).  The case study outlines how a company used A-B testing to see whether giving customers a reminder that their free trial was about to end would affect conversion to paying subscriber.  They offered an optional three-day reminder about the trial’s end when signing up for the trial.  Customers using the reminder service actually had increased conversions to a pay subscription over those who didn’t use the reminder service.  The reminder also helped customers overcome their concern about giving a credit card number during registration.  Check out the full case study on the Marketing Sherpa website.

Blockbuster In-Store Experience 

Back to my experience.  The one good thing about the free trial was that I now had an E-Coupon which I decided to take into the local Blockbuster store for a free rental (we finally agreed on the movie Gremlins).   Besides the lack of parking near the store (frustrating – made me want to go back home!), I had to take extra time to sign up for an in-store membership.  I knew this would be the case, but when the employee pulled out the long-looking form for me to fill out, I was disappointed.  Ten minutes later, I was finally in their system at the store, the video was rented, and I went back home.

Improving the Experience

How could this have been made better?  While Blockbuster Total Access seems to be marketed as one service, from a consumer’s perspective it feels like two different companies.  It is critical for multi-channel retailers to create a consistent experience across all customer touchpoints.  Here is how I would recommend improving the experience for Blockbuster: 

  • Proactively work with me to make sure I understand how to use Blockbuster Online.  Perhaps I didn’t put movies in my queue because I was having trouble.  Perhaps I just forgot (that was me!).   Either way, if I don’t actually try the service, the free movie you are giving me is a waste of money.
  • Differentiate the messages you send me.  The emails I received looked very generic, and my guess is they were the same messages any current subscriber would get.  Blockbuster Online should know I am a trial customer and send me unique email content to encourage me to become a subscribing customer.
  • Remind me when my free trial is about to end.  Perhaps I was sick for awhile and not able to log onto the computer.  Try sending a quick postcard to get through.
  • Give me the option to continue to paying subscriber at the end of my trial.  Don’t automatically convert me to paying.  Now I have to go and figure out how to cancel this, and money is already coming out of my bank account.  This does not start the relationship on a good note.
  • Use the information you already have on me at all touchpoints.  I was very disappointed that the computer at the local Blockbuster store didn’t have my customer information.  I understand wanted to register me locally, but you should verify my identity, use what you know about me from my online trial sign-up, print out a form pre-filled with my information, then have me sign and agree to the details.  If you can allow me to return a video to the local store, you can figure out who I am in your computer.

Is the Blockbuster business model working?  Here is a post from MineThatData’s Kevin Hillstrom discussing the financial impact of Blockbuster’s decision to compete with Netflix.

A review of the customer experience needs to go further than just the single touchpoint with which a certain division is responsible.  It needs to take the customer’s perspective and go across all channels.  Only then can we be sure that our company’s engine is firing on all cylinders and moving in the right direction for the customer.

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing | 11 Comments »

A Rockin’ Web Concierge at Element Fusion

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 15, 2007

chad_small.jpg I love finding out about companies that are tuned-in to the customer experience.  I was doing some research a few months back for a speech on rockin’ online customer support, and I ran across someone who claimed to be a “web concierge” for support.  I contacted the company, Element Fusion, via their web form, then waited for a response.  Within a very short time, I was called by Tim Wall, Director of Product Marketing for Element Fusion, and we spent a few minutes talking about Light, Chad, and what it means to offer a web concierge to your customers.   Read on!

Light is the ElementFusion product that is geared to web designers and advertising agencies.  Basically, it is a hosted content management software system where designers can private-label it and sell it as their own.  The folks at Element Fusion were tracking the the customer experience for designers when they bring their clients on to the system, and they noticed the learning curve was a little painful.  Taking inspiration from the way Apple designed their stores and the Genius Bar, Element Fusion decided to concentrate their efforts on getting resellers up and running quickly.  Per the Light blog:

So, our own concierge was born — the web concierge.  Actually, he was born quite a long time ago, but his new title and responsibilities have just taken hold.  Chad is the perfect concierge.  In fact, if I were staying in a nice hotel, he’s the guy I would want working at that desk.

Chad’ s job as concierge is to hand-hold the customers as they take their first steps with Light and make the who experience quick and easy.  He gives out his direct line or clients can email him directly as well in order to contact him with questions about the first 2-3 sites they bring on board.  What I found the most interesting about Chad (who is a real person, by the way – that’s his picture up above!) is that he is a high-level director of IT at the company, not a low-level employee.  Being a true concierge, as in a hotel, is a part of Chad’s job.  Tim explained to me that they felt it was important to show the Light customers how valuable they are to Element Fusion, so they wanted to commit top resources to them.

How are Light customers responding?  This is still relatively new, but an existing customer shared this comment:

 I wish all businesses would do this – like my bank!

Chad the web concierge provides this assistance for free to existing customers.

Have you looked at your customer’s experience in using your product lately?  What is happening in the first 30 days?  Those beginning experiences set the stage for the ongoing relationship with your company.   What type of focused resources can you provide for your customers to assist them in getting up to speed?

Element Fusion, you guys rock!  And so do you, Chad!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer service, Customers Rock!, Marketing, Technical support | 3 Comments »

Book Review: How to Talk to Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 14, 2007

book-talk.gifI was sent a copy of the book How to Talk to Customers by Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin, and I would like to share my impressions with you, my readers.  Many of you have probably read the other reviews from great bloggers such as Maria, ServiceUntitled, Drew, CB, and Phil; here is my take! 

How to Talk to Customers is a very practical guide for anyone in customer service (although I believe marketers could learn a thing or two as well!).  It has short, easy to read chapters, making it good for rep or executive alike.  The authors, Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin are senior vice presidents of Communico, a customer service training and consulting company.  The premise of the book is a focus on how to Make A Great Impression on the Customer (acronym MAGIC).  The goal, as stated by the authors, is to create a positive experience for any customer dealing with your customer service team.  The book does a good job discussing the best practices, or skills, that can be employed by anyone to improve their customer interactions.  I felt it was geared mostly to customer service personnel (as well as tech support), but the ideas are really broad enough for anyone to use when speaking to customers.

Their five MAGIC steps of a customer interaction are as follows:

M – Make a connection: Build the relationship

A – Act professionally: Express confidence

G – Get to the heart of the matter: Listen and ask questions

I – Inform and clarify what you will do

C – Close with the relationship in mind

The authors discuss specific words to use (and not to use), apologies, empathy and listening, as well as how to close an interaction.  I like that the focus, at all times, is on building stronger customer relationships!

One of my favorite sections is on the four levels of listening.

Level 1: The dialogue is largely transactional

Level 2: Rapport building takes place with the questions asked by the rep

Level 3: Empathetic listening

Level 4: Sharing of personal meaning (the listener is largely silent).

I view these four levels of listening as somewhat of a continuum.  The first level is seen in most typical call centers.  The second level is a good place to head for call centers making the transition to a more customer-focused call center (as opposed to transaction-focused).  The third level of listening I would consider to be best-practice for a call center.  The fourth level of listening is more appropriate for personal relationships, in my opinion.

The book also gives 33 “points” of MAGIC than can be used to assess calls or customer interactions.  I appreciate that the authors encourage us to look at these points as not just a checklist but as a process of interaction to help focus on both tasks and relationships.  Too many call centers focus only on the tasks and forget that every touchpoint can build or harm the relationship with a customer!

There are a lot of great anecdotes of MAGIC and Tragic encounters throughout the book as well.  Overall, I would recommend this book for any customer service department needing to train their team on the “soft skills” of taking care of customers.  Diane and Tom put a strong emphasis on a regard for others as people.  They also advocate making this a choice: we can choose to be MAGIC!  That’s the attitude of a Customers Rock! company.  Well done!

Posted in Book reviews, Customer service | 7 Comments »

Measuring customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 12, 2007

measure.jpgIn my post on the coffee house case study yesterday, I steered ABC Coffee Company towards its existing customers.  But which of its existing customers are loyal?  How do they know?

There are quite a few different metrics being discussed for customer loyalty.  Each consulting firm seems to have their favorite.  I would like to open up the conversation and discuss what is being used in today’s successful businesses to measure the health of the customer base.  This post is the first in a series that I will sprinkle over the next few weeks to address this subject.  I invite you to be part of the discussion!

Today’s topic: Customer Satisfaction 

When I worked for HP, we used to look at an index of three scores: customer satisfaction, willingness to repurchase, and willingness to recommend.  While this index isn’t perfect, it does give executives a good understanding of the health of the customer base.  (HP is now using the NetPromoter score.)

Customer satisfaction is the entry point.  Unless we can understand and address customer dissatisfiers, we can’t even begin to think about asking a customer to purchase again.  What does satisfaction really mean to a customer? 

For some, it might mean they got everything they purchased, the way they want it, and they can go about their business.  For others, they may not be satisfied until they feel that the company has gone “above and beyond” for them.  Some companies even push their customers to state that they are “completely satisfied” (those companies are obviously measuring their personnel on the scores in the “top two boxes”!).

I was in and out of Enterprise Rent-A-Car several times last summer as my car’s air conditioning was being repaired.  I found my answer to “completely satisfied” varying depending on which car they had put me in for that visit, how clean the car was, and how long I had to wait.   The one time they upgraded my car, I definitely felt completely satisfied!

Satisfaction has many drivers.  Rather than just asking a customer if they are satisfied, it is more valuable to try and understand what makes them feel that way (or not).  This could be a simple as asking them to share what they liked or didn’t like about that transaction or experience.  When doing the asking, companies have to be prepared for the ranting of dissatisfied customers – not only to take in the information, but to actually take action on it.  Action should be both immediate (fix this issue) as well as long-term (can we avoid this problem in the future?).

What about a customer who is “hostage” to a company?   In other words, what about a customer who has no other options for that service (ex: the only cable company that serves a remote area)?  Does this customer’s satisfaction lead to their loyalty, or will they jump ship when someone else finally enters the marketplace?

When looking at customer satisfaction, it should be used as only one measure of customer loyalty.  The context, as well as the drivers, need to be reviewed during the assessment.  As I stated up front, customer satisfaction levels are a baseline.  Building loyal customers that will repurchase from you and recommend your business requires attention be paid to customers beyond their satisfaction level.

Let’s open up the dialogue.  Is satisfaction enough?  How do you measure it?  I look forward to the discussion!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer loyalty, Customer strategy, Marketing | 8 Comments »