Tag Archives: Creating Customer Loyalty

How sales professionals can use social networks to best serve the customer

When we think of putting the customer first we should think about the initial, and most consistent, contact they have for their purchase:  the sales person.  Today’s sales professional must use his or her social network to be successful.  And that success will come from using their social network to take a ‘customer-centric’ approach.  Certainly the marketing department is hip deep in the social media milieu…It’s not to be ignored.  But, I’m speaking to the sales professional in this thesis.
A Sales Professional Is Many Things
The best sales people must follow a disciplined process.  Customers have gained power and gone global, channels have proliferated, more product companies are selling services, and customers expect a single point of contact.  The sales person has to play a number of roles in this relationship:

  •  Company leader. The best sales people actively help formulate and execute a territory strategy, and they collaborate with all functions of the business to deliver value to customers.
  • Customer champion. Customers want senior level relationships with their supplier.  Customers expect an inside peek at their offering to be sure their buying decision is sustainable over time.  They need to understand product strategy, see future offerings in advance, and participate in decisions made about future products.
  • Process guru. Although sales professionals must look beyond the sales and customer processes they have honed over time, they can’t abandon them. The focus on process has become more important because buying decisions are being thrust on some users without buying experience. 
  • Organization architect. Good sales leaders spend a lot of timeevaluating and occasionally redesigning the sales organization’s structure to ensure that it supports corporate strategy.
  • Course corrector. Sales leaders must pay attention to what’s coming, because the business world changes constantly.  On the other hand they have to pay attention to the situation on the ground right now; to thrive in ambiguous environments and to respond when quick adjustments in priorities are needed.

The Best Sales Pros Have Powerful Social Networks
Social networks are critical.   It’s an oversimplification to say the more contacts you have, the more leads you’ll generate, and, ultimately, the more sales you’ll make. Different configurations of networks produce different results, and a nuanced understanding of social networks will help the best sales people outshine competitors.

 Different social networking abilities are required in each stage of the sale:
  • When we’re identifying prospects, we need our networks to help us acquire precise and timely information about opportunities from contacts in the marketplace
  • As we meet many people in the prospect’s organization our network helps us gain buy-in from all levels, titles, locations & disciplines
  • As we create solutions we need specialists with knowledge outside of our purview so we can bring value to the table
  • And when we’re closing the deal we need to mobilize our contacts from prior sales to act as references

A sales professional’s network often pays off most handsomely through all of these social, and sometimes indirect, contacts.   But we have to ask ourselves do our contacts know all the same people, or are their associates widely dispersed?
What Is The ‘Right’ Social Network For A Sales Executive?
The right social network can have a huge impact on the sales professional’s success. It’s misguided to believe the key is having a large circle filled with high-powered contacts.   It’s better to cultivate a different kind of network: select but diverse, made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from varying spheres and from up and down the corporate ladder. This diverse crowd can help those in sales learn, make decisions with less bias, and grow personally.
Six critical kinds of social network connections:
People who provide information, ideas, or expertise;
Formally and informally powerful people, who offer mentoring and political support;
People who give developmental feedback;
People who lend personal support;
People who increase your sense of purpose or worth;
People who promote work/life balance.
The best kinds of connections are “energizers”–positive, trustworthy individuals who enjoy other people and always see opportunities, even in challenging situations.
Four Simple Steps To Keep A Sales Professional’s Social Network On Track
If you’re a salesperson and you want to improve your social network, here is a four-step process you might want to consider to improve it.

  1. Identify who your connections are and what they offer you,
  2. Back away from redundant and energy-draining connections,
  3. Fill holes in your network with the right kind of people,
  4. Work to make the most of your contacts.

Today’s world of sales is all about the customer.  Today’s social network is a gift to sales people, allowing us to best serve our customers with the best information, the best relationships and the best thinking.  A sales person’s social network allows them to keep their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace, readying them to make course corrections on an ongoing basis in an ever changing buying environment.  

And, of course, the very best use of social networks for a sales professional is to use them to listen to their customers.

 
Harvard Bus Rev. 2011 Jul-Aug;89(7-8):149-53, 167., A smarter way to network. Cross R, Thomas R.
Harvard Bus Rev. 2006 Jul-Aug;84(7-8):102-12, 188., Better sales networks. Ust??ner T, Godes D.
Ron Shulkin blogs researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  You can learn more about Ron at his biography web site:www.shulkin.net. You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.  
Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer??, an innovation ecosystem. CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here http://bit.ly/ac3x60 . Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (JoinHere).

Idea Gathering: Customer Experience News: Happily Ever After

The Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit provides both B2B and B2C case studies and translating these innovations and insights is a huge part of the value of the conference. Our unique idea gathering wrap-ups between sessions facilitate this translation and were one of our most highly rated features last year.

Here on the blog we’re doing a regular series of idea gathering wrap ups, pulling together some of our favorite stories on customer experience, customer experience design, and overall customer-centricity.

The infographic pictured here, recently published by Bolt Insurance, is a great illustration of some of our recent points here on the blog. If you click through and scroll to the suggestions at the end you’ll see that improving your company culture, offering loyalty rewards and listening to your customers online and through surveys are the main keys to keeping customers happy. We couldn’t agree more.

Via: Bolt Insurance

This post on The Huffington Post speaks to the company culture aspect of loyalty building, saying “In many cases, empowering employees to resolve customer issues will save you time and effort down the road. Employees should also feel confident that they have the backing of management, so that they can enforce company policies quickly and efficiently without the issue escalating.”

Elsewhere in customer loyalty news: Beth Hirschhorn, EVP of global brand, marketing and communication, and a member of MetLife’s executive group spoke with Forbes about Metlife’s customer-centric initiative. She is quoted as saying “for us the objective is to focus as much on existing customers as it is about obtaining new customers.”

The Harvard Business Review blog hosted a piece on “Three Myths about What Customers Want” that delves into the myths companies may believe about building loyalty and customer relationships. Key takeaways? Don’t underestimate the power of discounts and focus on your brand’s core values.

For an interesting look at how *not* to do customer service, click through to this piece from The Guardian. Yes, it is important to be listening online, but call centers or store associate availability by phone are still an important piece of the picture.

So what are you doing to remain “happily ever after” with your customers? Like any relationship, it takes work.

We’re looking forward to delving into the topic more at the Total Customer Experience Leader’s Summit which is now less than two weeks away. There’s still time to join us: register as a reader of our blog with code TCEL12BLOG to save 15% off the standard registration rates. Visit the webpage to register today.

NACCM 2010: The Power of Customer Advocacy in Business-to-Business Markets ‘ Market Probe’s Research Approach to Leveraging the Power of Word-of-Mouth

Presented by: Michael Lowenstein, MARKET PROBE

Customer retention is important, but the name of the game is how you use touchpoints and experiences to cross sell and upsell.

Touch points and methods that individuals have a standing contact. That will create the positive relationships and outcomes you’re looking for. We currently focus on what monetizes. Advocacy focuses on this. It is critical to this is on/offline word of mouth.

Advocates will do your marketing for you. Leverage the people who already love your brand. Word of mouth is a factor that can’t be looked beyond. Loyalty is a passive state. What do people trust? Word of mouth is a source for making business decisions. Individuals don’t trust organizations and what they have to say. People believe they can trust other people. It doesn’t matter where word of mouth comes from, but what companies have to pay attention to that information says.

TheStreet’s 5 Best, 5 Worst Customer-Loyalty Programs

TheStreet.com took a look at customer-loyalty programs and rated the 5 best and the 5 worst out there for customers. From high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus to the corner Starbucks, find out what loyalty programs customers should sign-up for and which they should avoid. Reporter Jason Notte writes, according to marketing firm Colloquy’s Loyalty Census released last year, membership in U.S. customer-loyalty programs has reached 1.8 billion, up from 1.3 billion in 2007. The census showed that the average U.S. household has signed up for 14.1 loyalty programs, but only participates in 6.2 of them.

We’ve highlighted two of the best and two of the worst – you’ll have to visit TheStreet.com for the rest!


Best:
Neiman Marcus
Neiman Marcus’ rewards program isn’t for everyone, but neither are its offerings. First, InCircle’s best benefits don’t kick in until a shopper spends $3,000, which is roughly the amount of a middling offering in the wish book. At that level, the valued customer receives invitations to members-only shopping events, advance notices for sales, double points on a day of your choosing (not much of a sacrifice, as it takes roughly $5,000 in spending to earn back $100), free gift packaging and various literature.

National’s Emerald Club
National’s fast lane for frequent renters that not only gets them from plane to car faster than most folks can call up their rental agreement, but also gives renters their pick of any car on the lot once they arrive.

Worst:
Celebrity Cruise Lines’ Captain’s Club
While behind-the-scenes tours and increased access is nice and all, it looks flimsy when compared to the $75 to $400 credits that customers receive on competing lines like Oceania.

Amtrak Guest Rewards
Even when a traveler reaches Amtrak’s upper echelon — Select Plus — he or she only get a 50% bump in point accrual, club access and blackout availability. When a points program gives a customer more incentives to deal with partners — Select Plus members get double points at Hertz and Hyatt — its value goes off the rails.

What loyalty programs do you know work the best, what work the worst? Let us know! DM @customerworld

Guru Session: …Turning Audiences into Brand Ambassadors

Join us for “Spreading the Word: Leveraging Word of Mouth to Drive Sales and Turn Audiences into Brand Ambassadors” at The Life Stage Marketing Summit 2010, this May 10-12 in Chicago.

Join Kathie Thomas and Jeff Davis of Fleishman-Hillard as they discuss how word of mouth is considered the most valuable and persuasive form of marketing these days. In fact, surveys show that nine of out every 10 consumers seek advice before making a purchase, and eight in 10 prefer advice from a peer rather than a so-called expert. These peer recommendations can increase the likelihood of purchase by 60 percent. Every company or organization has fans who would recommend their products to their peers. How can you transform them into and organized and mobilized team of brand ambassadors who authentically communicate the benefits of your brand in everyday conversations? Drawing upon the firm’s 10 years of Word of Mouth experience, Fleishman-Hillard Senior Partner Jeff Davis and Director of Innovation Kathie Thomas will discuss the power of various World of Mouth channels, from Facebook and blogs to cell phones and chats across the backyard fence — and how the Word of Mouth mix varies by age group.

Don’t miss out!

The Life Stage Marketing Summit
Brochure Download
Register Today

NACCM 2009: Create and Maintain Loyalty Through Ongoing Customer Engagement

Do you remember that Coke commercial with the catchy song, ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing”Marti Beller, President of Affinion Loyalty Group, kicked off her session with a powerful demonstration. She played that Coke commercial that’s now 30 years old and many people still remember it. And nearly everyone knows the jingle.Coke knew how to do 30 years ago what we’re trying to learn how to do today: how to create an emotional bond with consumers.Apple knows it, too. 75% of PC Users say they love the Apple brand, even though they don’t use it. Don’t tell that to the PC guy in the Apple commercials. He’d have a heart attack.Marti challenged our thinking by opening our eyes to the fact that 80% of customers are ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ before they leave and go buy somewhere else. A great example is your local movie theater. Chances are you’re satisfied with your last experience there, but if there is a better show time somewhere else, you’ll switch.Harley Davidson and Disney are both constantly creating an emotional connection with their customers. Disney’s website even uses the words, ‘Life’s Special Moments.’Customer engagement is an ongoing process. Engagement accumulates through satisfaction, loyalty, advocacy, and excitement about your brand.Marti knows what she’s talking about. Affinion has had 7 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth because they help their clients create emotional connections through points-based loyalty programs.Organizations who engage consumers to the point where they are moved to behavioral change do so by creating opportunities for emotional connections through ongoing, consistently positive experiences.One of the best by-products of a points-based loyalty program is DATA about the customer.So how do you measure customer engagement?Share of Wallet ‘ engaged people buy more productsPositive Referral ‘ engaged customers convert potential customers to switch (Ever ask somebody about their Apple iPhone? They’ll convert you.)Retention ‘ engaged people stay longerFeedback ‘ engaged people give more feedback, which provides the opportunity to address issues and concerns and preserve potentially lost revenueSo why do we care about engaged customers? So what if our customers aren’t highly engaged? At least we’re maintaining the status quo. Marti argues that low customer engagement actually causes companies to lose money! So when you think you’re customer satisfaction scores are flat, they’re more likely declining!Marti encouraged us to understand and execute The Four Ps of Customer Engagement:Perspective: understanding and using your data to best communicate and engage with your customers.

  • Very few companies use their current data on the customers they HAVE to realize which customers they DON’T have.

Purpose: knowing your brand and how it best resonates with your consumers.

  • You have to use market data to understand your consumers from an unbiased standpoint
  • What do your customers think is best in class, average, and worst in class? Make sure your brand promise matches up with their expectation of your company. Consumers want consistency.

Proliferation: using multiple channels to engage your customer

  • Be careful where you make offers to your customer. Communicating rewards on their ‘bill’ is probably not a good idea.
  • Understand that people will engage with your website. Communicate the benefits of ‘membership’ clearly every day. Get the knowledge out. Remind them frequently.

Praise: rewarding your customers for their behavior and engagement with your brand.

  • Thanking a customer can be a great way to create an opportunity to upsell a customer.

Here are the major points the audience stated as takeaways:

  • If you don’t do something, you won’t stay flat, you’ll sink.
  • You need to make sure your customers know what they’re getting from you (communicate benefits often).
  • Understand what you’re communicating and how/where.
  • Do the things that are unexpected to differentiate yourself.
  • SLA (Service Level Agreements) around passion is important.
  • The most important data is the ‘why.’
  • Use every touchpoint to remind the customer about your benefits.
  • Certain touchpoints have a tendency to ‘describe’ an entire company.

NACCM 2009: PANEL SESSION: Leading Loyalty Amidst a Disruptive Business Environment

Moderator:
Rudy Vidal, Vidal Consulting GroupPanelists:
Jill Noblett (JN), recent Senior Vice President, Loyalty & Direct Marketing, Wyndham Hotel GroupDan Wiersma (DW), recent SVP, Service Platforms, Sony Electronics
Megan Crowley (MC), Director Market Research, Norwegian Cruise LinesChris Moloney (CM), Chief Marketing Officer, ScottradeConcept of the panel:The idea of loyalty is changing. What are we doing differently that’s working.Definition of Customer Loyalty:A personal commitment to re-purchase and recommend, that resists normal competitive market pressuresIs loyalty more difficult to attain now than it used to be?JN ‘ Yes. People are more price sensitive. So we have to consider price, but figure out how to add as much value as we can ‘ now we have to blend the two.CM ‘ One measure of loyalty is resistance to price sensitivity, but I’m not sure I agree with that anymore. The drivers are changing more dramatically.There’s a difference between attitudes and behaviors. The marriage of these two are difficult.DW ‘ The fundamentals haven’t changed. Things like commoditization, the ability to replicate another company’s product or service has changed dramatically in our lifetime. That makes it more difficult to do what we have to do. I’m a huge Southwest Airlines fan. A few weeks ago, I got stuck in Phoenix due to weather in San Diego. Southwest was very responsive, took great care of us, even though it wasn’t their fault. I will fly them forever. They treated me as a person. That fundamental hasn’t changed.MC ‘ For us, the cruise industry, the experience is very long-lasting. For us, the experience is much more important than the price. We’re focusing on the experiences that are critical to our customers. With less money, we have to focus even more on those things that are most important to our customer.AUDIENCE ‘ Visibility & availability. Easy to get instant gratification now.Speak to the empowerment of the consumer:CM ‘ It may be harder to overcome the price barrier. It changes the spectrum on how you have to overcome the price barrier. There’s only one price leader in any category. Everyone else has to differentiate another way.What Southwest does so well is service recovery. Maybe right now somebody in your company is delivering bad service. How you resolve that is key!JN ‘ How do you add value to the price point? In Wyndham brand, we allowed customers to get some personal preferences if they fill out a profile for us. Even though we may cost $20 more, some of these people feel that the personalization is worth it. Sometimes the equity people build with your brand they don’t want to lose.What creates loyalty?MC ‘ For us, it’s about the experience. We don’t have a very good loyalty program (from a traditional standpoint). We do understand what’s important to our customers and we try to deliver that. Our next step is to build a more robust loyalty program.AUDIENCE ‘ Anytime you have a touchpoint, you have to make sure the culture of service comes through.DW ‘ I agree completely. There are a multiplicity of things that drive loyalty, but the touchpoints of your company, both directly and indirectly are important. I asked different departments: legal, accounting, etc. if they knew how they impacted the end customer. Many of them didn’t know. At Southwest, every single person knows how they affect the end user. So what drives loyalty, as I found at Sony, is getting the linkages with everyone in the organization so they understand that what they do impacts the end customer (even the legal department ‘ think about the legal speak they make customers read).What is the role of the organization to creating loyalty?CM ‘ If people don’t identify themselves as part of the company ‘ like saying ‘we’ when referring to themselves in the company ‘ the service level might not be what it should be. They won’t seem as empowered as they should be.I will throw a wrench in it, though. Most of my friends are loyal to Apple. They’re off the charts for loyalty right now. Harley Davidson has like an 85% net promoter score. People want to be loyal, they want to be impressed, they want to have a good time. They want us to overdeliver. It’s not a situation that’s going to go away. People want to talk about your company.The drives are probably different for each company, but it starts with overdelivering on the product.JN ‘ You can have great service, but if the product is flawed, you’re going to have problems. You may be loyal to a certain hotel, but if you find bedbugs, you’re probably not going to go back, or you’ll wait a long time before going back.AUDIENCE ‘ The opposite is true, too. What I want to know is that everytime I check into a Wyndham hotel anywhere, I want to have a consistent experience. People want good service and good product to be consistent.JN ‘ A lot of people talk about Zappos, but they’re all in one location. The culture and values can be easier to manage. It’s harder with a company that has many locations.CM ‘ I’m behaviorally loyal to my airline because of the loyalty program ‘ I’m platinum. I expect a certain level of service for that. When I travel on another airline, I kind of expect to be kicked around.You cannot deliver an extreme level of service to everybody. Southwest has finally joined the bandwagon and created a tiered level. We all know we have to treat our best customers special, but that can’t hurt the others.DW ‘ Back to the hotel example, I really like to be greeted at the front desk. My co-workers don’t care about that. We went to a hotel with an express check-in. My co-workers liked that. I felt dissatisfied because I like the interaction.If you’re used to an environment being a certain way and it turns out different, that can be very disappointing. You have to look at how different people want things.There’s a vicious circle of delivering what we can deliver, which attracts a certain customer. What about the others that want something different?AUDIENCE ‘ Let’s use the power of analytics to adapt our loyalty programs and our service models so you can tailor it to what each customer wants it to be.JN ‘ It depends on your product. It comes back to the drivers. What is that you know about the customer that makes them loyal?CM ‘ The next step would be to create a service differentiator. Can we group people into buckets? Some companies do ‘personas’ that help understand what the customer wants.JN ‘ Wyndham creates personas. It was about how we presented the marketing to them. If you wanted points, we could talk to you about points. If you’re a leisure traveler, we’d talk to you a very different way.DW ‘ Some companies are doing exactly that. They’re having a conversation with you, then you can go somewhere else in the world and they can pull up the information on you (i.e., Ritz Carlton).AUDIENCE QUESTION ‘ If people fit different slots (ABC), what can you do to move people up the chain? And how do you keep the ‘A’s from feeling like they’re not special anymore?JN ‘ We moved people up the value chain through a lot of education and communication ‘ helping them to understand the brands, what we have to offer. Sometimes they got special offers, etc. As we got to the higher levels, we tried to figure out ways to recognize them and get more share of wallet at the same time.Sometimes we would move people up, or keep them around, even if they were a little short on points. That keeps them engaged and ‘hooked.’CM ‘ Sometimes they don’t know they’re in a loyalty program, or what level they are. You have to communicate that to them. You have to constantly learn from your customers about where they are, what’s going on with them, and how things have changed in the past year, you can move them up or down the value chain more easily.MC ‘ We have a much higher price point product, so we’ve done a lot of work to figure out what makes people purchase 2, 3, or 4 times. Once they’ve purchase 5 times, they’re loyalty goes through the roof. So we focus on how to choose the 2nd or 3rd purchase.Chris, are you loyal to your airline brand, or are you loyal to the points?CM ‘ I’m hooked because they’re ‘my airline.’ And I have a status with them (Platinum). If they had the exact same policies as Southwest, I’d go with Southwest due to the service.Are customers loyal to the hotel brand or the points?JN ‘ You have to wonder if once you’ve created these points program or other program, have you created a monster? Maybe. But if you look at it like you’re giving them something they value , would they stay with you because they’re invested, even if you’re not perfect? That can change over time. I might make a different decision when I’m on business vs. being on vacation vs. when I’m visiting my grandparents. It’s more about what the person is desiring. Understand what they value, then give it to them.AUDIENCE QUESTION ‘ Can you share some lessons learned from loyalty programs?DW ‘ We’re not a steeped in loyalty programs as hospitality or airlines. We looked for the highest level of repeat customers and we gave them a ‘backstage pass.’ If you’re close to a Sony store, you can get special stuff at the store. Almost nobody took us up on it. We sent it out to 250,000 and we had only 1000 people take us up on it in a year. We know that people are not as loyal to Sony as they used to be. We thought it would be great because we thought customers would really love the service enhancement.What was it about that program that didn’t work?I don’t really know. The flip side, though, was we came up with a program that’s not a loyalty program, but an enhanced services program. Customers loved that. They could come to a store and talk to somebody face to face in the store when they had a problem.CM ‘ A bank customer tried to do points based on overdraft fees because they’re the most profitable customers. Another bank gave points for ATM deposits. It ended up creating unbelievable lines at the ATM. A utility company tried to create a program that would incent people to use more power by leaving stuff on when they weren’t in the house!JN ‘ One of the things we didn’t do well was to set expectations properly with franchisees, etc. It took us a couple of years to create a dashboard for them to see the effects of the program. Calibrating those expectations is important.Internal alignment and the understanding of the organization is important. We had a lot of technology infrastructure, we had to convert a lot of customers, etc. Sometimes we did that too quickly and we didn’t follow our own best practices. Those were learnings that were ongoing. There’s the famous expression, there’s never time to do it right, but there’s time to do it again. Take it slow and do it right.MC ‘ Our loyalty program is auto-enrollment. Now we’re getting to a point where we have a giant database of people that are pretty much inactive. We’re likely moving to a system that is more opt-in because those people will be a lot more active. Our direct marketing people are scared of losing their giant list, though.
What are you doing differently now than you were before?MC ‘ First, understanding the things that impact loyalty. Next, focus on the things that are most important. This helps get everyone excited and rally around those things when they’re prioritized.What we’ve done recently is start with the customer. 80% of our sales go through a travel agent. So even though we touch the end customer, they purchase before we ever meet them. So we have to understand what drives the travel agent. What are the key drivers for them, so we can focus on the most important things for them, too.Third, what makes employees excited and loyal? Same thing.If we have loyal customers, loyal travel agents, and loyal employees, we’ll do great.Is it a problem to ‘compete’ with travel agents with your direct business?MC ‘ We need the travel agents. We love the end customer. We have to have both, but we can’t deny the travel agents.Chris, what are you doing differently than you were 5 years ago?CM ‘ When you look at your business, 10-30% of your business can come through referrals. Get a hold of where referral lives in your business and figure out a way to maximize your referral program.The people who make referrals to make referrals to people like them. So, high value customers are important to get referrals from.
AUDIENCE ‘ How do you handle the difference in the increase in emotional loyalty?DW ‘ We recognized that the emotional piece was critical to loyalty. We started to do it base on the call center. When you’re calling a call center, you’re usually not happy. We started to rate emotions. We have your info and we can rate the experience based on what happened last time. We made it as simple as a frown face, happy face, or face with a straight line. We told our agents to not worry about how much time they were on the phone, but instead taking care of the emotional need of the customer.We also employed skill-based routing. If I made you happy last time, we’re going to try to route your next call to me to take care of you.AUDIENCE ‘ I’m in healthcare and one of the things we’ve learned in healthcare is how to be ‘sensitive’ to a person’s needs. And in healthcare, we have to change our hats all the time based on the medical need.
Jill, what are you doing differently now?JN ‘ When you’re dealing with 7000 franchisees, it’s hard to get consistency. Over the past few years, the company at large has made a shift to be more customer-centric. It’s interesting challenge because the ‘company’ doesn’t deal directly with the customer. From a very basic standpoint, the organization started to align it’s technology so we can get an accurate picture of the customer and know what’s happened with them on previous visits. We obviously focus on retaining customers.From a loyalty program standpoint, we tried to be relevant to our customer, meaning we tried to find things that were important to them and customize our offers, etc. to address those things. Also we tried to go deeper into personalization.Give us something you learned that was key to making loyalty work:CM ‘ Net promoter score. I used to market against it. Now I’m the biggest proponent.MC ‘ For us, it’s listening to customers, then modeling it to them and prioritizing.DW ‘ I’m a huge proponent of NPS. Alignment is critical. In order to have a successful loyalty program, you need alignment of marketing, sales, etc. Without it, you struggle. Lastly, the significant impact your people have on your customers. Empower them to do things.JN ‘ Showing metrics and ROI as soon as possible gets the company behind the effort as quickly as possible.

NACCM 2009: Managing the Customer Service Experience

Customers today are more interested in the experience they have with you, your products and services than ever before. Making the customer experience your value proposition should be our goal according to Lewis (Lou) Carbone, founder and CEO of Experience Engineering and author of ‘Clued In, How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again.‘ Carbone reminds us of a quote from Peter Drucker that brings light to this concept, ‘The purpose of a business is to create value for its customers and the reward for that is profit.’

Two companies, Disney and Howard Johnsons, have influenced his thinking about the customer experience. In working with Disney, he found that their management was concerned more about the customer experience, i.e., concerns over the melting rate of ice cream in their different theme parks, the scent of chocolate chip cookies to enhance the experience, down to the design of Main Street in a way that visitors perceived a long entrance that went on forever and perceived a quick exit after a long day at the park. Compare this to Howard Johnson’s model which lost its customer focus over the years.

According to Carbone, the economy has affected how we look at customer service today. One way a business can differentiate itself is through the service experience. Companies must move from a ‘make and sell’ product-based mentality to a ‘sense and respond’ experience-based mentality. The ‘sense and respond’ mentality focuses on what our customers really want from the service experience and examines the impact of cultural influences and psychological needs. When we factor these into the service experience, we can significantly improve customer loyalty and retention.

An experience audit can help us compare a current customer service experience with a desired customer experience. We can audit our current customer experience with a variety of tools including, language analysis, clue scanning, one-on-one customer interviews, etc. Clue scanning, for example, allows us to look for clues in a service experience that can be improved to better meet the needs and desires of the customer. By using these tools we can close the gap between the current and desired customer experience.

Carbone believes that improving the customer service experience involves both art and science in today’s world. ‘It is not enough to say ‘let’s treat them well,” says Carbone. We must look beyond that and decide what we want our customers to feel about themselves when they do business with us. Managing customer clues will become extremely important as time goes on. He foresees a day when every customer is treated as an individual unit as we perfect our ‘clue-consciousness.’ Until then, we must continue to keep our eyes focused on improving the service experience to remain competitive and successful.

Building a loyal customer base

At MyCentralJersey.com, they look at ways small businesses can build value and create loyalty for their customers. While this is critical for businesses just starting, companies should always have their customers in mind.

Many companies want to continue to sell their products, however, forget that they need to keep their customers after they draw them in the door the first time. An easy way to do this is to thank customers after their purchases, which will also add value to a product when you sell it. Also, all customer touch points need to be operated with a customer in mind.

What do you think? How do you ensure your customer is taken care of at every touch point to ensure their future loyalty?

NACCM: Customers 1st will be holding a one day summit focusing on creating loyalty. “Creating Uber Loyalists: Cracking The Code On Next Gen Loyalty, Engagement and Advocacy.” Jet Blue, Sony Electronics and Norwegian Cruise Lines will be among the presenters. Find out more about the full day symposium here.