Category Archives: Customer Communications

Is Wells Fargo regaining its customer culture?

customer focused banks

We all have a love-hate relationship with our banks. We see this in the annual customer satisfaction ratings that are far from stellar for all banks.

Wells Fargo slipped to second-place behind JPMorgan Chase in customer satisfaction among big banks in the American Customer Satisfaction Index released in December 2012. Wells Fargo received a score of 71 on a scale of 100, down three points from 2011. Chase scored a 74, gaining six points in 2012. Citi dropped four points for a score of 70. It marks the first time in a decade Wells or predecessor Wachovia has not been ranked No. 1. Charlotte-based Wachovia had long enjoyed the top spot in the rankings, and its momentum lifted Wells Fargo to that spot after the banks merged in 2008.

But Wells Fargo is trying to increase the “love” side of the equation by actively working to offer meaningful services that will help its cash-strapped customers.

Wells Fargo, like many banks have a large number of customers that are unable to meet their mortgage payments and are struggling to hold on to their houses. In this situation Wells Fargo could take the view that it is the customer’s problem if they can’t make the repayments. But a customer-centric view would be to fully understand the customer’s problem, then look for alternate ways to enable customers to meet their commitments and help them understand the options and advise on the most realistic and acceptable plan to meet the need.

Recently Wells Fargo started offering workshops for consumers that are having difficulty paying their mortgages and who are in danger of foreclosure. Customers can learn about options that may help them overcome payment challenges, understand how they may be able to avoid foreclosure and connect with resources like housing counselors and online tools.

Another initiative is helping small businesses understand alternative financing arrangements and develop a strong proposal for borrowing to finance their growth. “As America’s leading small business lender, we have an important responsibility to provide small business owners both access to capital, and access to the financial guidance they need before and after obtaining credit,” said Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo lead executive for Small Business and West Coast Regional Banking president. “The new Business Credit Center is another way we support small business owners. It offers straightforward, relevant information business owners can use to better understand financing options for their businesses.”

Are these signs that Wells Fargo is acting to strengthen its customer focus by seeking to really understand customer needs and provide valuable services for cash strapped customers?

What are you doing for customers that have difficulty paying for your products or services? Do you regard it as the customer’s problem or your problem?

Has the word “customer” lost its impact?


There is a lot of discussion these days on the importance of being “customer” focused, of having a “customer” mindset, of delivering a better “customer” experience. Sometimes there is so much reference to customers that the word is starting to lose its meaning. Now don’t get me wrong. I am an unwavering advocate of the imperative for organizations to create and maintain a strong “customer” culture which embodies – focus, mindset, experience and shared values and beliefs that what’s best for the customer is best for the business.

However, some organizations have developed their own unique twist to this. The way in which you talk about customers and describe them influences both the attitudes and behaviors of employees towards them.

Remember when Telcos referred to their customers as subscribers? This depersonalized their customers to the point where they were thought of as a number or a statistic.

Costco thinks and talks about its customers as “members”. This means that they see them as part of their business and all staff feel connected and act accordingly. A member is someone who belongs there. In particular, a member is special and is to be given special, personalized service and this is reflected in everything that happens at Costco, including the return of goods which are accepted back cheerfully even from the most unreasonable member.

Both Ritz-Carlton and Virgin Atlantic refer to their customers as “guests”. As an invited guest of the hotel or airline you are treated with radical hospitality. It promotes in the staff of these organizations a feeling that you treat these visiting guests in the same way as you would treat guests in your own home.

Professional services firms like CPAs and Law firms refer to their customers as “clients”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a client as a person who is under the protection of another. This suggests the customer is in their care and they have a responsibility to do what’s best for the client. Also it seems that the word “client” elevates the customer to being someone who deserves special individual attention.

Doctors refer to their customers as “patients”. Part of their duty of care is to advise and help manage their personal well-being and maintain confidential records of their patients’ progress.

In the “age of the customer” it is important to rethink how we refer to that most important driver of our business success. Whatever word you use conveys a particular meaning that can support or dilute the mindset and behaviors of your employees towards customers.

Do you have a special term for customers? Does it support your drive towards customer centricity?

Are customers at the heart of your business? Here’s what that means to Virgin

Customers at the Heart of Business

Image Source:

In a recent British Parliamentary Enquiry into the awarding of rail franchises to private companies, Richard Branson said: “Our customers are at the heart of our business”.

What does this really mean from a practical point of view to the Virgin Group? Well, as an example Virgin Mobile recently asked its Australian customers to nominate themselves to be part of a Virgin Tester Team. The successful Tester Team participants are sent the latest handset to test drive and asked them to review the phone model’s advantages and disadvantages via a two minute video. This is uploaded to Virgin’s YouTube page and the Tester’s own social media channels. Then they get to keep the handset.

This initiative is based on two bits of customer insight:

1)   Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of product information, only behind referrals received from family and friends.

2)   The growing trend on YouTube for users to upload videos of themselves , share them with friends showing the moment of newly purchased technology products.

This is an example of taking customers into the heart of your business based on customer insight and good business sense. By asking real people to review handsets openly potential customers are getting a fair and honest review by everyday people, not just the technology pros. It enables Virgin Mobile to obtain rapid and meaningful feedback from customers that it can use to continually improve the customer experience.

How can you bring customers into the heart of your operations?

How to communicate without saying a word

Communication is a massive part of any major change initiative. A leadership team’s ability to connect with employees at all levels with a clear powerful message is critical to success.

Some of the best lessons on communication come from the world of advertising. Agencies are charged with breaking through the noise to catch a customer’s attention and deliver a powerful, meaningful message.

The image at the top of this post does just that. It also helps illustrate some rules about communication that can help leaders be more powerful communicators.

First it uses a powerful simple visual that tells a story without saying a word. “How am I going to fit my car into that spot….without killing anyone!”

Second the text is simple, to the point and benefit driven – “Park assist technology from Volkswagen”.

The lesson for leaders trying to drive change is – use powerful visuals that represent and reinforce the changes you want to make in the organization.

Here is a great visual we developed for one of our client’s that wanted to implement the “5 whys” process as part of their customer focused culture change initiative.

Why is the “Why” upside down? Good question! I thought you’d never ask….

Why communicate with customers in print?

adidas ad

With the ever exploding options available to marketing professionals and the rise of “inbound marketing” why would you use a communication medium like print advertising anymore?

The simple answer is because that’s where your customers go to get information. While there has certainly been a dramatic shift in the type and sources of information available to customers, print remains a popular option in many markets. Trade and leisure magazines continue to have strong readership.

From a marketer’s point of view there are five main reasons to use print:

1. To announce a new product to the broadest audience in one of the most cost-effective ways

A new product’s biggest challenge is gaining awareness, if no one knows about you, you have little chance of success. The fastest way to do this is to yell from the rooftops in the places your customers frequent.

2. To leverage a special feature or editorial in a magazine

An editorial focused around an issue you can help customers solve is a great place to advertise, readers are looking for solutions and it offers you an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time.

3. To help you define your target market

By advertising in a general publication, you can analyze the response and identify pockets of opportunity you may not have suspected.

For example, suppose you’re advertising a new piece of software. You think it will mainly be used by large businesses, however when you advertise, you are surprised to find smaller businesses are responding as well.

4. To add credibility to your product

Print advertising also adds credibility to your product. The fact that you are seen in a well-known publication adds weight and authority to your advertising claims.

5. Print has impact

A clever print ad stops the customers and grabs attention. As you can see in the Adidas piece at the beginning of this post many of the best ads have a powerful visual component and sometimes no headline at all. This invites curiosity – what is this advert about?

Print media is still an important tool in the marketer’s toolbox. However the key question is how do your customers prefer to get information?

Customer communications that pack a punch

impacting customers emotionally

A core skill set of customer focused organizations is the ability to connect powerfully with customers using messages that cut through and speak to people at an emotional level.

One of the most challenging issues authorities have been trying to address in countries around the world is creating the “seatbelt” wearing habit.

In 2009, 33,ooo people died in car accidents in the US and more than 50% of those killed were not wearing seatbeats.

It’s an insidious problem with a massive pay-off. Can you image creating a message so powerful it saves people’s lives?

Creating communications that can change people’s behavior for their own good requires a deep understanding of the “customer” – in this case “car drivers”.

Governments usually take the legal enforcement route to influence drivers, that is, don’t wear a seatbelt and you will receive a fine. While this does provide a negative consequence it has proven not to be enough. What is needed is to connect wearing a seltbelt with a powerful emotional trigger or association. The ad below was recently shared with me by a friend – a great example of its viral effect. It connects with the viewer in one of the most powerful ways possible:

With more than 15 million views and without a single word this communication piece packs a powerful punch. It connects with the most compelling reason drivers have to look after their own safety – not for their own well being but for the security of their closest loved ones.

Are your communications connecting  powerfully with your customers?