Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Making Customers Matter: Eight Things You Can Do Right Now

We are all trying hard, I think, to get back on track with employees and customers after a particularly difficult time over the past 18 months or so.

In my video blog, I discuss a unique concept that you can apply today to create a positive environment for employees as well as a great customer experience.

Do you see The Spillover Effect in your companies? Are the eight drivers some of the behaviors and outcomes that you focus on for better results?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why What Customers Want Has Changed (Maybe Forever)

It’s a tricky thing these days to try to figure out what customers want and what keeps them coming back to you. Here are four thoughts based on what I’ve been seeing recently:

· Sometimes “Good” is Good Enough: we got so comfortable with ‘excellence’ and ‘superior’ and other adjectives that define our value proposition; then the world fell off a cliff in 2007/2008. If you have taken your customers’ collective pulse lately, you might be surprised to find out that “good” is fine and that loading them up with features and benefits they might think are nice but won’t pay for, shrinks your bottom line. This is Southwest Airline's strategy and it seems to be working really well for them.

· Customers Want to Buy: Customers are so smart and informed. By the time they contact you or you do a sales call, they’ve already been online, searched Twitter and Google and asked their friends on Facebook about you and several of your competitors (yes, even B2B). They’ve got their shortlist and if you’re not on it, bludgeoning them with a sales pitch, drip emails or telemarketing calls won’t work. They want to buy; not be sold to.

· Faster.Better.Cheaper or Way Cool (or what?) Who are your customers and why do they buy from you? Instead of segments, try developing personas for major customer types. It is eye-opening when you think about customers as people with names, jobs, etc. Tailoring marketing messages and channels for personas is more effective because it's more personal and training front line staff is easier as well.

· Don’t Skimp on the Experience: Customers still want to have an experience that matches their expectations. Using personas can help define what those expectations are and once you know them, you can decide whether this is a customer group you can profitably handle or whether you should target personas that are a better fit with your existing business.

Are you looking at customers with fresh eyes? Are they account numbers or do they have personas?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Got a Game Plan? Dispelling Some Myths

What's your game plan? Do you have one? Despite the rumors that strategy is dead, it's never been more important to know where you're going and how you're going to get there.
First, let's dispel some myths about creating a game plan:

Things Move Too Fast - No Time: unless you have unlimited resources and access to capital, it's never been more important to get a handle on how you're going to be more successful.
It's Too Hard: The old process of a never-ending planning cycle has had its day. You can use just 5 steps to get from Purpose to Execution. That's it. Five steps.
We Do Fine Without One: Are you sure about that? If you can't draw a straight line from programs, initiatives and campaigns to the business results you want, you may seem fine but you'll do a lot better with some direction. Without a game plan, how do your employees understand where the company is going and how they can play their part?

In the video clip below, I outline the five steps to get a successful game plan:

As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, ' if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.'

What process do you use to get your game plan? Are you actively engaging in strategic thinking or just bumping along?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

5 Things Your Customers Should Never Hear

I'm shocked at how some companies seem to have divorced the word "service" from the word "customer". What has happened?
Just recently, my customer experiences with a well-known brand have been frustrating and unpleasant. Here are the five comments I heard from this company that finally drove me to a competitor. And, I was thrilled to be paying twice what I would have paid otherwise because the experience was so incredible.

It's Not My Job: I don't care about your job description. If you are speaking to me and I didn't get through to the night watchman by mistake, at least make an attempt to be helpful. Your voice mail system is friendlier but it can't help me.

Those Are the Rules: I'm the profit center or hadn't you noticed? I'd like to give you $1000 but your rules are getting in the way.

That's Another Department: Your silos don't interest me. Your web site said I could have that color.

We Don't Know When That Part Will Be Available: Then why did your web site let me build a configuration with that part?

My Supervisor Will Just Tell You the Same Thing: Let's see what s/he says when I Twitter and blog about this experience.

Somewhere along the line, this company thought it could get by with third-class service but no one can afford to do that these days. Maybe it was a cost-saving measure but skimping on service is a losing strategy.

Clearly no one at my former technology supplier thought to connect those moments of truth that roll up into a customer experience otherwise the web site would have been in sync with its supply chain. How can you let that happen when you've promoted a build-it-yourself-you-can-have-it-in-three-days experience as your competitive advantage?

I don't blame the sales/service representative. After all, those are the rules. And, he sounded as dejected as I felt by the end of our painful encounter. Someone at that company lost two customers; never to return. I wonder when the higher-ups will notice that a rush for the door is impacting earnings. I cannot be alone by the looks of their competitor's store when I walked in to buy my new laptop. People were stacked up like cords of wood.

Service isn't something that's nice to have: it will make or break all of us who sell something (which is all of us). What are YOU doing about your service? What are the things you never want to hear from your customers? Here's the one thing I don't want to hear: Good-bye.