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Monday, January 18, 2016

The Silence of Dissatisfied Customers...A Quiet Begging to Be Heard
We’d like to think more data would be making us all more successful marketers.  But, to paraphrase Einstein, our undoing may be repeating the same mistakes but hoping for better outcomes.  Esteban Kolsky, CEO of thinkJar, just a few months ago shared some new statistics reinforcing data reminiscent of the TARP Complaining Behavior studies conducted over two decades ago.  The new data reminds us how invisible customer suffering can be to most marketing organizations.  Consider that Kolsky found:
  • Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers actually launch a complaint.
  • 91% of those unhappy non-complaining customers simply leave the brand.
We've repeatedly referred to this as the 'complaint iceberg' - to emphasize the small proportion of voiced complaints.  These reported findings are very similar to numbers we have been seeing for decades.  So our conclusion remains the same:  Customer indifference or inactivity can be seductively placating.  We must be ever alert so as not to interpret the absence of negative feedback as a sign of satisfaction.
We’re not making the kind of progress we wish we were because we’re still not getting customers actively talking to us -- or we're not listening well enough. Perhaps it’s the company-centric approach that dominates so many businesses; measuring results, benefits and customer values against internally established benchmarks and standards.  The few customers who do manage to 'break through' are only those few who scream loudest online.

So, Yes, You Need More Complaints
As practitioners who have encouraged the measurement of customer satisfaction for decades, we’re not recommending abandoning that discipline.  But, we strongly believe that no matter how complex and painful it is that our outreach needs to be intensified:
  1. Customers must be aided and encouraged to bring their failed experiences to the attention of a brand.
  2. Better communication channels must be established to capture customers' feelings and comments.
  3. Complaints need to be welcomed by management and treated as 'opportunities'.
  4. Processes should be created to encourage employees to communicate what they are hearing from customers to management.  (Employees need to be rewarded, not punished, when they communicate 'bad news'.)
  5. While monitoring social media is important it shouldn’t be construed as representative of one's customers' points of view.   Even in 2016 most word of mouth still takes place by phone, private email, text messaging, and face-to-face conversations.
And You Still Can't Manage What You Don't Measure; Not Even in 2016
We have also long spoken about managing expectations.  And the better we become at capturing and quantifying customer complaints, the better we will be able to know what customers are expecting of our brands.  So it all comes down to encouraging a better dialogue...turning the volume up on the current murmur of dissatisfaction.

8:02 pm est          Comments

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The New 4.7% Rule; How to Increase the Efficiency of Your Social Media Efforts


It’s hard to read marketing trades without coming across an article reminding us of the importance of content marketing.  The message generally seems to be that the more content you throw out to your current customers, the more they will pass along positive comments and recommendations to their friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers and strangers.

On Second Thought, That's a Bad Idea! We’ve tested the theory and found that yes, sending interesting content to your customers, can produce a lift in word of mouth.  But we have also observed as with any other marketing tactic, there are costs and resources involved.  Consequently we suggest that one shouldn’t reach out to all of one’s customers; many of them will consider your “valuable content” to be spam or irrelevant to them.  As a result, they won’t open it.  They’ll delete it.  They’ll unsubscribe.  And, most won’t pass along the content or their thoughts about it, so it’s an ineffective effort.  And with some customers your unsought content may even provoke negative word of mouth and ultimately ‘tarnish’ your image.

But we have never been able to objectively measure the impact.
Now we have some help.  Thanks to an article from AdAge  (September 2, 2015) we are told of a study from EngageSciences reporting that virtually all the earned media and conversions a typical brand acquires through social media efforts originate from just 4.7% of the brand’s customers.

That's Positive Impact on Just 1 in 20 Customers!  So, to wage a successful social media campaign, simply capturing names and email addresses is therefore far from adequate.  Instead, one needs a process to identify that small percentage of ‘active customers’ who will pass along positive comments and recommendations.  Once a brand has successfully ‘mined’ for these customers, a more ambitious ‘seeding’ can take place.  Because the numbers are much smaller, one can afford to do more with/for these customers.  With their identities known and their influence proven, you can amp up your investment in them.  So, knowing your content will have some impact, you can expend greater effort on its creation.  Or, alternatively, how about providing them samples?  Inviting them to special events?  Letting them be among the first to try new products, and even delivering them conversation catalysts so prospective consumers will have opportunities to ask for their opinions and advice.

But How to Identify Your 4.7% There might be other approaches but our process for identifying your best potential everyday advocates has three components:

  1. Behavioral Commitment: Search for those of your customers who are behaviorally committed to your brand; those who buy the largest quantities; buy most frequently; or who have been your customers for the longest time.
  2. Emotional-affiliation: Use survey techniques to find which of the behaviorally loyal current customers are also emotionally attached to your brand.
  3. The Communicator Gene: Beyond the behavioral and emotional 'screens', use further survey techniques to identify which of your customers are most comfortable engaging others in brand-conversations.


8:07 pm est          Comments

Monday, October 26, 2015

Should We Abandon "Push” Marketing Research and Adopt "Pull” Marketing Research?



The terms “push” and “pull” have been referenced in marketing discussions and textbooks for some time.  Technically the terms mean:
Push marketing: traditional marketing practices in which content is directed towards consumers generally through the mass media (advertising; direct mail; collateral materials; are all examples).
Pull marketing: a relatively new perspective in which consumers self-select and seek out information about a product or brand.


The Influence of the Internet


Arguably, the internet probably was the greatest impetus for the evolution towards pull marketing.  But, we shouldn’t disregard the fact that the typical consumer has become far more sophisticated than his or her counterpart of 25 years ago.  While the internet is a great facilitator, consumers might have been ready to ‘take over’ the flow of information even without it.  Accepting this radical redirection, a recent article in the GreenBook Marketing Research Newsletter proposes that marketing researchers “understand the paradigm shift in consumer behavior that continues to rapidly proliferate: people are increasingly ignoring push marketing, and embracing inbound, or pull marketing.”
The inference?  Adopt “pull marketing research”.


Hold On!  Are We Trying to Monitor Opinion or Please Respondents?


We find this conclusion unnerving.  It suggest a lack of understanding the importance of random sampling; randomness being the key to interpreting a survey’s results as representing any population.  Instead, it seems pragmatically driven to accept whatever form of information collection is easiest and will be most embraced by respondents.  It can’t be denied that:



  • Fewer and fewer people are willing to participate in spontaneous randomized surveys these days;


  • More and more organizations are openly recruiting participation through offered links or established ‘community panels’


  • Online ads or blog postings routinely ask for 'volunteers' for online polls - we wonder how many such polls are reported as 'research results'...;



Yes, this is the reality.  But recognizing the practices exist shouldn't compel us to modify our research methods.  The acceptance of such practices shouldn't be extended to an endorsement of their correctness!
Theory-based marketing researchers have striven to come to peace with this evolution of practice.  However, there is no real accommodation in scientific sampling theory to allow potential participants in a survey to ‘self-select’ themselves.  Doing so transforms a true scientific survey into a mere ‘straw poll’ among a group who can’t be ascertained to be representative of any body of customers except themselves.

Some Constructive Suggestions to Cope with the Evolving Customer
An alternative strategy to cope with today’s far lower cooperation rates with true marketing surveys is to substantially change our survey practices, by:



  1. Shortening our information objectives to two or three major learnings, thereby keeping surveys down to 3-5 minutes in length;


  1. Impressing consumers with the responsiveness the research community gives survey results, thereby encouraging future participation;


  1. Creating survey questions that are coherent, easily understood, and easily answered.


  1. Thinking carefully before asking a question; is it truely critical (or just a 'nice to know' issue).  Need we bother respondents to answer or is the information available through observational sources?


  1. Rewarding survey participants with something of value – not necessarily a monetary gift, but something that will be appreciated.  An inexpensive - though often overlooked - way to reward participants (in certain types of studies) is to offer them a copy of the findings ('sanitized', of course).


3:51 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mistaken Assumptions About Net Promoter Scores

How did the C-Suite in your organization react to your latest NPS scores?  Executives new to the process might react with disappointment or uncertainty.  After the formula for the NPS score is explained, reactions may soften but yet unrealistically high goals may still be set for the future.  "Let’s shoot for 75 someone might proclaim!"  (Most of us recognize that scores at that level are few and far between; reached only by standout organizations like the USAAs of the world).

Now suppose your NPS score is a 45 - and that’s a truly outstanding score for your category.  How would your senior executives interpret that? If they understand the NPS calculation (“Promoters” [those customers awarding a 9 and 10] minus “Detractors” [those customers awarding only a 6 through a 0]) they might quickly draw a mental picture of 45% of your current customers rushing out to enthusiastically recommend your brand to friends and colleagues and to generate all sorts of positive word of mouth for your brand.

Unfortunately That's Probably Not a Very Realistic Assumption

For several reasons even the best of brands doesn’t have 20%, 40% or certainly not 60% of its customers recommending the brand to friends and colleagues.  Why?

  • Customers are actually answering a different question - Now that the NPS question has become so familiar to most consumers, they interpret the “recommend” question as just a different way of asking “how satisfied are you”? Or they subconsciously add the condition, “if you were asked would you recommend the brand”? to the question.
  • Only a minority of consumers generate all the recommendations and word of mouth - Per the study from EngageSciences that we reported in our September 16 issue, virtually all the earned media and conversions a typical brand obtains through all of its social media efforts originates from just 4.7% of the brand’s customers.  (That doesn't include activity in the private social media, but it's still an incredibly small proportion.)
  • Lack of brand knowledge - Most consumers just don’t know enough about a given brand or don’t consider themselves equipped enough about a given category to actually make recommendations.
  • Protecting the value of their word - In reality the idea of making a recommendation to close friends and colleagues can be inhibiting for many consumers unless they are absolutely sure a better option does not exist.

So Then, What Does that NPS Score Really Mean?

To provide senior management with an objective and accurate understanding of what your NPS score means you really need to be able to answer the following questions:

  1. What are your “Promoters” (those who scored your brand a 9 or 10 on the likelihood to recommend question) actually writing and saying to their friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers?  How are they describing their experience with your brand?
  2. How frequently are they “promoting” your brand?  To how many people?  Through what medium? And are they waiting to be asked or are they volunteering their opinions?
  3. What are your “Detractors” (those who scored your brand a 0 - 6 on the likelihood to recommend question) actually writing and saying to their friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers?  How are they describing their experience with your brand?
  4. How frequently are they talking to others about your brand?  To how many people?  Through which medium(s)? And are they waiting to be asked or are they volunteering their opinions?
  5. What are the positive themes that are common among both groups that should be leveraged in future sales and marketing, and what are the negatives that must be overcome?
  6. How really different are the 'stories' the two groups are telling about your brand?  Does your brand possess a 'universal story'?

With answers to these questions, NPS scores can be used more effectively to: set priorities, drive future brand strategy, and promote to greater success for your brand.  Our Buzz Barometer™ service provides answers to these questions and more.

5:51 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Five Most Powerful, Yet Least-Frequently Heard Words in CRM

You don't have to look far to find a story, a You Tube video or a Facebook post about how a company or organization failed to satisfy a customer.  Stories of dissatisfaction are just all too prevalent.  When things go wrong, it’s appropriate for customers to complain and today’s ‘enlightened’ management seems goaled to respond.  But far less visible are stories of satisfaction.  Not because they occur less frequently.  No doubt, most service encounters and customer interactions end up with satisfactory if not delighted outcomes.  But, when satisfaction is delivered, there’s less motivation to act on it.  Appropriately, customers shouldn’t feel the need to compliment a business for simply doing ‘the right thing’.  But sometimes, when a customer is unexpectedly delighted they are motivated to comment on their delight.  But this action, this comment imposes a whole new challenge to the business.
We write our fair share of letters of complaint; but we also try to send letters of compliment in situations of extraordinary outcomes.  Our complaints are almost always acknowledged.  But our compliments?  Funny thing, they’re almost never responded to!  So ask yourself, have you ever told a customer these five powerful words, “Thank you for your compliment”? 

It's Not 'Rocket Science'!

Acknowledging compliments should be one of the most obvious practices a business can undertake.  And yet, few businesses do so.  Why?  Well, first off, a compliment bears no troubling threat (“I’ll tell 100 people”, etc.).  Second of all, no one is in charge of compliments!  Larger, forward thinking organizations with Chief Customer Officers should probably institute “compliment departments”, but currently we know of none.
So why our concern?  It’s all about building relationships with customers, and these days nobody doesn’t want a relationship with their customers.  So, put yourself in the role of an enthusiastic customer.  He or she takes the time to reach out to a company or brand to exclaim their extreme satisfaction.  And then, what happens?  Nothing!  And lo and behold the bond with this customers has been weakened - if not destroyed!

An Example: We're Acknowledged

We were reminded of this issue because a month or so ago we wrote a note of compliment on a restaurant’s database counter card.  We noted that our server was extremely attentive, very knowledgeable and a real ‘host’ for the restaurant.  About a week ago (a bit late, but still exemplary) we received an email from the manager of the restaurant, thanking us for our compliment.  Bingo!  The result?  We felt: listened to, appreciated, and acknowledged.  In short, we felt closer to this business; our relationship was strengthened - we'll definitely return.
Ever since our first book,
Aftermarketing, published in 1992, we’ve recommended the following course of action for responding to compliments:

  • Respond as quickly as possible and use a medium of communication with a priority equal to or higher than that by which you received the compliment.  (Don’t respond by USPS letter to a compliment received by email.)
  • Restate the exact compliment you’ve been given. This helps reinforce, in the customer’s mind, the praise offered you.  If possible, back up your restatement with some additional facts or evidence.  This information will provide the customer with 'content' to share with others. 
  • If you’re involved in a telephone call or on-screen chat, try to elicit the compliment from the customer again (further reinforcing the compliment).
  • Thank the customer for their business(If you have affinity merchandise, send something along to further bond with the customer.  A paperweight or other item can serve as a ‘conversation starter’ allowing the customer easier entry to telling others about their delight with your company/brand.)
  • Encourage advocacyIf you have a user community or other channels for ‘privileged information’ about your company or brand offer the customer participation.  If not include some "insider news" about your company or brand - it'll give your customer something to mention to others (in the name of your brand).

Customers with compliments are everyday advocates asking to be reinforced in their zeal and commitment towards your brand.  Don’t let yourself down by failing to ‘close the loop’ with them!  Formulate your 'compliment handling process' today.

4:09 pm edt          Comments

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Customer Experience Partners, LLC
Measurement, Management, Optimization
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