Category Archives: Voice of the Customer

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!

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?

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.

4 ways Electronic Arts navigated major Tectonic Shifts impacting their Customers

tectonic_shifts_in_technology_and_customer_impacts

Many industries today are experiencing market and technology shifts in their marketplaces that are somewhat like the clashing of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Industries including publishing and printing, education, telecommunications, media, advertising, health and retail are all facing massive change. How does an organization navigate a techtonic shift?

Electronic Arts Labels (EA), the world’s leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment  faced a techtonic shift in 2007 with the rapid change occurring from retail packaged goods products to new digital delivery platforms. The new CEO at that time, John Riccitello, presented his vision as a burning platform – you are in the middle of the ocean on an oil platform that is on fire. You either hold on and ride it down or you jump off and face the unknowns of a swirling ocean.

In his article titled “Getting into your customers’ heads”, Krish Krishnakanthan finds out what EA had to do to navigate this techtonic shift. To transform from a retail products business to a digital supplier using new platforms such as social networks, mobile phones and tablets.

The key success factors:

1)   Measuring and tracking customer usage of games, external gaming-publication reviews (critical review success is linked with sales performance). For that part of the business with direct sales to consumers, they use technology to measure customer interactions and the lifetime value of each customer.

2)   Changes in the competitive landscape with low entry barriers and the emergence of small game developers has required  EA to restructure its business to give decentralized profit and loss control to product line/brand managers to enable them to compete with specific identified competitors.

3)   Enhanced communication and collaboration between development teams and marketing teams to co-ordinate go-to-market strategies.

4)   Scanning the external environment through consumer blogs and social media to identify new shifts in consumer opinion, competitive plays, new technology impacts on customers and economic forces affecting the market. This has required a culture change by EA. One which centers their whole business around the customer. An adaptive, future focused customer culture has enabled EA to cross the chasm created by the techtonic shift they faced.

Staying on the “oil platform’ would have meant riding the business to the bottom – out of business. Is your industry facing a techtonic shift? If so, check where you stand on “customer culture”. Is it strong enough to be adaptive and resilient to the storm ahead?

5 Reasons why your customers don’t believe you?

customers don't believe you You’d be better off not saying it if you can’t deliver it!

Customer focus is a term both overused and underdone. It sounds good in a mission or vision statement but many leaders don’t really know how to achieve a customer focused culture nor are they doing anything specific about improving it in a sustainable way. Many other leaders may know how to do it, but feel it may not be worth the effort and time required to achieve it.

There are many reasons the leadership of companies talk about it. They believe their customers and employees want to hear the “customer first” story. It sends the right message. Most leaders believe, at some level, focus on the customer is an important part of running a successful business. They understand that without customers there is no business.

So why do leaders of companies talk the talk but do not walk (or run) the walk?

The reality of being truly customer focused – that is, having a customer culture – is somewhat different. It is challenging, particularly when companies have developed habits and structures that work against it.

Internal focus on operations, processes and working in silos create habits that can be hard to change. As companies grow they become more complex, communication becomes difficult and frequently confusing, processes are set-up to maintain quality and improve efficiency and eventually get in the way of doing the right thing for customers. Silos develop and internal politics result in people acting in their own best interests above the customer and the business. These conditions lead to at least 5 reasons why customers don’t believe you.

1. Misdirected compensation

Sometimes people are compensated in ways that work against the best interests of customers. There is no better example of this than the mortgage crisis in the US where mortgage salespeople were incented to sell mortgages to people that could not afford them. This leads to customers not having their real needs met.

2. Short-term focused behavior

Another reason for the lack of customer culture is the short-term behavior driven by an investor focus and reporting of quarterly results. This leads to a focus on profit and revenue to the detriment of customers. An underlying customer culture providing a sustainable business focus will lead to more integrated thinking and reporting based on medium term performance trends.

3. Focus on technical skills

Many of today’s professionals are specialists with highly developed technical skills in their areas of expertise. This leads to a narrow focus without a broader understanding of the business environment and how they affect the value received by customers. Some professions even view customers as inhibitors to getting their jobs done – an annoyance to minimize. For example the university academic that laments the fact that they have to teach students rather than focus 100% on research or the surgeon that dislikes having to communicate in person with patients. Others focus on profit to the exclusion of customer interests. When this attitude takes hold in organizations it becomes a significant roadblock to a customer culture regardless of what the mission states.

4. Operating in silos

Functional silos where there is lack of cross-function collaboration and unclear customer “ownership” creates problems for customers. We have all experienced being sent from one department to another by customer service representatives who are not empowered to take ownership of our problem. This leads to customer frustration and then your customer promise lacks credibility.

5. Lack of strategic alignment

When staff do not understand or care about the company’s strategy and how what they do contributes to delivering value to customers. This leads to the customer receiving mixed service and conflicting messages.

Why should your customers believe you?

How to be insanely service centric – Lessons from Zappos

Customer Culture Car from Zappos

Zappos is renowned globally as a legend in customer service, partially for the e-retailer’s unique approach to customer interaction management. Zappos invests in the call center not as a cost, but as a marketing opportunity

Recently, Software Advice  Analyst Ashley Furness sat down with the company’s Customer Loyalty Operations Manager Derek Carder. He said the company’s whole strategy is to create loyalty through incentivizing ‘wow’ moments and emotional connections. Here are the four KPIs they use to monitor, track and improve performance:

  • Measure Total Call Time, Not Time Per Call

Instead of valuing quick time to resolution or processing high call volumes, Zappos looks at the percentage of a time an agent spends on the phone. Agents are expected to spend at least 80% of their time in customer-facing communications. This measure – called personal service level – is a way to empower the team to utilize their time how they see best promotes customer loyalty.

Reps who achieve this target get receive rewards, while those who fall below the 80 percent line are coached.

  • Quantify and Reward Wow Moments

Zappos measures calls against a 100-point scale called the “Happiness Experience Form.” This is based on answers to the following questions:

  1. Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
  2. Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
  3. Did they address unstated needs?
  4. Did they provide a “wow experience?”

Agents are expected to achieve a 50-point average or higher. Again, agents earn incentives for meeting their goals, while under performers are required to take extra training.

  • Mine for Idle Chats

Zappos monitors “abandonment time,” or periods when an agent has a session open even though the customer already disconnected from the chat.  Carder said sometimes agents do this purposely to avoid responding.

This strategy of looking for idle chats zeroes in on the cause of unproductivity. When agents aren’t productive, customers wait longer. And the longer they wait, the more apt they are to abandon the session.

  • Reward Perfect Attendance and Punctuality

Zappos uses a program called Panda to combat absenteeism. Employees receive a point for every day they miss work or come in late. Staff with zero points in a given period receive a varying number of paid hours off. These hours can be accrued and stacked for an entire paid day off, Carder explains.

The primary take away is that Zappos created metrics that emphasize creating a relationship with the customer rather than rushing them through the call. At the same time, these KPIs still successfully improve performance and make employees feel appreciated and rewarded.

This is what call center metrics look like when they are designed to maximize value for customers, rather than minimize costs for the company…..

Thanks to Ashley Furness for providing great inputs for the content of this post, for more on this story visit her here

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?