Category Archives: Customer Advocacy

This is the secret to delivering powerful Customer Experiences that only a handful of CEO’s know about!

Richard_Branson_Customer_Centricity

Why engaged customer-focused employees are vital to business success!

In today’s market, the majority of companies have very little to differentiate themselves from their competition. Their product and services are very similar if not identical. It is so easy to change to another company that it can be done in minutes or even seconds on the web. Social media can instantly let millions of people know what just took place. Customer expectations have changed and their demands are greater than ever.

Future business performance and sustainability will come down to whether or not customers continue to use your products and services or leave for an alternative supplier. It costs 7.5 times as much to gain a new customer yet the majority of companies spend their budgets on attracting new customers. What are you doing to retain your current customers?

MarketCulture’s purpose is to help companies recognize the importance of building stronger customer experiences that retain customers. We believe that inspired, engaged and empowered employees focused on customers are vital to success. It comes down to how the company delivers on its promise and ultimately it is all employees that make this happen. It takes one bad experience and you have lost a customer.

As leaders do you truly understand what your employees need in order to deliver a great customer experience? Are we telling them what to do or are we engaging them in what they believe is important? Richard Branson says that engaged and happy employees deliver superior customer experiences. Virgin enters markets where customers are dissatisfied. They quickly win a strong market share by providing great service with a touch of magic. Employees want to be part of the solution and feel that they belong. They want to be listened to and feel that their feedback contributes to the success of the business. Your employees are the ones that retain or lose your customers.

Companies today implement many tools that measure either employee engagement or customer satisfaction. They allow leaders to know whether or not they have happy/unhappy employees or satisfied/dissatisfied customers yet they rarely provide insight into how they can improve. Leaders need to understand what employees need to deliver the company’s promise and customer satisfaction.

“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” Jeff Bezos – Amazon Founder and CEO

How do we engage employees to build stronger customer experiences?

Customer experience comes down to the way your company and employees behave – whether you deliver or not on your promise. It can be as simple as responding to a customer in a timely fashion or just the tone of your voice. Amazon is now one of the biggest companies, yet they have retained a strong focus on their customer experiences even as they have grown to employ more than 300,000 people. The test of a company is not when things go well but when they don’t. Customers are looking to receive the value they paid for or they will simply try an alternative supplier. Where do you start building a stronger customer experience? You can start with the customer and find out whether or not they are satisfied but that is after the event has occurred and maybe too late. Alternatively, you can start with those that create the experience – “the employee” – and find out what they need in order to be able to deliver a great customer experience.

Steve Job’s recognized this towards the end of his time as CEO of Apple when he said:

“It’s not about me, it’s about the company and it’s about the cause. It’s not about everything being dependent on me. I have to build a culture, I have to think about a successor, I have to think about setting this thing up to do well over time. And in the end, what matters is, I want Apple to be an enduring great company and prove it didn’t need me.”

How do we do it? – It is simple. Listen to your employees, find out what is important to them, engage them, act on their feedback, empower them to solve customer problems and they will deliver better customer experiences.

MarketCulture researched 100’s of companies across the globe that exhibited both customer-centric decision-making with employees empowered to deliver great customer experiences. Some of these companies included Amazon, Google, Virgin, Apple, and Ikea.

The research revealed 8 disciplines that employees act on to deliver great customer experiences. We found these disciplines used across the entire organization including all support functions. This was not evident in companies that deliver inconsistent customer experiences.

Through both quantitative and qualitative employee feedback companies are able to act on strengths and weaknesses in order to support employees in delivering superior customer experiences.

What – A unique employee assessed customer engagement measurement tool.

Where do we start? The first step is to discover what is important to the employees in order to provide a better experience for customers. To do this we need to engage the employees and gain their feedback. The Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) is a unique assessment tool that all employees, including leaders, complete. The MRI has quantitative (scaled questions/benchmarked) as well as qualitative feedback (verbatim comments). This will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your company against companies that use best customer-centric practices. This will create change and build future business performance through the retention and growth of customers. Studies have shown that companies with Customer Centric practices outperform the others.

What is the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI)?

The MRI is a web-based employee assessment, requiring 15-20 minutes to complete, that benchmarks employee behaviors within your business against the most customer-centric companies in the world. This translates into 8 key disciplines all with a strong focus on the customer. These are Customer Insight, Customer Foresight, Competitive Insight, Competitor Foresight, Peripheral Vision, Cross Functional Collaboration, Empowerment and Strategic Alignment. Your company’s performance in these disciplines has been shown to drive future customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and profitability.

The MRI will provide key benefits to your company.

1. Momentum, Engagement and a New Mindset: It will create focus and momentum for a Customer Centricity initiative across the business and can be used to drive the embedding process.

2. Measurement: It is designed to provide the basis for benchmarking and measuring progress on those customer-focused behaviors that drive customer satisfaction, advocacy, revenue growth, profit and plans for individual managers to drive improvements.

3. Gain Insights: Hear directly from employees on the key issues holding the organization back from being more customer-centric in specific areas and across the entire business.

4. Tangibility and Communication: It makes customer culture tangible for all staff by identifying relevant activities that support business strategies. Through its methodology and measurement process, it facilitates communication of clear priorities.

5. Gain broad employee involvement: It provides staff with an opportunity for input and direct engagement in Customer Culture initiatives and a forum for agreeing with actions to be taken and a feeling that they are a key part of the journey and contributing to its success.

6. Build a common language across the Business: It also acts as a tool for ensuring staff within the business “get it” and develops a common language and behaviors from Customer Culture initiatives. It forms the basis for ongoing discussions and actions deep within each functional group which is where the ultimate success in embedding customer culture will be determined through collaboration.

7. Accountability: It provides customer-centric behaviors that can be included in the Key Performance Indicators of managers and their teams.

8. Benchmark: It provides the business with a benchmark against some of the world’s most customer-centric organizations. How do you compare with companies like Amazon, Apple, 3M, Virgin and others included in the database? The current database includes more than 300 corporations globally across B2B and B2C and several hundred business functions and units.

Interesting in starting your journey to a customer culture? Learn more here.

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 the Bell Canada Transformation Enough for a Competitive Future?

transformational_customer_centric_cultureLike most telecommunications companies in North America, Bell Canada has undergone a major transformation over the last four years since 2008.

In a 2009 article titled “How Bell Canada remade itself from the top down’, Ed Gubbins explained how the company changed its culture, operations and cost structure. George Cope, appointed President and CEO in 2008, led this transformation.

Along with reducing its headcount, reducing management layers, overhauling its field operations reducing its broadband repair response time from 8 days to 1, eliminating some brands, it implemented a “pay-for-performance” pay structure. A number of services were introduced to provide better and quicker service for customers. During 2011 and 2012 Bell made joint investments with Telus in wireless networks. It also attempted to acquire media company, Astra Media, but was thwarted by the CRTC regulatory body.

In 2013 Cope is continuing to lead this transformation of Canada’s largest communications company into an efficient customer-focused competitor, based on a strategy of enhanced service capability, significant broadband network investments and a high-performance team culture.

But is enough being done to create an enduring customer-focused culture to ensure Bell Canada’s competitiveness and profitability in the future? Bell operates in a marketplace being disrupted by technology. Transforming a large incumbent communications company from a technical engineering focus to a customer-centered organization is difficult and takes time. Cutting costs and building networks is the easy part.

Building the business on a customer culture foundation will be the one thing that Bell Canada must do to ensure its competitive future.

Do your customers inspire you? How Virgin Rail was saved by its customers

inspired by customers

Sometimes our customers inspire us to great heights. 

Recently Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains created a major bureaucratic turnaround by sheer force of will and the inspiration of their customers.

On September 10th 2012, Richard Branson and his CEO of Virgin Rail, Tony Collins, were answering questions at a Parliamentary Enquiry in London initiated by Branson. This was about the awarding of the West Coast train franchise (London to Glasgow) to a competitor, FirstGroup – a franchise that had been held by Virgin Trains for the previous fifteen years.

Branson said: “We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving the customers’ experience through increased investment and innovation.”

He added: “Our team has transformed the West Coast line over the last 15 years from a heavily loss-making operation to one that will return the taxpayer billions in years to come.”

Branson, who had considered abandoning the rail industry in Britain after this 4th unsuccessful bid (second each time), decided to put up a fight this time. It was not because of the money – he has plenty of that – it was because of the customers and the staff of Virgin Rail.

Buoyed by 170,000 passenger signatories to an e-petition supporting the company, rallying support from unions and staff, he decided to press the government for an investigation into the transport franchise tendering process and how decisions were made.

When asked on 10th September by a member of the Parliamentary Inquiry why he was objecting, he said: “The customer is the heart of our business”. He went on to say that customers and staff had given overwhelming support to him and the CEO, Tony Collins, and he did not want to let them down. The growth of over 10% per annum in passenger numbers over the previous 10 years was testimony to the customer appeal and quality of the service provided.

The parliamentary Enquiry overturned the decision to award the franchise to the competitor, citing irregularities and lack of transparency in the bid decision.

Here is a man who believes that the most important thing in business is to have satisfied customers and fully engaged, happy staff around a customer culture that delivers increasing value to all stakeholders – and he has proved it in Virgin Rail and other Virgin businesses.

This only happens when your customer culture is so strong that your customers not only like your products and services, but they love you and your organization. When the going gets tough, your customers will “go in to bat for you”.

Would your customers help save your business?

Customer Metrics: Measure what matters most to customers

Key Customer Metrics

As business leaders we tend to pay a lot of attention to the metrics important to the business, that is, revenue, cash flow, profitability, growth and so on… but the real drivers of these business outcomes are customers.

So the obvious question becomes what customer metrics should I be tracking to make sure my business metrics continue to head in the right direction?

Well there are a number of key customer metrics that must be considered for every business:

1. Customer Satisfaction

As a first step it is important to track customer satisfaction, this will provide some inputs as to how well the business is performing on delivering what it promises. But remember customers have already paid for satisfaction, they expect to get what they paid for. So high levels of dissatisfaction are an obvious and immediate cause for concern.

Satisfaction is not enough, even highly satisfied customers can and do switch to alternatives so it is important to also look at Loyalty and Advocacy. That brings me to the next question (Fred Reinhold calls the “Ultimate Question“) How likely are you to recommend us? Loyal customers not only bring you repeat business, they also expand your customer base through positive word-of-mouth.

2.Net Promoter Score

The net promoter score is a simple tool designed to identify 3 types of customers, promoters (advocates with strong positive word of mouth),  detractors (negative word of mouth) and those in the middle. The goal is to drive up the number of promoters as a way of driving business growth.

Many of the most customer-focused businesses in the world use NPS, see below a list of the current top 10 Netpromoter scores in the US:

USAA – Banking = 87%
Trader Joe’s = 82%
Wegman’s = 78%
USAA – Homeowners Insurance = 78%
Costco = 77%
USAA – Auto Insurance = 73%
Apple = 72%
Publix = 72%
Amazon.com = 70%
Kohl’s = 70%

Source: Satmatrix

3. Customer Value Analysis

This is a more advanced metric specifically looking at the value a customer places on what you offer. Value consists of an equation that includes CUSTOMER PERCEPTIONS  of price,  service and product quality. Customer value analysis looks directly at how customers view your business vs. your competition and provides you with valuable information on what you might need to adjust in terms of both product and service quality, as well as price, to increase market share and revenue.

4. Life Time Value of Customers

I talk about this in some more detail in these two posts:

Part 1: Understanding Lifetime Value of Customers

Part 2: Calculating Lifetime Value of Customers – a simple example

Something not covered however was some of the inputs to Customer Lifetime Value which in themselves are useful metrics:

Customer Acquisition metrics include customer awareness levels, the information sources customer use to make purchase decisions, and cost of acquiring a customer.

Churn (%)  measures how many customers are leaving, that is, customer attrition.  Churn is a commonly used metric related to customer retention. Specifically, this is about knowing how many customers are defecting and why.

Customer Complaints are usually an early warning signal that something is wrong. Most customers will not complain they will just take their business elsewhere. Complaints although often difficult to hear are a gift that can help course correct.

5. Your own Customer Culture

How customer obsessed is your organization? How would you know?

This is the question we received from a CEO of a Global 1000 company a number of years ago. It led us to the development of the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) to answer that very question.

This is an organization-wide metric design to measure the behavior of employees and the level of attention they pay to customers in their daily work.

It is a one of a kind tool that allows you to benchmark your company versus the best in the world, you can check it out here.

What Criteria should I use when deciding on Customer Metrics?

  1. The metric drives business results
  2. The metric correlates strongly with business results
  3. The metric is something you can influence
  4. The metric can be measured accurately
  5. The metric can be measured consistently
  6. The metric can be measured cost effectively
  7. All the stakeholders agree the metrics meet these criteria

Ultimately you want to choose the right metrics for your specific business, they should be tailored to the unique business drivers and business strategy.

Why implement customer metrics?

Tracking customer metrics is important for many reasons, but the most important reason is cultural. It gets everyone on the same page, aligns people across the different parts of the business, and leads to a customer-focused culture of success. You should celebrate wins when a key customer metric reaches a new and important milestone. Choosing the right metrics and celebrating progress against them are incredibly important to building a strong customer culture that can work together and grow rapidly.

What customer metrics are you using?

A new way to innovate and get funded

Customer Focused Innovation

One of the biggest challenges in businesses is determining whether your new product or service actually fills a need. It maybe a cool product, you may like it yourself but if no one will pay money for it, its just a hobby.

There are some really interesting emerging online businesses designed to help entrepreneurs with just this problem.

Kickstarter is one site that has received significant exposure thanks to the incredible success of the Pebble Watch project. Essentially a smart watch that connects to your iPhone apps so you can control music, view text message, get news feeds right on your wrist.

The project raised almost $3 million in 3 days from its “backers”, essentially its future customers and supporters. When the project finally closed it had over $10 million in pledges that was used to get the business off the ground and get production going. In return for the pledges the backers will receive the first editions of the final product.

What’s great about this approach is how it leverages social media and the online world to get projects in front of supporters and early adopters and asks them to commit funds upfront.

We know from working in market research that a lot of potential customers say they like a new product idea but when it comes to actually purchasing they don’t follow through. This is a great way to get commitments to a project before invest time and money.

Another cool success story comes from Scott Wilson a designer of the Apple Nano wrist band. Experts told him it would never work, no one would pay a high price for a premium wrist band for the Nano.

The Nano Wrist Bands

Within a month Scott raised more than $1 million dollars to fund production and a large number of the wristbands sold at twice the price predicted by experts, $79. In fact 76% of customers said they purchased the Nano because of the wrist band, now that got Apple’s attention!

Kickstarter is only available to entrepreneurs in the US at this stage so some other alternatives are listed here ( I found this list on Quora):

FundedByMe.com is a successful Nordic platform for crowdfunding that will soon add the element of equity crowdfunding
StartSomeGood.com – a kickstarter-like platform for social good initiatives globally.
PleaseFund.Us – pretty similar to Kickstarter but in the UK, using paypal
IgnitionDeck.com – A crowdfunding plugin for WordPress.
Indiegogo.com – Just like Kickstarter, but with more options.
Crowdfunding-Website-Reviews.com – A site devoted to reviewing kickstarter alternatives
http://haricot.ca (English and French, open to all)
Fundly.com – “Crowdfunding Platform for Social Good” ”

Source: Quora

Are you focused on your customer’s profit producing behaviors?

Show me the money!Do you know which of your customers are profit producers?

It’s a great way to think about that core group of customers that really drive your business forward. These are typically what we think of as our most loyal customers, our advocates and what they do can be more powerful that the best sales team in the world.

For starters they buy your products more frequently and at higher values that other customers.

Secondly they recommend you, provide feedback, support new products and typically ignore competitive messages.

As a leader in your organization what are you doing to enhance these behaviors? Do you make it easy for your customers to share their stories?

Do you recognize these customers and create unique experiences that provide extra value for them?

Some companies with traditionally poor records on this front are starting to step up in this area namely United Airlines.

United is now delivering more than just frequent flyer points but differentiated experiences for frequent flyers such as more room leg and priority boarding. They are also targeting customers with relevant and timely upgrade options as well a a broader range of flexible options for using points for travel and shopping.

What can you do differently for your best customers?