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.

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.

How to turn Leavers into Lovers…baby

When American Express decides it’s time to stop treating customer complaints as a cost centre and start using the opportunity to get closer to their customers and build a stronger relationship with them, it’s time to sit up and take notice!

Over the past 12 months, the Chief Marketing Officer of American Express came out and said in effect they had been ignoring one of the strongest and most important branding tools at their disposal…the telephone. This isn’t an article about Amex, it is a guide to assist those sitting in organisations on how to turn a customer who is on the verge of leaving you and how to turn them around to becoming your most loyal advocate.

Taking a Service Design approach and getting closer to your existing customers so you can find out how to better serve them has to be one of the smartest investments for service providers. It sure beats spending millions on TV making more promises you are not structured to deliver upon(that is is another post altogether).

From Inc. Magazine, they have compiled eight expert tips for dealing with the toughest customers. Here’s how it’s done right.

Want some old advice? The customer is always right. Okay, now you can stick that in your pocket. Today’s best service entrepreneurs are looking beyond old axioms in relating to customers. That’s because today’s best customer service isn’t something that can be faked: it’s personalized and it has a personality. Do you have the certainty you can harness all the feedback customers will give your company, act on it, and keep your best customers coming back for more? We’ve compiled highlights of new expert tips from articles in Inc. and guides on Inc.com to help you take a fresh look at making your customers happier and your business better.

1. Ditch the formalities and break the rules.
The last thing unsatisfied customers want to hear is a recitation of your company’s return policies, Tali Yahalom writes on Inc.com. “Today’s customer expects to be treated as an individual, not as just another number who’s complaining,” Ann Thomas, a senior consultant at Performance Research Associates, a Minnesota consulting firm, says. Consider the case of a department store with a 90-day deadline for returning an item. If there’s a customer who just got married, returned from her honeymoon and, at day 100, realized that a gravy plate adorned with doves is actually not her style, it’s worth looking into alternative options rather than sending her home right away. Your company should know that occasionally bending the rules will ultimately cost less it than it would to lose the customer or, worse, if the customer leaves and relays a negative story about your company. Read more.

2. Don’t give customers too much choice.
What happens when you give customers too much say in how you make what they buy? “Quite simply, overly-demanding customers can undercut your ability to grow a valuable business,” writes John Warrillow, serial entrepreneur, author, and Inc. contributor. He explains that when trying to scale up a subscription research offering similar to a Bloomberg or Forrester research program using a model by which a customer subscribes to a pre-set number of reports provided to all, things started to derail. His company was customizing each report for the 17 subscribers, meaning an annual 102 reports based on six studies, which was untenable for the company’s 20 employees. Warrillow shut down the program. The lesson? “In hindsight, I realize a big part of the problem was my involvement in the selling. I’m just too tempted to make a sale at just about any cost. Next time, I’ll know better than to let my sales instincts undermine my entire business model.” Read more.

3. Monitor your reputation online. All the time.
Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp have become essential components of many companies’ online marketing strategies, but there are countless other sites on which customers rant and rave about their experiences,” writes Inc. reporter April Joyner. When customers rant online, it has the potential to tarnish a company’s brand—and scare away prospective buyers.  There is a host of new tools to monitor what’s been said about them online. “Eighty percent of companies do fine with Google Alerts,” says Andy Beal, founder of Trackur, an online monitoring software company. “But once you have 30 different keywords to monitor, you’ll outgrow it very quickly.” Companies such as Trackur, Radian6, and Viralheat offer Web-based dashboards specifically designed to monitor multiple brands. Though the most expensive of these can cost more than $6,000 a year to use, many services offer less expensive packages for small businesses, Joyner reports. Read more

4. Shut up and listen.
It sounds simple, and it sounds easy, but it’s often not. When a customer starts ranting, just listen.  Tali Yahalom writes on Inc.com: “Often customers feel the needs to vent frustration with a product or service before even considering a proactive solution.” And Thomas told her: “Acknowledge the customer’s emotional state,” Thomas says. And don’t get defensive. Remember that a good empathy statement does not imply ownership of the problem. Another key communication tip involves asking open-ended questions that involve the customer, Thomas says. This technique will not only divert focus from emotional frustration but also generate copious information about the problem at hand and help you arrive at the appropriate solution. “Rather than getting defensive … I need to simply listen to the customer, accept the feedback, thank the person, and then decide what to do,” she adds. As a bonus, the customer might feel appreciated and cared about, alleviating some of their emotional frustration. Read more.

5. Collect lots and lots of customer feedback.
Several companies offer tools that let customers submit feedback and vote on suggestions. Although all of these services offer some basic features for free, they typically require business owners to pony up for paid versions in order to moderate customer comments and integrate the tools into their company websites. With Get Satisfaction, customers can report problems, ask questions, submit ideas, and offer compliments. The most popular package for small businesses, priced at $89 a month, includes design customization and an analytics dashboard. Other options, such as IdeaScale, UserVoice, and UserEcho, are priced from $15 to $589 a month. Read more.

For all 8 tips click here

Using Service Design to Create, build and monetise Customer Loyalty

I read some research  a few days ago from http://www.researchandmarkets.com which I reposted on Twitter yesterday. It talked about critical lessons in delivering a great customer experience, with one of them being that our brands are only as strong as their weakest link. Customer loyalty can disappear quickly with a single negative experience.

The research showed that consumers/customers may not frequently visit your brand’s web site, but once they do, a frustrating interaction can lead to a lost customer. Perhaps even more frightening is the opportunity to lose a customer at the call center, where too many companies in the study saw their experience ratings drop compared to other touch points. Yet the opportunity to strengthen the customer relationship exists along every step of the brand value chain, particularly when one step leads to another.

The study by researchandmarkets.com  showed that a positive call center interaction that includes an introduction to valuable online services can leave the consumer satisfied after that one call, but more engaged with the brand over time. A web site that helps customers navigate the instore shopping experience can pay brand dividends far beyond a satisfying online interaction.

The biggest challenge facing service organisations today is delivering a consistent customer experience. The amount of ways a customer can interface with the organisation has rapidly increased. There’s no system to ensure front line employees deliver the right experience every time. There is no skillset and toolset designed to efficiently deliver new and better services.

You may have the greatest product or service in the world, but if your customers are let down at any point in the chain, it’s all academic. Most companies I work with are extremely confused. They’ve tried everything they know, but it’s not working. Using a Service Design firm helps them figure out what it takes to succeed in profitably delivering a great customer experience.

This research by researchandmarkets.com piqued my interest and reinforced for me the value of Service Design and it’s contribution to ensuring that companies deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience for the purpose of creating, building and monetising Customer Loyalty. There are other types of companies that look to  create a “great customer experience”,  but more often than not, it is one or two isolated “customer experiences”. The more I examine successful Service Design case studies (both our own and others) I realise that it is the ability to deliver consistency across every touch-point  is the true and unique value that Service Design provides service based companies.

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