Category Archives: Customers

Your Brand Promise

“We decided to hire a new marketing firm,” Reggie announced.

“Marketing is important,” I replied. “It’s important for creating new leads, prospective customers and for telling your existing customer about other offerings they may find useful. But, is that enough?”

“What do you mean?” Reggie asked.

“Just because you talk about your competitive advantage doesn’t mean you are any good at it,” I replied. “It’s not enough to make an announcement. You also have to operationalize. Your brand promise is just a promise unless you keep it.”

Paper Delay

“What did you learn?” I asked.

“I drew the picture of our Customer Experience system,” Sean explained. “I didn’t realize it was really a system. I drew the picture in detail to capture all the places the Service Ticket sits, and indicated whether is was a Paper Service Ticket or if it had been converted to an Electronic Service Ticket.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I was thinking, the Customer Service Rep is connected to the Service Ticket server, so they can look things up. But, for security, they are blocked out from writing service tickets. That function is relegated to Ops, who really doesn’t have the time for all this.”

“What’s the security issue?” I wanted to know.

“Ops is afraid that if the CSR writes up the ticket, they will make a mistake and route the ticket to the wrong place.”

“What do you propose?”

“I want to allow the CSR to write up the ticket while the customer is still on the phone, no more paper,” Sean started. “I want to program a drop down box with only four reason codes available plus a code for needs supervisor review. If that ticket goes straight to resolution as an Electronic Service Ticket, that takes three, maybe four days of delay out of the system.”

“How are you going to explain your proposal so you can get buy-in and approval for the change?” I asked.

Sean grinned. “I am going to lead with – Every time something is written on a piece of paper, it introduces delay into the system.”

Delay, Delay

“We tried that,” Sean explained. “There is a delay in our problem resolution. We figure out the solution on the phone call, but it takes time to execute the resolution.”

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“The customer service rep writes down the problem on a piece of paper, noting all the details, customer contact and so forth. That paper form goes to the operations department.”

“Stop,” I said. “After the paper form is completed by the CSR, what happens to the piece of paper before it goes to the ops department?”

Sean grinned. “You’re right. It sits. It sits in a box on the corner of the CSRs desk. Ops sends a runner once a day to pick up the forms. They insist that they have written documentation.”

“Every day they send a runner?”

“Well, not every day. Sometimes they get busy, so sometimes, it’s every other day.”

“Then, what happens?” I wanted to know.

“Then, someone from Ops keys in the data from the paper form to get it into their Service ticket system. From there, it could go one of four ways, so it has to be reviewed and routed by a Supervisor.”

“Is the Supervisor busy? How long does it take the Supervisor to review the ticket?”

“I’m not sure, but it has to be within a day. Or two?” Sean tried to imagine what happens in Operations.

“Sean, if you drew your system on a single piece of paper, including the steps in the Ops department, which means you might have to go and ask some questions, do you think you could put a red circle around the places where the Service Ticket just sits, waiting?”

Sean nodded, got up and went to draw a picture of the Customer Experience system.

Value Add is Not the Problem

“I have some ideas on bringing value-add to our customer experience,” Sean reported.

I nodded. “Two questions,” I said, “How well are you delivering the core elements of your customer experience? If you add elements, will they add cost and are your customers willing to pay for it?”

“Well, value-add,” Sean stuttered, “means the customer will perceive greater value for the experience we provide.”

“And, why are you doing this?”

Sean stopped. “The customer survey scores have been sagging, and I wanted a way to boost those scores. I get a bonus on improvement in customer satisfaction.”

“When you lay out your customer experience system on a piece of paper, do your customer satisfaction scores lead you to a specific segment in the system?” I asked.

Sean’s turn to nod. “Yes, we get a customer complaint, we usually troubleshoot the problem accurately during the phone call, but there is a delay in actually fixing the problem. That’s why I wanted to create some value-added services, so the customer would perceive greater value in our efforts.”

“What if? And, this is just a what if,” I smiled. “What if you focused on the delay between understanding the problem and fixing the problem? Would your customer satisfaction scores go up?”

It’s Not Free

“If it doesn’t show on the screen, it is wasted effort.” I grew up in the television production business and that one principle helped us make the most important decisions. If the element did not make a visual impact on the screen, we passed on it.

What does this mean for your team? What defines your “tv screen?” I will lay odds that your “tv screen” is defined by your customer. If your customer does not value your “value added” service, then stop doing it.

How do you know when your customer values your “value added” service? You know, when your customer is willing to pay for it. Value added does not mean free.

What You Need to Know

“Unbelievable,” Jordan shook his head. “We thought we had it nailed. We knew what the problem was, had a great solution. We were so confident this project was ours for the taking.”

“And?” I asked.

“What we didn’t know was our competitor had a relationship with their corporate attorney, who whispered in the ear of the CFO, who controlled the budget for the project.”

“So, what did you learn?”

“Sometimes, what we know about the problem and the solution to the problem isn’t what we need to know about how the decision will be made.”

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Disconnect Your Focus

“Not sure how to respond to our competitor’s latest move. They just offered a extra year’s warranty on their product for free.” Miguel complained.

“For free?” I asked.

“Yes, we’ve battled our competitor hard for the past two years. We make a move, they counter. They make a move, we counter. Tit for tat. I’m not sure how to win this battle.”

“Have you thought about disconnecting your focus from your competitor to think more about your customer? As long as you focus on your competitor, you can only think like your competitor thinks. Focus on your customer.”

Thinking Outside-In

“No, you cannot have it your way, this is not Burger King,” read the sign on the door outside the phone bank in customer service. No customer would ever see this sign, but you can be sure it was heard in every voice on every call.

Many companies create a wonderful technical product or service, stick out a shingle and no one bites. They structure their services like a menu in a restaurant, so they can deliver consistent, reliable and predictable quality, but their customers remain few. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the direction of thinking. Sure it would be nice if customers would buy things exactly the way we wanted to sell them, but they don’t. This thinking is inside-out.

Think about your product or service from the outside-in. Examine every point of contact with your customer to see if it was designed for your convenience or for the customer’s benefit. Your underlying product or service may not change, but your customer might see a whole new you, from their perspective, outside-in. And take down that stupid sign. -TF

Psychological Loss

Why is your bank so adamant about pushing online banking?

Converted customers like it because it saves time, automatically keeps its own transaction record and at the end of the month, makes bank reconciliation a breeze.

On the surface, for the bank, it creates a lower incremental transaction cost.

  • The customer replaces the data entry clerk at the bank.
  • It moves the transaction from a historical posting to a real-time capture.
  • With real time capture, it eliminates manual reconciliation procedures associated with manual (historical) posting.
  • Scalability (growth) is no longer dependent on employee head count, it is now dependent only on computer and system capacity.

But, here is the real payback, and it has nothing to do with lowering transaction costs.

  • It creates a tighter tangible bond between they customer and the bank.
  • The technical setup of the account (the hassle of passwords & security) makes it more difficult to switch to another bank.
  • If a customer defects, they have to start over and will lose their online history (of course they can print it to paper), but online users quickly adapt to a paperless identity. Online history will be gone.
  • To break this tangible tie will require abandonment, and will create a strong sense of psychological loss.

What is your company doing to create strong emotional ties with your customer? -TF