Archive for the ‘Customer Retention’ Category
More and more companies nowadays are recognizing the importance of managing the customer experience and, increasingly, the voice of the customer is being led at boardroom level and integrated with company strategy.
The latest white paper from B2B International, Managing The Experience Of Your Customers, goes straight to the heart of the matter, looking at the reasons for this shift toward increased Customer Experience Management (CEM), as well as frameworks for typical CEM approaches – particularly those relating to the B2B arena.
If you are among the savvy companies which are delving further into the customer experience and placing it at the heart of all they do, this white paper is essential reading!
Click here to view Managing The Experience Of Your Customers.
Nick Hague, Director of B2B International, will be speaking at next month’s Excellence in Customer Service event to be held on September 26 2012 at The Barbican in London.
Nick – a SOCAP-recognised Customer Experience Master Practitioner – will take to the stage in a session entitled ‘Improving Customer Experience – Lessons Learnt From The Private Sector’.
According to Hague, “In the private sector it is self-evident that companies should try to satisfy their customers; they are the lifeblood of any organisation. Therefore companies either thrive, survive or go to the wall depending on how good they are at attracting new customers and more importantly, hanging on to them. The growing trend to switch focus from customer service to customer experience management and customer loyalty is a smart one and has certainly gripped the private sector over the last couple of years.”
Nick will talk about how the private sector differs from the public sector and give some case study examples of what organisations are doing to measure, track and improve their customers’ experiences over time.
Anyone interested in attending this conference should visit www.publicserviceevents.co.uk/225/excellence-in-customer-service to find out more or to book tickets.
In a special Business Surgery, Carol-Ann Morgan discusses why Greg Smiths letter published in the New York Times (“Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” – NY Times – 14.3.12 ) should serve as a warning shot across the boughs for any company which considers its customers or clients only in revenue generation terms.
A simple fact that is easy to forget amid the pressures of business success; but forget this at your peril.
Some key facts which provide ample justification for a customer centric business approach:
Customer centricity tends to fall in and out of fashion, but it is now most definitely “in”. Customer Experience Management is, in fact, the new buzz phrase. Savvy companies are delving further into the customer experience; placing it at the heart of all they do. With this there has been a flourish of tools, techniques, processes and people who are there to offer their services.
Bernd Schmitt’s book “Customer Experience Management: A Revolutionary Approach to Connecting with your Customers” makes a very interesting read indeed, from the perspective of a professional and as a customer myself. The stages he takes you through cause you to examine your own customer experiences from the on-going relationships, eg with banks and utility companies to the regular, occasional or “one off” retail experiences with the likes of Tesco, John Lewis and Hobbs.
Schmitt, essentially advocates a paradigm shift from the traditional functional – transactional approaches to marketing (citing Kotler’s work), towards one which takes account of the “experience” of being a customer, from cradle to grave (however long that might be). He argues a need to take the customer seriously; to recognise customers as assets of a business, without whom the company would not exist and worthy of boardroom consideration and respect.
Schmitt’s 5 steps towards Customer Experience Management:
Greg Smith states clearly the linkage between the values of the firm, where it positions the customer and the degree of engagement he feels with it.
Companies embarking on a journey of Customer Experience Management need to understand that it has to be a cultural shift across the organisation. It needs to be led by example, from the top, engaging employees in the movement to place the customer at the heart of how the company goes about its business.
In this week’s Business Surgery, Julia Cupman discusses the risk to customer satisfaction through badly managed M&A
The repercussions of the merger of United and Continental airlines are continually impacting on the B2B International team. Many of us here at B2B travel with Continental (sorry, “United Airlines”) domestically as well as across the Atlantic between our North American and European offices, and it is shocking how badly the company is managing the merger. Over the past six months alone, we have experienced canceled and delayed flights with inadequate notifications, call wait times exceeding one hour, uncomfortable flying conditions such as freezing cabin temperatures, and soaring prices.
Continental and United were among many companies in the post-recession period–including Microsoft and Skype, Sanofi-Aventis and Genzyme, and Intel and McAfee–that turned to M&A for growth, through investing the significant cash reserves they had built during the financial crisis. Both airline CEOs promised “improved profitability and sustainable long-term value for shareholders”, and the $3.17billion merger of the two companies propelled the new United to the top of the industry, with 21% of domestic capacity. The company has less competition and increased monopolistic power, and can therefore charge higher prices–music to the ears of shareholders.
However, as per our experience, delivering value to shareholders is not synonymous with an improved customer value proposition post-merger/acquisition. An article in McKinsey Quarterly points out that the more successful mergers and acquisitions create value, and do so through at least one of the following five archetypes:
• Improving the performance of the target company;
• Removing excess capacity from an industry;
• Creating market access for products;
• Acquiring skills or technologies more quickly or at lower cost than they could be built in-house;
• Picking winners early and helping them develop their businesses.
One could assume that United and Continental’s goal fell within the first of these archetypes, but over a year after the merger, the unified airline is failing to satisfy its customers on a range of critical success factors. Although the company has pleased shareholders in growing market share and achieving economies of scale, United runs the risk of decreasing customer satisfaction levels to the point that more and more passengers will start switching to other airlines.
Customers are often neglected while companies pursue M&A as the focus is inevitably on the huge changes occurring internally, from restructuring through to changes in IT infrastructures and brand rationalization. Not surprisingly, the internal chaos results in confusion in the marketplace and disgruntled customers. Indeed a BusinessWeek study reported a 50% reduction in satisfied customers, even two years after a merger. In the case of Continental, decreasing customer satisfaction is reflected in the customer satisfaction scores published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The company has never been at the level of South West Airlines, but since the merger with United, Continental’s customer satisfaction scores have plummeted.
please click on the image to enlarge
As the North American economy stabilizes, more companies are considering M&A to grow. It is critical that these companies incorporate initiatives driving customer satisfaction and loyalty into their change management programs throughout the M&A process. Successful M&A is not just about investing in companies; it’s also about investing in customers.
Matt Powell this week takes a look at the importance of customer satisfaction and going the extra mile.
“Delighting customers inevitably adds costs” – one of the three reasons suggested as to why some companies are averse to delighting their customers, by Steve Denning in his “Is Delighting The Customer Profitable?” article for Forbes earlier this year.
Of course, the type of statement above would usually be one quite heavily engrained in a company’s culture – a company that, being fairly successful, is perhaps content to deliver good service; much as the type of company that would say the opposite – “delighting customers is what we do, it helps our profits thrive” – would have such an idiom engrained in its culture (see Apple, Google, Amazon, Zappos, etc).
There are a couple of examples that I would like to highlight in relation to offering a ‘good enough’ service, and offering a service that delights. I was initially going to offer a comparison of just two companies and their approach – Netflix and LOVEFiLM. However, there is also a third company, a very well know company with perhaps a graver warning of a company taking its market for granted, which I will touch upon shortly.
LOVEFiLM and Netflix,are the leading film rental services in the UK and US (respectively)and serve as good examples of companies that ‘wow’ and companies that, arguably, rest on their laurels.
A couple of personal experiences I have had recently with LOVEFiLM have fed into the writing of this article. Sometime last year I decided to cancel my LOVEFiLM membership that I had had for around a year but had not used for 6 months. When I made the call to LOVEFiLM to cancel my contract, the customer service representative asked what my reason was; when I explained it to him, he said that they would be happy to keep my account open for the next 6 months free of charge. I had been braced for the standard struggle that comes with closing accounts of any kind, and was ready to decline the inevitable last ditch attempt to retain my custom, but this offer took me off-guard – and was indeed a ‘no-brainer’.
Their plan worked and I became an avid and happy customer. More recently, I had to contact customer services again, this time due to an error on LOVEFiLM’s part. I had been working my way through a DVD box-set, when LOVEFiLM missed the next disc they were due to send me, and sent me a later disc in the series instead, thus skipping out three episodes of vital HBO drama. I called LOVEFiLM, and knowing their good customer service from the past, I expected the next disc to be sent straight away. LOVEFiLM did offer to send the next disc –but they also said they would be sending two extra discs to apologise for the mistake. Yet again, they had caught me off-guard and surpassed my expectations. Needless to say, I hold LOVEFiLM in quite high regard following these moments of ‘delight’. I understand that they have also had their fair share of problems in the recent past with third-party sales agencies, which will not have aided their mission for improved customer satisfaction, but if these moments of delight filter across the customer base, the future could indeed be bright. And bright it will have to be, if LOVEFiLM is to weather the upcoming assault from Netflix as it opens up its service to the UK market in 2012…
Netflix, is an interesting example of how taking customer loyalty for granted can be quite problematic. Netflix had witnessed very rapid growth in terms of its number of subscribers in the past few years (its number of subscribers grew from 857,000 in 2002 to 20 million in 2010 (whilst operating in North America alone)). However earlier this year it dropped quite the clanger – Netflix took the decision to spin off its DVD mail-order business, and its online streaming offering into two separate businesses. With such a strong position in the market, Netflix assumed that its customers were so delighted and loyal that they wouldn’t mind either paying the same fee for half the current service, or twice the fee for their current service. The customers did mind. Subscriptions plummeted, as did the value of Netflix shares. After much board-level scrambling and a deluge of negativity from (ex-) subscribers, Netflix canned the idea and reverted back to its original offering, but not before a significant amount of damage had been done to the brand and revenue.
Now for the third company in this tale – one which is very pertinent to these two examples: Blockbuster Video. Once the market-leader (following a steamrollering of local video stores in the 90s), Blockbuster spectacularly collapsed in the US earlier this year . Quite a case of laurel-resting if ever there was one. Blockbuster ignored the rising trends in the market of online rental and ordering, and continued to deliver a service that it deemed ‘good enough’ – until a few years down the line (and too late to remedy), that service became not good enough as customers fled to more appealing pastures, and Blockbuster was left floundering.
The approach these companies adopt in their attitude to ‘delivering extra’, or indeed to delivering what is ‘good enough’, can be split into three distinct categories that are indicated on the pyramid below:
Hygiene factors are the elements of a service or offering that are expected. They are not issues that will increase satisfaction, but they are areas where satisfaction will drop if they are not delivered.
Nice to haves are elements of a service or offering that can influence satisfaction. These are elements of service that are not necessarily expected and can drive satisfaction higher if delivered effectively. Over time, nice to haves can become hygiene factors as they become expected.
DifferentiatorsThese are the delight issues – the things that customers do not expect; the examples of going one step further, of exceeding expectations. These are the things that set companies apart from their competitors. Despite their impact and value to customers, these can sometimes be easy and inexpensive to implement in b2b markets (such as a monthly call from an account manager, or a thank you letter after a particularly large sale).
What would you say are your company’s hygiene factors, nice to haves, and differentiators? What do you think your customers would say they are? Many differentiators are so simple; sometimes they can be the fundamental elements of a service offering that no company in the market currently does well, where providing an exceptional service can really set a company apart from the competition. Research into customer loyalty can have great value in highlighting these elements and identifying unmet needs, or in indicatingthe disconnect between a company’s perception and the customer’s perception of its offering.
In the case of Blockbuster, the company perceived it’s offering to be good enough to meet the needs of its market. Blockbuster felt, I am sure, that it had elements of its offering that covered all three tiers on the pyramid, and did not see Netflix’ new offering as too much of a threat. However, over time Netflix’ ‘online and mail order’ differentiator gradually matured to become a market hygiene factor – one that Blockbuster did not offer. With Blockbuster not providing its customers with a fundamental hygiene factor, its proverbial pyramid had no foundations to support any ‘nice to haves’ or ‘differentiators’, and the company sadly failed.
US business and coaching guru Tony Robbins has an interesting analogy when it comes to ‘going the extra mile’, and not accepting what is ‘good enough’:
So when thinking of where the elements of your service offering and products sit on the pyramid, think about how your company can go the extra mile and to add differentiators – or even improve any current differentiators to exceed expectations. But do be wary of assuming that what is currently being delivered is good enough – it won’t be for long.