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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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Role of Customer Satisfaction in 'Won and Done' Categories

Acquiring customers is an expensive proposition.  But marketers readily invest in attracting them because they know that over a customer's extended lifetime they  generate profits as a result of: 1) their stream of repurchases; and 2) the upsells they engage in (purchases of related products and line-extensions).  Both actions are dependent on their satisfaction with the original product. These actions are the most generally acknowledged rationale for satisfying current customers. Unfortunately, only secondarily are current customers’ recommendations, referrals, and positive word of mouth offered as an additional justification for insuring their satisfaction.  And, maybe that's a result of disparate purchase frequencies among product categories.

The Role for Satisfaction without Immediate Repurchase

In the world of fast moving consumer goods and services (from soft drinks, to auto insurance, to running shoes) the repurchase/upsell model is commanding and the need to satisfy customers is obvious.  But what about categories of less frequent repurchase and non-existent cross-selling?  How is customer satisfaction to be promoted in categories in which the re-purchase cycle is extremely lengthy or when the need to re-purchase doesn’t normally recur at all?  For example, how many times will one buy a house, need a new baby stroller, purchase a refrigerator, or get braces for one's kids?  For that matter, the typical American car is now being replaced only every 7+ years, and the interval between return trips to Disney World has extended as well. In these categories there simply is no ongoing stream of purchases; no opportunity for upsells nor cross-sells to be impacted by customer satisfaction. Yet marketers competing in these categories often nevertheless crusade for satisfied customers. What do they know or what have they assumed?

Consider the 'Won and Dones'

Marketers in such won and done businesses resign themselves to the situation and accept it as just the reality of their category. They make today’s sale, find gratification in their satisfied customers and move on to find their next new customers. In their preoccupation with winning more new customers, they may do little to maintain active relationships with their ‘past’ (done) customers.  Furthermore, they may dismiss the potential of word of mouth, mistakenly considering it an "unmanageable force". Faced with such impotency, they simply ‘hope for the best’.

We’re strong believers in word of mouth, as you no doubt know. And, interestingly, it’s these won and done categories that make the best argument for harnessing the power of word of mouth.

You see, the only way to directly benefit from satisfaction in a won and done category is to motivate satisfied customers to acknowledge to others the good product, superb service and/or excellent care they’ve received!

Word of mouth gets that job done. But it requires direction and management. That’s where approaches like our 
Identifying & Arming Advocates program comes in. You need to identify those customers most likely to communicate about a company (or its products) and then provides them content, opportunity, and motivation to advocate.

8:31 pm edt          Comments

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