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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Want Higher Profits? Fire Your Costly Customers!

It should be simple; some customers are costing you money, so fire them!  Activity-based cost accounting shows in dramatic fashion that for most businesses 20% of customers generate all the profits!  While 60% of customers help to cover fixed costs - but are basically breakeven transactors.  But alarmingly 20% of customers actually act as a drain on profits.  They demand too much servicing; they exploit discounts and return policies; and they haggle and bully for the best possible deals.  With this ‘client topography’, it would seem logical that all any business needs to do is jettison its unprofitable customers and watch the remaining dollars flow to the bottom-line.

But, of course, the devil is in the details.  In particular, identifying costly customers and, for that matter, identifying currently profitable and potentially profitable customers has been challenging.  Some businesses naively believe they know their best customers because they must be the ones spending the most, or they're in the highest tiers of a loyalty/points program.  In most cases these indicators are overly simplistic and may not be accurate indicators of truly profitable customers.

But How Do You Identify Costly Customers?

To properly identify those customers that you might want to lose, and for that matter to identify those customers who deserve extra effort to be retained (because they are most profitable) we have promoted a customer scoring system we call SLP2 (as in Satisfaction,Loyalty, Profitability and Potential).  Each component has its own source.  Satisfaction is scores generated through survey feedback capture.  Loyalty is a measure of historical buying behavior. Profitability is modeled from servicing costs including: discounts required to close sales and demands for after-sales servicing. Potential is based upon the share of category spending currently allocated to the brand by each customer.

We've Come a Long Way

When we first introduced SLPto the world some fifteen years ago, it was, to be kind, ahead of its time.  We were frequently told (either correctly or incorrectly), “We can’t access that information!”  And in fact, most marketers lacked the systems to precisely track individual customer’s buying behavior or to model profitability.  But that was before CRM software and the popularity of Big Data.  With today’s information capture systems, most services and many goods manufacturers can now access an entire history for every one of their customers!  Further, most corporations regularly track customer satisfaction, and many no longer shirk from asking share of wallet spending questions (to determine potential).

A concept like SLPhas the potential for really making efficient and effective use of all that information.   Identifying the most valuable and the least valuable customers for the future of your business can take marketing and customer service strategy to a smarter and more profitable level.

A Final Word About 'Firing' Customers
By the way, for all those who read to the end, we at Customer Experience Partners, strongly recommend against ever “firing” any customer.  If possible, we recommend directing them to a product and service mix that turns them into at least a breakeven customer for the company. Should that fail we recommend finding a way to introduce and escort them to a competitor. It will save a lot of pain for everyone and avoid a lot of potential negative word of mouth.

8:55 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Should You Incent Staff Based On NPS/Satisfaction Scores?

Here's a new perspective on a debate that has raged for years.  The question is it productive or counterproductive to tie employee incentives into improving customer satisfaction and/or NPS scores.  On the one hand the argument has always been that incentives are a great way to get management and staff to pay serious attention to improving the customer experience.  On the other hand there is the concern that incentives lead to attention being paid to fixing the score rather than addressing real customer issues (aka fixing the store).

Been in a Hospital Recently?

The new discussion is centered on some big money ($1.5 billion) of your tax dollars that’s up for grabs out of Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the prescription drug opioid epidemic.  The plan is certainly well-intentioned.  It calls for patient satisfaction to be measured on an ongoing basis and for satisfaction levels to account for 30% of each hospital’s performance score - and for pain management to be one of eight dimensions of that total.  All that leads to a debate about two questions that are required to be asked in the customer satisfaction questionnaires by every hospital:

  1. “During this hospital stay, how often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain?”
  2. “How often was your pain well controlled?”.

Getting the Intended Results?

Some physicians contend that the government's policy and the questionnaires, while not totally causing the problem, are contributing to the problem of opioid over-use.  They contend that the large sum of money at stake and the related demand for better scores is influencing prescriptive-practice.   After all, the easiest way to eliminate pain is with narcotics, and opioids (though not always necessary) are the drug class of choice.

The opioid-addicted know the game in advance and how their threats and complaints can make desired narcotics more easily available.  Afterall, most patients desire the total absence of pain. The patients' desires and the goal of increasing institutional standing places physicians in a very difficult situation.

What Approach Is Your Organization Taking?

Most companies that we know do - in one form or another - link incentives to overall satisfaction; NPS scores; or other specific questions included in their customer surveys.  The selection of these key question(s) raises many pragmatic issues.

  1. Are they truly the most important factors?
  2. Are they factors that employees can control?
  3. Are they short-term measures that could actually lead to bigger problems in the long term?
  4. How will these questions inhibit or promote ‘gaming’ by customers or staff?

Even the best intended systems aren’t always free from consequences.  But asking for a good evaluation from a car salesman carries far less social consequences than over-prescribing pain-controlling narcotics.  Are you sure the behaviors you are incenting will be most positive for your brand now and in the future?


10:40 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sales Success - An 'Earned Media' Success Story?

Traditional advertising on television, radio, and in print, can be very expensive.  Adding to concerns about the cost, are concerns about exposure; consumers every day are discovering more and more ways to skip over, block, and ignore ads.  So it’s no surprise that marketers are turning to alternative approaches to reach target audiences that are a bit less obvious. Popular choices include: product placements; events; social media; and ‘native’ advertising.

These Alternatives Can Be Very Effective

As one example of how impactful alternatives can be, consider department store Lord & Taylor’s recent success.  They used social media to advertise a new dress design they were featuring.  They asked 50 popular trendsetters to post Instagram pictures of themselves wearing one of the dresses.  Though we don’t know how many actually viewed the posts, we do know that those 50 influencers had a potential combined reach of over 11 million consumers!  Lord & Taylor were also “fortunate” to have popular, online, pop-culture magazine, Nylon post an article about the new clothing line. Result? The dress quickly and completely sold out.

Sounds Great, But Not So Fast!

According to the FTC the social media posts weren’t entirely unsponsored as they were perceived to be.  The FTC accused Lord & Taylor of giving each of the 50 fashion influencers one of the Paisley Asymmetrical Dresses for free!  To make matters even less honest, Lord & Taylor also paid the trendsetters between $1,000 and $4,000 each to post a photo of themselves wearing the dress on Instagram or another social media site. The influencer also agreed had to use the “@lordandtaylor” Instagram user designation and the hashtag “#DesignLab” in their photo captions. As if there’s any question about the manipulation Lord & Taylor engineered, they were also accused of retaining the right to pre-approve each proposed post.

FTC Action

While in many cases we are still sorting out the legal rules and ethics of how to use social media in an ethical way, some things are clear.  If you are paying people to promote and endorse a product or service, then legally their posts must be disclosed as ‘paid advertising’ they cannot be allowed to masquerade as innocent personal posts. Failure to disclose offering incentives, is a punishable action.  The Federal Trade Commission, the body responsible for such regulations at the national level, therefore stepped in and took action against Lord & Taylor.

Lord & Taylor has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by not disclosing that the posts actually were paid promotions for the company’s 2015 Design Lab clothing collection.  Lord & Taylor surely will be followed closely by the FTC moving forward.  They are prohibited from "misrepresenting" paid ads in the future. If the chain fails to abide by these rules, they could be assessed civil penalties of up to $16,000 for each violation. 

Not to Sound Like a 'Broken Record', But...

We continue to believe that a huge opportunity is being overlooked by most marketers.  Social media carries immense power, but one doesn't need to resort to using paid-influencers to harness its power.  Most successful marketers have a cadre of of happy, satisfied customers.  These customers are naturals to serve as engaged and active promoters of your brand; but only if they are armed with supportive information and facts.  Not only will they communicate through public social media, they will also promote your brand to friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors through private social media (text messages, emails, phone calls, and even face-to-face conversations).  You're missing an important 'natural resource' for your brand if you don't utilize them!

9:01 pm edt          Comments

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