Four Characteristics of a Seamless Customer Experience

Everyone’s talking about customer experience, whether they are coming from the view of a customer (since we are all customers of something really) or if they’re coming from a strategic business perspective, wanting to improve customer experience for a competitive advantage.
Don Peppers of the Peppers & Rogers Group wrote about his top 4 characteristics of a seamless customer experience, here’s our take.

We believe that branding is the promise you make; customer experience is the promise you keep. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep promises that’s why it’s important to continually check, is your customer experience seamless? Does your customer experience have these four characteristics?

  1. Reliable: Products and services built to break or are full of holes aren’t reliable nor are they set up to have a promising future for both the customer and the producer. “Your product or service should perform as advertised, without failing or breaking down.” Keep the promises you made when your customer first signed up and that will ensure you a base of happy and loyal customers.
  2. Relevant: Don Peppers sees this characteristic as what he calls “customer competence”. He mentions that companies should, once they have learnt a customers’ details, it should be remembered. To add, we believe it is extremely important to know and understand your customers. If you think you know what your customers want, you’re probably wrong because only they know and the only way to find out is to get to know them. So listen to your customers!
  3. Valuable: If you make yourself relevant to a certain target customer, you should also make yourself valuable to them. Not only should your product/service provide your customers with great value for money but they should also become something that is seen as irreplaceable. These companies are called charismatic brands, where customers can’t seem to find an equal or second option for your product/service. Therefore build your brand as valuable to your target customer so that your customers become true fans.
  4. Honest: Genuine honesty creates a human organisation and will build brand stories that are unforgettable and therefore truly valuable for your company. We’ve mentioned this before in our previous post (2. Always put your customers first).

Read the Peppers article here.

No Investment, No Growth!

There will always be a certain amount of risk and anxiety when it comes to developing new strategies. But it seems that the terror of another global crisis led the majority of the companies to stop developing growth strategies. Business leaders are completely risk adverse, massive amounts of cash are piling up, M&A diminished 14% globally since 2008, and stock buybacks just continue to increase.

In reality, business leaders always had to face uncertainty, knowing that if money is not invested… growth, expansion, and innovation just don’t happen!! However, they are doing nothing and nothing is just a terrible decision. Especially nowadays, when the market change rate is accelerating and products and services go from new to completely obsolete in less than 6 years (See the case of the first generation iPhone declared obsolete last June).

Likewise, companies can grow their markets like never before. One example is Samsung, “the world’s largest technology company by revenue” who entered the global smartphone market and conquered it (almost) in just 3 years. Competition isn’t confined to the industry leaders anymore - it can come from the smallest garage start up or from an international company.

“Business leaders can anticipate change” by understanding that uncertainty is unfamiliarity. This means that old ways can be adjusted and new methods acquired. The example provided by Bain is an extreme eye-opener. A couple of years ago everyone believed that money was scarce and talent was abundant. Today, businesses lack talent and that situation could change into a shortage of 95 million people by the end of the decade.

Bain finishes the article with a clever mnemonic, stating that what is needed is an “A” game: one that’s alert, agile and able to move with alacrity.

After reading the article, we at Proto Partners, questioned something that we consider essential. How can your company create innovative strategies that allow you to grow without knowing what your customers need? Well, you simply can’t! If you look carefully to what the biggest companies in all industry segments are doing, you see that they are focusing their attention on their customers, anticipating their needs and delivering outstanding customer experiences. They know that innovation and success become possible when they have feasible technology, it is economically viable and finally also desirable by the customer.

Read more here.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Customers can be really difficult sometimes. Sure, it would be great if we could just make those customers just disappear…but that’s just unrealistic. Unsatisfied customers are extremely likely to spread their frustrations faster than you could ever hope to keep them quiet especially in this age of easy web access.

Instead of treating these difficult customers as a burden, try seeing it as a business opportunity for change. Negative customer feedback should always be taken as areas of growth. In a 1to1media article, it is pointed out that some companies actually “seek to understand what issues consumers keep encountering so they can adjust their approach and improve the customer experience for all.” Imagine that! Companies that are actually interested in what you the customer, is frustrated with!

Ok so how should you deal with “difficult” customers?

  1. Address their concerns: First and foremost, when customers are facing difficulties with your company, they want to feel acknowledged. Customers want to know that they are important and that their concerns will be addressed. By addressing customer concerns, you show that you are taking responsibility over it. Rather than patching up a common issue, “brands must look to the primary causes if they hope to rectify the situation.”

  2. Always put the customer first: This might be a difficult one for some because this means that no matter what cost and no matter what choice the customer may make in the end, their interests come first. There will be times when a customer will chose your competitor over you. Instead of leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth, make the customer’s experience with you a positive one, until the very end. Being extremely honest with your customers about where they can find better priced or better suiting plans/products will result in raving fans who will tell your story for years even though they aren’t exactly “with” you. That is far more valuable than an unhappy customer kept with a dishonest company that cannot provide what they desire.
  3. Don’t forget your internal customers: By internal customers, we mean your employees. Your employees are just as valuable as your external (end) customers for they are what makes your company work. They are the frontline staff and the “face” of the company. The morale of these internal customers are especially important since they communicate this throughout the organisation through their work. Therefore, support your staff while they deal with difficult customers especially when they are confronted with abusive behaviour. This will encourage “them to advocate for the brand and offer superior customer service, as they can rest assured that the company at hand is certainly one for which they want to work.”

Read the 1to1media article here. 

Transparency = Competitive Advantage

How can transparency become your competitive advantage?
We’ve broken it down to three areas that you can bring in transparency into your company so that you can transform it into your competitive advantage and why.

Transparency in:

  • How much your colleagues are earning: Transparency on the cost structure of your company can prove to create an incredible bond of trust within the organisation. This not only shows how much each position earns but clearly explains why. No one is left out and there are no hidden deals behind closed doors, which gives employees a sense of clear direction and certainty.
  • What your colleagues are doing: This helps employees keep track of where they are personally on a project but also what areas their colleagues are tackling, how much time they’re spending on it which holds people accountable to certain tasks. “In addition to sharing daily learnings and progress, everyone on the team also shares where they struggled and how they’re trying to improve.” This can be used to help people become more efficient and part of the team.
  • What your business goal is: Having a clear business goal that is apparent to both your internal customers and your external customers makes a statement about your company. Not only does the world know that, Google’s company mantra is “Don’t be evil”, but it is something that they will be held accountable for. Similarly, you will have to stand by your business goal and this gives your company a great amount of transparency and therefore trust in your brand.

“When you’re treating employees well, transparency is a very simple proposition–it’s just telling people what you do…it’s as easy as telling the truth.”

Read more on transparency in your business here. 

Banks are terrified! The solution: Technology and a Customer Centric Strategy

As many of us who’ve worked with the banking sector know, they can be a risk adverse and change resistant group. But in a recent article in the Australian, ANZ’s Chief Executive Mike Smith cautions, it is an industry about to face a ‘tsunami of disruptive technology’, a change he describes as “terrifying”.

Some of the source of that terror is driven by the pace of change happening in Silicon Valley where small and medium start-ups are breaking into the market with competing services previously confined to the banking industry.

We believe that to survive and thrive, banks will not only need to start playing in the digital sphere and embrace innovative technologies but also start looking and behaving like customer centric organisations like Amazon (considered by several as the most customer centric company in the world), delivering meaningful and delightful services. And as a customer insight specialist we know that it all starts with first understanding your customer needs and aspirations.

Over the years we’ve helped numerous organisations do just that and where we often find the real magic happens is when the organisation and customers goals align. Technology came into our lives to help us answer customer desires in an easy, reliable and user friendly way. Its use must facilitate the interaction between company and customer, generating a tight and last longing relationship.

Proto Partners helps companies create feasible (Your company has systems to develop it), viable (Your company can afford it) and desirable (Your customers want it) solutions that can be later prototyped and implemented.  In even simpler words, do customers WANT it, can we MAKE it, and is there a market for it?

To read the whole article, please click here.

The Top 5 Demand Generation Strategies

Marketing departments are being pushed by their corporate levels to provide highly qualified leads. However, customers spend almost 60% of the sales process without engaging with companies and doing their own research. On the one hand, since companies are no longer in control, it becomes harder to identify and nurture customers. On the other hand, customers expect a personalized interaction. Cynthia Clark identifies in the latest 1to1 Media weekly magazine, 5 strategies for companies to foster and nurture relationships.

1. Define the goals of your demand generation program and the key performance indicators to measure the project’s success- It is important to define a “demand generation strategy that addresses every step of the process”. In addition, companies need to understand who their clients are. In fact, focusing on their target audience will allow to faster engage and penetrate accounts and obtain lead generation from marketing campaigns.

2. Engage in a digital one-to-one conversation- Businesses need to be involved into the purchasing journey from the start, read customers’ signs, and react in the appropriate moments with valuable information. The challenge is to identify customers, understand their buying process, and provide relevant customized information that creates a conversation between the brand and the customer.

3. Focus on the right content at the right time- The important is to provide at the right time, the right message that fits customers needs and insights, and educates them. For that, companies need to realize to whom they are talking to and what it is important for them. One way is to construct personas and create content that it is relevant to those customers.

4. Add a layer of human intervention- The complete automation of the demand generation process leads to “too many under-qualified, dead, or recycled leads getting into the sales funnel, leading to wasted time for sales team”. Adding a layer of human interaction provides a final qualification, avoiding that unqualified leads pass to sales teams.

5. Align sales and marketing- The alignment between teams makes effective the lead generation process.

Cynthia concludes that the most important thing is to know your customers, their preferred communication channels, and deliver highly relevant content that engages them.

At Proto, we believe that everything starts with customer understanding. Knowing customer needs and insights is the first step to relevant and targeted solutions. Also, clustering similar needs, and creating personas allows your company to intervene in the right moment with the right message, engage its customer and foster brand loyalty.

Read the full article here.

Build movements, not campaigns! 

This is the essence of one of Ekaterina Walter’s recent blog posts on Fastcompany.com. She argues that by building extraordinary moments that ignite brand passion you can engage the true believers in your brand and create a movement of long-term commitment and advocacy. Even more, you can create a voluntary army of enthusiastic brand advocates.

But how do you create customer satisfaction?

At Proto Partners we believe that creating great customer satisfaction all starts with being able to measure and understand your current satisfaction levels. And one tool we often employ to do just this is the Net Promoter Score.

Developed by Fred Reichheld and Bain & Company, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) analyses and evaluates customer willingness to suggest your company to friends, family and colleagues. The theory is, that the higher the score, more advocacy will be done. Although this is a long term company investment, it’s true that a recommendation from a trusted friend is, according to McKinsey & Company, “up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than is a low-impact recommendation”.

In addition, NPS data, being both quantitative and qualitative, allows you to truly understand not just your customer’s satisfaction but also the reasons behind a positive or negative word of mouth.

We think NPS is a great tool on the road to building brand advocates and long term customer loyalty.

Read the full article here.

Customers’ Lifetime Value

Companies are doing their best to retain customers because customer acquisition is a costly and lengthy process. To maximize their value and long-term results, companies are providing the best possible experiences, that will bring them back to the stores, and even calculating their customers’ lifetime value. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers describe in, Return on Customer, customer lifetime value as “the net present value of the future streams of cash flows a company expects to generate from the customer”. Therefore, customers generate value for the company by “increasing both current and future cash flows”. Peppers & Roggers believe that knowing your customers’ lifetime value can guide your company interactions with its different customers. Likewise, at Proto Partners, we know that every customer is different and that customers interact to different companies differently therefore it is essential to adapt communications to them so that you don’t miss great business opportunities.

The ability to understand lifetime customer needs allows the company to create and to market products that can increase the potential customer value. Companies must focus on future transactions and lifetime value, sometimes, at the expense of current interactions. However, most of the companies, are focused on clicks per rate and short term results, disregarding customers’ potentiality.

One challenge in the use of customer lifetime value is the lack of a client holistic view and customer integrated data. In the end, the ability to understand customers from every point of view is extremely important to realize their future buying potential. Proto Partners can help you assess all your present customer interactions, analyze the future potentialities and suggest innovative and feasible solutions to increase future lifetime value.

The most important is to highlight the potentiality of every customers and deliver “optimal experiences across the board”.

Read the full article here.

Run away from competition

Kaihan Krippendorff says that “Disruptive strategies begin with the courage to zag where others zig” by simply reading the herd. But what does “zagging where the others zig” really mean? It means to go out there, take a real good look at what your competition is doing right now and run away from it, into a totally different direction. By running into uncharted territory,  your company will be able to serve the consumer needs that your competition disregards.

So, run away from the standard attributes which are common in your industry.  Remember, it isn’t enough to look in other directions and select an alternate route just for the sake of it. To have a disruptive strategy, your company has to understand and deliver the attributes that truly matters to your consumers.

With your strategy in mind, we at Proto Partners, can help you find the consumer wants and needs that aren’t being addressed by your competitors, and provide you with creative and feasible solutions to grow your business.