Category Archives: Customer Insight

Lexus – a beacon of customer centricity

lexus_windy_road

The auto manufacturing industry will soon be under siege – impacts are already being felt with easy consumer access and convenience of services like Uber, better public transport, parking costs and restrictions in increasingly large cities around the globe and technological advances in communications propelling less commuting between home and work.

Traditionally auto dealers have focused on each transaction – just getting a sale – and not on nurturing the long term relationships with their customers that will make them lifetime brand loyalists.

Lexus is an exception. Nick Dieltiens, a customer centricity consultant based in Europe, tells us of his experiences when working with Lexus in Europe. First the mindset. It’s not about the “car”, its about the “customer’s journey”. This is illustrated by the fact that on the rare occasions when a Lexus broke down in the French Alps, Lexus arranged for a helicopter to be flown in to collect the stranded family and fly them to their destination.

Also, customer service people at Lexus in Europe are empowered to make the decision to take back a car if the customer is not entirely satisfied with the purchase. Nick tells the story of a senior Lexus executive taking back a car from a customer because the remote control would not connect to the customer’s garage door and the issue could not be fixed. So the executive purchased a Mercedes at a discounted price and provided it to his customer at that discounted price.

The next car the customer bought was a Lexus.

The customer culture in many Lexus dealerships in Europe is strong. Staff are trained to observe Lexus vehicles on the road. If one is see with a broken tail light, they would wave down the driver where safe to do so, give them their car, take the car to get the light fixed free of charge and return the car to the owner.

You may think this costs Lexus a lot of money. It may cost a little more in the short term, but it pays off in a big way with high customer loyalty in car servicing and repeat purchase.

The most important investment by Lexus is in building and retaining a customer culture! This will be essential for all auto companies if they want to grow their businesses in future.

How to create a customer centric transformation – Lessons from Air New Zealand

air_new_zealand_middle_earth_captains

A little more than a decade ago Air New Zealand posted the largest corporate loss in New Zealand corporate history. Inside 24 months it was turned around to a profit. Since that time it has been amongst the consistently highest profitability of full-service airlines around the world.

The catalyst for this change was Sir Ralph Norris, who was called in as CEO to transform the business. Sir Ralph’s customer-centric leadership and customer focused strategy was embodied in the mindset change from “we fly planes” to “we fly people”. He immediately engaged the top 800 leaders in Air NZ to think about, discuss and act on insights from customer feedback and observation that told them about what customers valued and what they hated about the flying experience.

His legacy, established over several years as CEO of the airline, has been continued by the current CEO, Christopher Luxon. You can see it when you fly with Air NZ – even the safety announcements are engaging as they feature some of New Zealand’s star rugby players, spectacular scenes of the country and references to some famous movies made in the country….

This is a testament to the sustained revenue and profit that can be generated by a culture and strategy embedded in the belief that “what’s best for the customer is best for the business.”

See The Customer Culture Imperative for a roadmap on how businesses like Air New Zealand have done it.

Macy’s Customer Experience: the good, the bad and the ugly.

RETAIL SALEMacy’s, like most retailers, has frequent sales to generate store traffic and boost sales. Here is an account of what happens in- store based on customers’ experiences.

The good: If something is purchased just a few days prior to an upcoming sale, Macy’s will offer the customer the sale price for the items purchased before the sale – that’s good!

The bad: The administrative process for sales assistants to record these pre-sale purchases at the sale price delays the customer 10-15 minutes for the procedure to be carried out. If there is a line of people having this done (which is common due to the shortage of staff on the floor) then a customer can be waiting 30-40 minutes. The pre-sale purchased products are put away for the customer to return to collect on sale day – that’s bad!

The ugly: The customer must return to the store during the “sale” period to collect the goods purchased pre-sale. Again, a line of people waiting for the sales assistant to go out back, locate the goods, bring them back to the counter and process the transaction – that’s ugly!

Why is it like this? The alternative can be such a better experience – either online or in stores that have streamlined processes and found added value to make it a much better experience for customers.

At Macy’s it seems that none of the executives or store managers have actually “walked in the shoes of their frustrated customers”. If they had they would be asking the questions:

What do we have to change to simplify this process for staff and shorten the wait for customers, knowing we are always short of staff on the floor?

How can we improve the customer’s experience while they are waiting in line?

What innovations can we introduce that will enhance the customer’s buying experience?

This is so basic, yet to even ask these questions requires a complete mindset and cultural change starting with senior leadership and through all levels of the organization. If Macy’s and similar stores can’t do this they will accelerate the shift to online buying and hasten their own demise.

You can read more on what it takes to become a customer centric organisation in our award winning book, The Customer Culture Imperative.

Lessons from REI: Aligning your People

We have just completed one of the busiest weeks in retail in the United States, with Black Friday for the physical stores and Cyber Monday for the online retailers. This week now blends together with doorbuster deals bombarding us constantly online and instore in the week leading up to Thanksgiving as well as weekend afterwards.

What is different this year is that some major stores have decided to stay closed during this period. In the land of the consumer this a really big deal!

One chain in particular stands out, REI, the outdoor recreation retailer with more than 12,000 employees and 140 stores around the US decided to close this past Black Friday. See below, their CEO, Jerry Stritzke’s 30 second announcement:

 

“We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.” – REI CEO, Jerry Stritzke

So what is behind this decision? I believe it is to better align REI’s core values with its actions in the market. REI’s core mission is “to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

What better way to live that mission and align all of their people around it than closing on a day that allows their own people get outside and live the company’s mission.

Now that all sounds great but how does that help their customers? No doubt some customers may be inconvenienced by their physical stores being closed. However they will still have a small number of staff manning their website so they are not completely close for business.

REI are reacting to growing concerns by their customers and others that retail in general is overshadowing the core purpose of thanksgiving which is to celebrate with family and friends. They are betting that this decision will pay off over the longer term by aligning their people with their mission while also meeting the changing expectations of their customers.

Ultimately if you want your people and customers to really buy-in to what your company is about you must walk the talk, for me this is strategic alignment in action!

Interested in what it takes to be truly customer centric? Learn more here

What does Customer Centric Leadership look like?

There is plenty of research and anecdotal evidence that tells us if customers believe “we care” about what we sell them, how we serve them and the relationships we create with them, they will remain loyal advocates of our company. This also applies to the “care” senior leaders show to their staff and partners.

This is no better illustrated than by Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. In the immediate wake of the stock market turmoil around the world on 24th and 25th August, Schultz sent a letter to all his 190,000 staff and partners. As well as assuring them of Starbuck’s continued growth plans despite the stock market volatility and sending his appreciation of their efforts in making Starbucks the number one coffee company worldwide he urged them to think of how their customers might be feeling in relation to this immediate uncertainty He encouraged them to show special care to their customers as follows:

“Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.”

Source: http://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/starbucks-ceo-sent-an-extraordinary-email-to-employees-due-to-the-stock-market-c.html

By being attuned to customer concerns in their everyday lives Schultz was able to translate this stock market event into a communication to staff and on to Starbucks customers that he and they care.

This is a great example of customer-centric leadership. It costs you nothing, but adds to the customer experience in a way that connects emotionally and creates loyal customers as advocates.

How to generate customer insights without another survey!

starbucks_ideas

While surveys are useful at collecting information on customers and how they feel about certain interactions, products or services there are other ways to gain meaningful insights.

First let’s define what we mean by customer insights:

Customer Insights Defined: a deep understanding of a customer’s needs and behaviors—both known needs that the customer can identify, and the latent needs that they cannot.

It also helps to begin by framing the type of customer insight you are looking to uncover. There are 4 main categories of customer insights that are useful to driving business performance.

1. Strategic Customer Insights – these are used to inform the company’s strategy by understanding what unique market segments exist in the marketplace. For example in the telecommunications industry there are a wide range of different types of customers with unique needs. Some customers now use smartphones as their primary internet device, their needs will be different from customers that still use cell phones primarily for phone calls and text messages.

A deep understanding of the needs of different market segments allows a company to determine which segments are most attractive. This customer insight also allows a company to identify where it needs to improve its own value proposition in order to attract and retain customers from each segment.

2. Program Specific Insights – these are insights specific to a component of a business strategy. For example, a manufacturer looking to roll out a training program to its retailers would need insight into the most effective methods to educate retailers. Should training be conducted in person, via a webcast or through a self service portal?

3. Product and Service Insights – these are direct inputs into how products or services could be improved. A great example of this in action is “My Starbucks Idea”, an online brainstorming tool driven by customers. Customers share ideas and other customers can vote on them so the best customer driven ideas rise to the top.

4. Insights for Marketing Communications – understanding what media and mediums customer’s use to get information informs how companies can more effectively reach and communicate with potential customers. For example if the customer group in question is predominantly focused on using social media, understanding which social media platforms they are most engaged in will help direct communication resources.

So now to the question of how to generate insights without surveys…

Customer insights can initially be generated from reviewing existing publicly available research and data as well as data internally available to the company. This often involves internal interviews with experts in markets and front line people that interact with customers on a regular basis. While this is useful it is secondary research, a review of what already exists and while it can generate new insights it is more useful for gaining alignment around what the company already knows about customers.

To gain deeper unique insights an ongoing process should be implemented that involves primary research. This doesn’t need to be complicated or only handled by marketing research profession in fact it is more impactful when people across the organization are involved.

Customer Immersion Activities

The most time and cost effective way to generate insights is to simply talk with customers. In today’s world this can include a range of mediums from one on one interviews to focus groups to online forums like the one Starbucks runs or Ideastorm, Dell’s equivalent.

Now I realize that technology products and coffee are highly engaging products with many willing participants, what if you sell toilet paper or a product that inspires less passion?

For these less inspiring categories a great source of insight can be customer complaints. Barbara Buchanan has written a great article titled “Mining Complaints and Negative Social Media May Have Positive Consequences” including some examples from the banking and manufacturing industry. The key is making it easy for customers to complain and provide feedback in real time, in the moment. For example a Hospital in California installed posters around the hospital with a QR codes. Patients can scan the QR code on their phones and immediately send a manager a message about an issue. Managers receive these in the form of text messages and commit to responding immediately and resolving issues as fast as possible. Patient satisfaction has doubled in the past several quarters as a result.

qrcodes_feedback

Going Deeper by Observing Customer Behavior

Ethnographic research can provide deep insights into people’s behaviors and unmet needs by taking a holistic view of customers in their own environment.

This is a more expensive technique but can yield unique insights. A great example comes from a day in the life analysis of  women cleaning their homes in Italy. A US company after failing to gain success with an all purpose cleaner for the home in the Italian market, undertook ethnographic research to understand why the product was failing. It discovered that Italian women spent 4 times as much time cleaning their homes than US women. They were fastidious and extremely house proud. They used specific cleaners for specific jobs as they believed an all purpose cleaner simply would not get the job done. These insights allowed the company to reposition the cleaner to focus on meeting a more specific need – benchtop cleaning. The repositioning resulted in a much more successful launch into the italian market.

Piloting New Products or Services

This involves putting new products or services in front of customers to gain direct feedback. A modern version of this can be seen on websites like Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs can essentially describe a product or service and raise funding for the idea. This is really the ultimate way to test concepts, will customers pay for it? One of the most successful products launched on Kickstarter is the Pebble Watch. It launched 18 months prior to Apple announcing their own iWatch. It is now raising funding for its second version and has raised almost $10 million to date.

Mining Social Media

The last incredible source of rich customer insight exists within a wide range of social media including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Pinterest and other online communities. There are a range of different companies that can help mine this online data and distill sentiment and feedback in a meaningful and actionable manner. A great list of the top 50 tools is provided here by Pam Dyer.

While surveys remain a great way to elicit direct feedback on specific topics of interest to the company, there are many other ways to generate insights that should be incorporated into every company’s way of doing business.

3 reasons why customer centricity’s time has come

the_time_is_now The world of business has rapidly transformed over the past 15 years. From a world where businesses controlled supply, controlled the message and could dictate terms to customers to one where customers have a much louder and more influential voice.

While we have always been advocates of businesses that act in the best interests of their customers, it seems market forces are now compelling all businesses to behave this way.

So why do we believe 2015 is the year for Customer Centricity? 3 reasons.

1. Customer Feedback Systems are going enterprise wide.

Companies have been measuring customer satisfaction levels for many years. Often these surveys have been conducted once a year, presented and then forgotten about. This type of survey methodology is rapidly changing, becoming real time and supported by great technologies to get the right feedback to the right person at the right time. In fact technology is enabling enterprise wide feedback mechanism that were never previously viable.

While this is a great positive trend for companies that realize they must become more customer centric, it is not enough for these to remain only the domain of customer service or marketing.

Being customer centric is a way of doing business that is not only about sales, marketing and customer service. It involves every department understanding their role in creating a great customer experience. Many forward thinking CEOs recognize this fact and are working on transforming their organizations to meet this challenge.

2. Convergence of customer experience and employee experience.

Today there is a recognition that employee experience impacts customer experience. If employees are not given the opportunity and tools to change the way they work, the customer experience will suffer. Being customer centric means understanding that every interaction with customers allows them to form an impression, good, bad or indifferent. It truly requires everyone in an organization to be engaged in delivering great experiences.

The bottom line here is that you cannot create truly engaged customers without truly engaged and passionate employees.

3. Recognition that Customer Centricity is a Leadership Competency. 

Being customer centric, requires leadership that is customer centric. Leaders need to be engaged with customers first hand. Leaders need to immerse themselves in the customer’s environment and experience what customer’s experience. I wrote about Telstra’s (A $20billion telecommunications company) Executive team engaging in this practice previously here. We are seeing this become the norm in many other large businesses around the world.

There is also increasingly a realization that leaders of all disciplines need to develop their customer centric thinking and leadership competencies.

We were recently honoured that our Book, the Customer Culture Imperative  was nominated as one of the Top 20 and later short listed after a public voting period to the final 5 for the Marketing Book of the Year – 2015. Perhaps some further proof that Customer Centricity’s time has come!

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 (QA) 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.

Want to know how customer-centric your organization is in comparison to the best in the world? Find out more about our Market Responsiveness Index (MRI)

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.

The Customer Insight Lab of the Future

Uncovering customer insights

Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, like other large organizations has a powerful research, analytics and insights hub. Liz Moore, who heads that group in Telstra says

“You need deep seated curiosity to develop insights.”

So she has hired people with those characteristics and developed an operating model that links the data supplier with an “insight manager” and the stakeholder (decision-maker) to solve a particular customer problem and gain real insights into current and future customer needs.

This group provides insights from customer value analysis, churn analysis, market share changes, communication effectiveness of the company and its competitors’ marketing campaigns, financial modeling of key competitors as well as analysis of qualitative customer feedback.

Liz says “In research we have changed from the rear-view mirror to headlights” and with access to a panel of 15,000 consumers whose behavior is tracked, she can put together focus groups within a day of the request. Her group proactively shares analytics and insights on customers and competitors throughout the company using weekly bulletins. It also reacts to requests from decision-makers in the business to research, analyze and develop insights on particular customer and market situations.

Above all this group is action oriented. Liz says “We don’t build anything unless there is a pathway to execution and measurement.”

This really is a great model for the customer insight lab of the future. Rather that seeing this as an isolated research function, forward thinking companies are building a multi-disciplinary team of people focused on using deep customer insight to help move business forward.

Does your organisation know more about customers than your competitors?