Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Are Your Invoices Good 'Customer Ambassadors'?
8:47 am est
What does your
management think of when it comes to managing the customer experience? Their NPS score? Customer service? Tech support? Providing
good value for the money? How often do you think billing enters their minds?
Expand Your Thinking About Your Customers' Experience
If we accept that there are really a potentially large number
of touchpoints that compose the total customer experience and together drive customer
retention, customer loyalty, and the quality and quantity of word of mouth, then we also need to admit that our billing processes
and instruments should be considered. Done right billing may not win you loyalty, but done poorly it can surely weaken
if not destroy relationships with existing customers.
A recent article on entrepreneur.com, by
John Rampton, highlighted what he referred to as “Invoicing Etiquette”. It was addressed to small businesses,
but the article offers a good reminder for all. We see too many organizations that fall victim to looking at things through
an internal view - often historically derived. This perspective causes them to lose sight of the
fact that consciously and subconsciously every act and product of their organization will impact the financial future of their
brand; either positively or negatively. Acts and products far exceed those traditionally connected to customer satisfaction.
They range from how customer-facing staff is dressed, to how well they communicate their messages. From the quality
of packaging to the music or lack thereof played to calls on hold; all of these stimuli bombard the customer as s/he formulates
an experiential 'picture' of your organization. They're all part of the total customer
experience you’re delivering to your customers and thereby potentially have positive or negative impact on the financial
outcome for your brand.
to Strengthen Your Invoices' Customer-Winning Abilities
Rampton presents a creative view on how invoicing - when recognized as a valid component of the customer experience
can be tailored to benefit the brand. He offers a number of key points in handling invoicing/billing which we see as
a way to make any customer experience more positive, so we build upon his framework below.
- Set terms up front and clearly list the services you
offer - Of course your customers should know in advance
what your service(s) will cost (at least approximately), and agree in advance to the process and timing for payment.
Be sure to eliminate any 'surprises'. Those are the basics. But also be sure to list all the goods or services that
you provided, as well as a reminder of any guarantees or warranties you may offer. Manage evidence
of the value you’re providing.
- Create and stick to your policies - Once you set payment terms and timing, be consistent. Don’t surprise your clients with things
like fluctuating due dates or adding tax to one invoice but no tax to another. If for some reason you must
make a change, then inform them before sending the invoice. Even though it’s totally a financial action treat
customers as professionally and considerately as you would like to be treated yourself.
- Provide contact information - Don’t make anybody go
searching for your contact information (address, email address or phone number). If there is a question or follow-up
desired (or if the customer wants to buy something else), make sure it’s as easy as possible. Even
a long-time customer may, on occasion, appreciate a reminder or need basic contact information.
- Make paying convenient - Every customer doesn’t
do business the same way that you do. As much as possible offer multiple payment processes. Your accounting team may
need a reminder that they are part of the customer experience. They’ll probably never come to the top of the
list of key drivers of customer satisfaction or NPS. But your accounting/billing department will likely
interact with customers and influence retention and word of mouth.
- Say “please” and “thank you” - Of course, your mom taught you that.
But how many times have you been told that billing is “just business, nothing personal” as common courtesies
are disregarded. We look at it as part of a positive customer experience, but Rampton tells us it can have immediate
bottom-line impact as well. He reports that “a simple ‘please pay your invoice within’ or
‘thank you for your business’ can increase the percentage of invoices that are paid by more than five
percent!” Routine courtesy pays dividends.
- Politely follow-up - In Rampton’s words, “when a client doesn’t
pay your invoice it’s your responsibility to follow-up with them immediately. While most invoicing software will
send automatic payment reminders, there will be times when you’ll have to contact the client personally".
Invoice follow-up is probably no one's favorite activity, but the longer it goes in time, the tougher the interaction
gets. ”Instead of threatening or screaming at the top of your lungs, be professional and keep your composure".
And, unless you decide it’s a customer you don’t want to retain in the future, remember
even payment reminders and collection calls are still part to your total customer experience.
- Deliver invoices digitally,
in-person and by mail - Customers, and accounts payable
departments, still come in all shapes and sizes. Some customers prefer to receive and pay everything electronically and
barely know how to handle paper documents nowadays. Yet, in the right circumstance, even a personally delivered
bill might be viewed positively. If you are trying to improve your customer experience then the key is to listen to your
customers’ preferences, and try to make bill-paying as convenient for them as possible. You
may have to remind your financial folks that it’s the customer who ultimately pays their salary and their actions
are influencing the likelihood of future business.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
How to Stimulate 'Organic' Word of Mouth
5:52 pm est
Econsultancy ran a blog post the other day titled “Five examples of brands that succeed with word-of-mouth
marketing”. They report that “58% of small business owners identify word-of-mouth marketing as the most effective
way to communicate with customers”. To reinforce this message, they review 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
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:
What You Can Do to Grow Word of Mouth
- 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
We’re not sure any of these examples is 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
- Provide customers
with quality products (the very most basic requirement).
- Give clear and trustworthy after-sales support (another basic requirement).
- 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.)
- Introduce customers to sites and other opportunities where they can pass along their stories, experiences,
and feelings about the brand.
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.