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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Million $ Idea: Create an Officer of the Day!

We once had a client who developed a novel approach to connecting senior-level management with customers; bringing the ‘customer experience’ being delivered directly into the C-suite.  This organization required each senior executive a to spend a minimum of 2 hours each month listening in on calls being handled by their customer service team. Even more outrageously innovative, each senior manager was required to be “on call” one day each month as the “Officer of the Day”.  Their purpose? To become involved and to resolve any issues that arose from customers who required an escalated response.
Now we should immediately explain that this client was in a hi-tech B2B environment and that each customer account therefore represented hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in sales and service. But even in industries with a lower spend, customer lifetime values will still generally justify this sort of attention.  The concept of listening and participating in customer interactions is one that is a valuable experience to senior executives in virtually any major corporation.  After all, when was the last time most senior executives really spent time truly understanding what it was like to be their customer; using their brands, products or services?  How is it interacting with the procedures, processes, and people of their organization?

"Our Senior Team Is Just Too Busy!"

Some might say that the time of their most senior executives is much too valuable to be “wasted” listening to customers on the phone or riding along with a sales person as they meet face-to-face with customers.  But just think about that.
As part of consulting assignments, on several occasions we provided senior managers with what we called “the out of box experience”.  We literally ordered their product online, and brought the package in to open-up before their eyes in a conference room.  We found some surprise at how the product was packaged, but we witnessed heated discussion and finger-pointing as the assortment of documents that accompanied the product were reviewed.  “Who authorized THAT to be in the package?”  “Who approved that copy?” “Couldn’t we find better quality paper or cardboard on which to print an enclosure that carries our brand name?” “If a customer responds to this, who handles it, and where do we capture those responses?”

So, Maybe It Wouldn't Be a Waste of Time!

Executives at many big companies have become far too removed from the everyday experience of their customers.  What little they do hear is often filtered by through several levels within their organization and no doubt has lost most of its ‘punch’ along the line.  After all, even if their immediate reports learn about weaknesses in the structure, raising questions and being the bearer of bad news is often not a great career choice.
But spending time listening to customers or riding along with a sales rep could:

  • Reveal internal impediments – those being faced both by customers and by internal customer service and sales staff as they attempt to better serve customers
  • Provide an unfiltered view of the reality of the customer experience - that typically doesn’t reach senior management.
  • Strengthen executive credibility and humanize them as business leaders – (assuming the listening is positioned and executed as joint learning and not as a threat to staff).
  • Build empathy for customers and staff - rather than considering them only as assets and liabilities.

As logical and as simple as instituting an Officer of Day program is, we're constantly amazed at the rigid and provincial thinking that often stymies such progress.  On a personal note, we once had a friend who was having terrible problems with a new American-made automobile.  Neither the local dealership nor the manufacturer's regional zone office were showing any empathy or willingness to assist.  We encouraged our friend to escalate the issue to Detroit and the C-Suite.  Reaching a senior executive's office, our friend was told by the gate-keeping admin, "Don't you know, Presidents of American companies have far more important things to tend to, than talking to customers!"

Let's hope they see the light, and begin to understand who keeps their companies in business!

9:39 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How to Stimulate 'Organic' Word of Mouth

Econsultancy ran a blog post recently titled “Five examples of brands that succeed with word-of-mouth marketing”. They reviewed five examples of how companies large and small have driven their business growth through word of mouth. We certainly believe strongly in the power of word of mouth as a means to retain current customers and produce new ones, so we were interested.  First, their examples, then our recommendations.

Five Basic Examples of Creative Campaigns

Here are the five companies Econsultancy cites for providing outstanding examples of how to use word-of-mouth as a primary marketing tool:

  • Chipotle was recognized for its highly popular YouTube video (The Scarecrow, 2013) that happened to be a trailer for an accompanying iOS app that allowed players to earn codes for free Chipotle menu items. The video was designed to encourage sharing (5.5 million views); the app to boost viewer involvement with the brand (650,000 downloads).

           The sustainable-farming message of the video and app is reinforced by positive customer experiences with employees - typically jovial and friendly, and helps to foster the brand’s unique ‘food culture’. (A great example of past success though apparently not impactful enough to overcome the company’s multiple food safety scandals that have happened more recently.)

  • Netflix is acknowledged for building word of mouth by delivering the kind of original content that people naturally want to talk about. Additionally “Netflix boosts its customer experience by tapping into user data and sentiment – and delivering exactly what people want on the back of it”.  It well understood the audience’s love of binge-viewing and has scheduled the release of new series to promote such viewer behavior and the resulting 'water cooler conversations'.
  • Lush, a cosmetics retailer, largely relies on its brand values in order to raise awareness and engage consumers instead of making use of traditional advertising. “Its values are centered around social and environmental causes such as animal welfare, fair trade and ethical buying.”  The brand is committed to a zero-spend advertising budget so it relies on social networking to promote itself – largely as the sponsor of issues its target customer is passionate about
  • CrossFit, the branded fitness regimen, uses customer testimonials as the focus of its marketing strategy with “members sharing how and why Crossfit has not only transformed their bodies but multiple aspects of their lives”. Another tactic used is the workout of the day (WOD) which is posted on social media daily. People come back daily for the WOD and are encouraged to share their own results.
  • Slack, the workplace messenger application, uses a ‘freemium’ model, meaning an unlimited number of people can use it for free before deciding to pay for the upgraded package so it’s the word of mouth of the initial teams advocating the brand that are counted on to push the wider business to invest in its service.

          To achieve its goal Slack understands that it must provide a great customer                     experience and to that end is quick to point out that it has about four times as             many support staff as sales staff. Slack also works to keep customers in the                   know about product updates, and what is going on within the
          company in terms of culture and progression.

Our Recommendation; What You Can Do to Grow Word of Mouth

We’re not sure any of these are examples of the best way to produce word of mouth.  Many of them feel like fairly conventional marketing with only bits of strategy focused specifically on generating more positive word of mouth through current customers. However, they are all very creative and obviously the result of thinking ‘out of the box’.  But, as you will no doubt agree, gimmicks and tricks cannot be trusted to stimulate supportive word of mouth.

To really generate strong and ongoing word of mouth we believe brands must become more active and: 

  1. Provide customers with quality products (the very most basic requirement).
  2. Give clear and trustworthy after-sales support (another basic requirement).
  3. Educate, entertain and inform those customers who are loyal so they have 'content' (stories) to share with others.  (Otherwise only customers with negative experiences will have stories to share.
  4. Introduce customers to sites and other opportunities where they can pass along their stories, experiences, and feelings about the brand.
  5. Arm the best potential advocates (our unique approach for identifying those customers who are emotionally and behaviorally loyal and who are the best communicators) with 'props' (affinity merchandise: caps, t-shirts, etc.) that signal to others they have experience with the brand and are willing to talk about it. 
8:43 am edt          Comments

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Customer Experience Partners, LLC
Measurement, Management, Optimization
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