Category Archives: Uncategorized

Amazon’s customer centric moment of truth

jeff_bezos_amazon Image credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

I have been a fan of Amazon.com for many years, in fact I wrote extensively about them in my new book, the Customer Culture Imperative.

However some recent news about some of their practices have caused me to pause and question whether they remain true to their stated vision as being “the most customer centric company in the world”.

As recently reported in PC World, the FTC filed a complaint against them for billing parents millions of dollars’ worth of unauthorized in-app purchases made by their children.

To me this raises some alarm bells, targeting kids in this way is problematic. Kids are clearly less sophisticated and financially literate consumers, vulnerable to impulse purchases.

Also it sounds as though employees at Amazon had their own concerns, this quote was cited in the PC World article:

“One internal Amazon communication said that allowing unlimited in-app charges without any password was “clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers”

As a customer centric business, you have the interests of your customers as a first priority. This approach builds trust and long term relationships, the outcome for business is sustainable ongoing profits.

Is making it easy for kids to spend hundreds of dollars on in app purchases reflective of a company with its customer’s best interest at heart?

Jeff Bezos is a well known long term thinker, however this sounds like some short term profit thinking to me.

What do you think?

Diagnose Your Customer Culture

Harvard Business Review:

I hope you enjoy our post from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

What happens when you deliver poor customer experiences and get complaints? You might ignore your customers —  or worse, blame them — and lose them for life. Or you might fix their problems and earn their loyalty. What you and your employees will do depends on your customer culture.

In truly customer-centric companies, all individuals (regardless of their roles) base their decisions and actions on the belief that what’s best for the customer is best for the business. New evidence shows how a strong customer culture drives future business performance and supports market strategies. Our research, based on a quantitative study across more than 150 businesses, spanning various industries and functions, identifies seven cultural factors that drive customer satisfaction, revenue and profit growth, innovation, and new product success. These are important predictors of future results and early indicators of risks and opportunities related to retaining customers and acquiring new ones…

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Some of the best research ever done on customer centricity

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We are often asked about other research that has helped shape our view of creating customer cultures.

Here is a list of a few of our favorite research articles and books the influenced us deeply when writing “The Customer Culture Imperative“:

Kotter, John P. and Heskett, James L. (1992), Corporate Culture and Performance, New York, Free Press.

Homburg, Christian; Pflesser, Christian (2000), “A Multiple-Layer Model of Market-Oriented Organizational Culture: Measurement Issues and Performance Outcomes,” Journal of Marketing Research; Vol. 37 Issue 4; 449-462

Basch, Michael D. (2003), Customer Culture: How FedEx and Other Great Companies Put the Customer First Every Day, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Kirca, Ahmet H.; Jayachandran, Satish; Bearden, William O. (2005), “Market Orientation: A Meta-Analytic Review and Assessment of Its Antecedents and Impact on Performance,” Journal of Marketing; Vol. 69 Issue 2; 24-41.

Enjoy!

How Zappos makes sure customers get a great experience everytime

customer service image on blackboard

You see countless articles every day that claim improving a single part of your customer service strategy is the “key” to something. Experts promise how listening to your customers, delivering more timely service, improving employee training and many other things offer a path to providing a better customer experience. The reality is that your customer service is like a machine with many moving parts. These parts include your call center’s hold times, your field sales teams’ ability to make an emotional connection, the helpfulness of information available on self-service portals and more. They all need to function well, and – most importantly – function well together in order to offer an amazing customer experience and rank among the best names in stellar service. Ultimately this requires a customer culture (read more in our new book here)

The most well-known companies in customer service have earned their reputation by recognizing and executing against this reality. This is demonstrated in call center reviewer Ashley Verrill’s recent article, which examined how Zappos perfects quality assurance management for a better customer experience. QA is not typically showcased as a big part of the “machine,” but the Zappos strategies she highlights do more than improve the accuracy and fairness of agent scoring. They also involve the voice of the customer and service reps to improve the experience for all parties involved:

Quality Assurance and Customer Service Reps Join Forces: Each QA team “advocate” is required to spend at least five hours on the floor, taking calls. This helps them stay connected to the real challenges and opportunities reps face on a daily basis and promotes active participation between the two groups.

Scoring Weighted to Reflect Zappos’ Values: (which you can view here): The scores that have the greatest impact on the overall quality assurance score are those in categories that do more to deliver the “Zappos Experience.” The most important factor for Zappos is forging a personal emotional connection with every customer. Also important is the solution to the issue. Knowing what’s most important to your company helps you evaluate your reps based on what matters most.

Self-Check Sessions: Every six months, Zappos evaluates its QA form and asks agents to grade their own calls. This not only helps continue the improvement of QA evaluation – it also empowers agents to voice opinions and innovative ideas.

Involve the Customer: Zappos manages call quality using traditional methods such as traditional Net Promoter Scores, as well as more unique strategies including “sharing great calls” and “customer props.” Again, this empowers the agent to tout an exceptional connection they made with a customer and also gives a voice to the customer, who is invited to give his or her take on the experience.

Custom Coaching with a Clear Path of Progression: Although Zappos has certain standards in place for measuring QA, team leaders are encouraged to personalize training exercises to best fit the learning style of the rep. Providing customized coaching optimizes the agent’s learning potential, interest levels and excitement. Zappos’ leaders take it a step further by outlining exactly how reps will move to higher-tier roles – creating an incentive for reps to continuously be improving their service quality.

You’ll find a pattern with the majority of Zappos’ tactics for quality assurance management: they are constantly creating opportunities for feedback. Whether that feedback comes from the customer, the agent, the QA team or management, all suggestions are welcomed as vehicles for innovation. It doesn’t matter which part of your customer service “machine” you’re working to improve – when you incorporate viewpoints of all parties involved, the closer you get to providing stellar customer experiences.

Why empowerment and trust are crucial to creating great customer experiences

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Many of the most-used customer service buzzwords focus on delighting the customer, proactively providing a good experience or making a personal and emotional connection – but what about trust?  How would your business’s customer experiences benefit from trusting your employees a bit more? 

Holly Regan of Software Advice recently wrote an article highlighting a discussion with Carmine Gallo, who interviewed Richard Branson on his customer service tips in this May Forbes piece. The article covered Richard Branson-like ways to empower customer service representatives, with one of the key benefits of trusting your employees being a significant improvement in the overall customer experience. Even if your organization doesn’t have a formal customer service strategy, here a few tips on empowering employees that are worth integrating into your standard operating procedure for happier staff and happier customers.

Give employees the freedom to decide: This starts with hiring the right employees whose judgment calls you trust. Minimize the risk of an employee deciding to do something he or she shouldn’t do by setting clear boundaries of what can be improvised by the customer service rep, as well as what rules and procedures must not be deviated from.

Create an environment where reps work together to solve issues: Encourage your teams to consult with their fellow reps to agree on the best solution before bringing an issue to senior management.  How? By role modelling this behavior, is the leadership team is demonstrating collaborative behavior it will catch-on.

Encourage staff to incorporate their personalities: Empowering customer service reps to show off their personalities in their interactions not only increases confidence of your staff by allowing them to solve issues their way – customers will like this much more than the typical customer service “robot.”

Educate all staff members on the company mission: Providing a big-picture look at what your company hopes to accomplish with excellent customer service lets reps know they are on the frontlines of executing overall company goals.

Create an open-door policy: Give your employees the direct opportunity to bring up what is working, what isn’t working and provide suggestions to senior management.

Basically, employees are much more likely to enjoy their jobs if they are trusted to be themselves and act according to their own best judgment. This is where employee engagement and customer experience intersect.

When employees enjoy their jobs and understand the experience the customer expects, great things happen. This in turn produces another desired end result: customers who really like interacting with your staff.

Every employee has a role to play in creating great customer experiences, leadership’s role is to create the right culture and environment for them to really make great things happen.

How DollarShaveClub.com created a disruptive customer experience

If you think about what’s happening in the men’s shaving razor market it’s a little like a cold war era arms race. Each year more and more blades are added to the humble razor. The giants of the industry Gillette and Schick continue to add more and more features to their products but are they creating more value?

Michael Dublin from DollarShaveClub.com doesn’t think so. In a mere 12 months he has built an online subscription based razor business with more than three hundred thousand customers.

How? Michael recognized three major pain points for men when it comes to buying shaving equipment. Firstly razors are expensive! and they keep going up in price. Rather than getting more for less consumers are getting more for more…. Secondly the experience of buying a razor is far less than ideal (to put it politely). Razors a usually locked behind a plastic cage at the back of a Walgreens store and it take 20 minutes to get someone back there to let them out! Finally who really needs 5 blades? How close a shave do men really need?

How about a world where razors are bought online at low cost and sent to you each month – a just in time subscription model. Not only that but they are provided by a company with a sense of humor, that doesn’t take things too seriously (apart from disrupting the existing business models).

A great value proposition is worthless if no one knows about it so to overcome the inherent challenge facing any new business or new idea, Michael developed a video to communicate what dollarshaveclub.com is all about…

While it certainly is not a video that will appeal to everyone, it does a great job of speaking directly to his target audience – men fed up with spending a fortune just to keep up with the latest shaving technologies.

How stupid companies hold their customers hostage

customer hostages

It never ceases to amaze me how some companies continue to make it hard for customers to leave. As though making it difficult for customers to leave will make  them want to stay. Why do you think businesses continue with such short sighted practices?

In my experience businesses that rely on monthly membership fees are the worst offenders. Of course there is the notorious case of AOL that lit off a firestorm online a number years ago and continues to be talked about today.

This is clearly a leadership and corporate culture issue. It happens when leaders behave in a way that suggests it is ok to make it hard for customers to leave. They probably say things like “what ever you do don’t let a customer go without doing everything you possibly can to keep them!” This is great in theory but in practice not every customer wants to stay and its not necessarily because they don’t like what you are offering.

Sometimes customer’s needs change, they grow out of using your product and need to move on. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to let them go on a positive note rather than kick them on the way out?

Why do you think this still happens?

5 Ways to Start Transforming Your Customer Demand Generation Process

Employee Engagement and Customer Focus

It looks like 2013 could be “The Year of the Marketer,” according to the CMO Council. Their recent “State of Marketing Audit” results revealed that CMOs are reporting a strongly positive outlook on the role of marketing in 2013.

However, it will take a lot more than optimism for marketers to see 2013 become their year. Before that can happen, a demand generation process transformation needs to take place A recent post by Carlos Hidalgo, contributor to Software Advice–a marketing automation systems reviews website–outlines four major changes that will pave the way. I have add my own at the end….

1. Take a Customer-Centric Approach

Every facet of the organization, even beyond content creation, must adopt customer centricity. Customer now have access to a wealth of product and company information via the Web. Marketers have to appeal to customers who doesn’t necessarily depend on them for their information, and will have to align themselves around the customer’s specific needs and processes in order to do so.

2. Be Revenue-Oriented

Marketers should take an outcome-oriented approach. The ultimate goal here is to provide and receive the most value from of a customer over the course of the buyer-cycle. To do this, we need to identify, qualify and convert customers into sustainable revenue. Marketers will have to evaluate their process and structure, and make sure they are taking each step with the end goal in mind.

3. Align Marketing and Sales

Marketing and sales have to learn to work together to effectively nurture leads. Buyers are going to respond better to a team of marketing and sales professionals who engage them in dialogue and work together, rather than two disunited groups “handing off” the customer just to qualify them and seal the deal.

4. Clarify Terms

As basic as it may seem, Marketing and Sales need needs to sit down together and spell out the meanings of key terms they will use in the lead generation process to avoid ambiguity.  Much can become lost in translation when terms such as “campaign” and “inquiry” are not clearly defined. In order to better align marketing and sales teams, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of these terms and strip them of their ambiguity.

5. Measure your Marketing ROI

No doubt this remains a challenging area for marketers, but marketers need to continue to make more progress in this area in order to really demonstrate the value of marketing to the business.

Without a good framework and willingness to know more about how marketing activities drive the bottom line, marketers will continue to be locked in a cycle of constant activity rather than effective action. More on Marketing ROI in this post and at this event. Plus if you want tools to help you visit our EasyLearn Site

What else do you think needs to happen to make it the year of the marketer?

Get more customer insights with these 5 questions

Questions to uncover customer insights

If you want really insightful information from your customers, try asking these 5 open-ended questions:

What is the one thing you think we do really well?

This question will help you identify what customers really like about doing business with you. You may have your own opinions on this, however more than likely you will be surprised by customers’ opinions on what they consider as your biggest differentiator.

What is the one thing we do that you think needs improvement?

This enables you to get real feedback on areas of your business that need improvement from a customer perspective. Some of the customer responses might be unexpected, but this is truly valuable insight for improving your business relative to actual customer experiences.

What is the one thing we do that we should stop doing?

Companies rarely ask their customers this question. The problem is that many businesses do things because they think that’s what customers want or because they’ve always done it. This could be something that a company spends resources on but has no or even worse negative value for customers.

What is the one thing we don’t do that we should start doing?

Your customers have done business with many other related and unrelated companies and have seen good and bad business practices for how businesses deal with customers. These answers can provide great ideas for improving the experience for your customers and developing stronger competitive differentiation.

Would you recommend us to others?

This question will tell you whether or not your customer is someone that will help drive positive word of mouth.

Is this the end of in-store customer service and retailing as we know it?

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You would think traditional retailers when confronted with the undermining of their traditional in store purchasing business models would be reaching out for new ways to create value for their customers……

Although most retailers agree delivering a superior in-store experience will rescue the physical store from the fate of the last buggy whip company. I find it strange that they continue to offer customer service that borders on a slap in the face.

A recent survey released by Motorola has found that the number of shoppers who prefer to rely on their own mobile devices, rather than shop assistants, to guide their purchasing decisions has reached a level that for retailers can only be described as “a major wake up call”.

There are a couple of facts from the research that suggest retailers may have given up on providing better in store service.

Firstly about 50% of Millennials (Gen Ys) and more than a third of Gen X shoppers suggest it’s easier to find information on their mobile devices than from a store associate. Since the Millennials are gradually overtaking baby boomers as the biggest consuming group, retailers are saying to their future target customers –  there really isn’t much point in coming to the store after all.

The second interesting fact is that store managers agree – and are convinced in even greater numbers than their customers – that mobile devices provide better information. More than 60% of managers were of this view!

The Motorola research also revealed that the shopping experience improved when sales associates themselves used mobile technologies.

Digitally-enhanced service is clearly a direction being taken by many leading-edge retailers who are already shifting to mobile checkouts and other technologies that bypass or supplement humans to provide product information.

What is the future of store based retailing?

The shift in retailing appears to be heading in a smaller number of viable directions:

The first is technology-based self-service, with people being largely phased out of store operations. This is already starting to happen at super markets and other high volume retailers.

The second is real value-added  in-store customer experiences provided by passionate “brand ambassadors” – for example Lululemon and Apple in which store associates are so highly trained, informed and motivated that they can make customers feel good enough about the experience to make additional purchases.

The third will be specialty retailers in high traffic tourist areas that will continue to relie on holiday shoppers and serendipitous purchases. The local cannery row and fisherman’s wharf areas in Monterey California come to mind….

Consumers appear to be losing faith in the ability of retailers to deliver on the promise of people powered service.

What do you think? How will store based retailers survive in the future?