What could possibly cap a great customer experience? There are multiple levels of involvement in a memorable customer experience. I would say that the top is that elusive “cherry on the top” moment. In my mind, getting to the highest level requires one last step that many business people forget: following up with your customers to let them know that an issue or suggestion they made has been acknowledged.
Often, it’s a simple “Thank you for your feedback”. And the “cherry” is telling them what you did with the feedback.
Think of yourself in your local favourite restaurant. You have a great relationship with the manager and feel comfortable talking about the restaurant. After your third or fourth plate of spaghetti which you feel has too much sauce on, you decide to mention it to the manager.
To simplify let’s break it into three levels.
Level I – Asking for Feedback: At the very least, the manager is approachable and open to comments. Better, he is sensitive to feedback, sees that you may have be having an issue, comes over and asks you about it.
Level II – Processes Feedback: Manager takes your feedback in an open and honest way (certainly not defensively) and says that he pass it on to the head chef.
Level III – Providing the “Cherry on the top”: the next time you enter the restaurant the manager spots you, rushes over to greet you and says, “Thank you for your feedback about the spaghetti sauce – the Chef and I discussed it, and he agrees. I am confident that if you order the spaghetti tonight you will be pleasantly surprised!”
Most successful companies in today’s world certainly are engaging in level I and level II customer service. There is often a mechanism in place to capture feedback. Good companies use comment in an open and honest way to try to fix it.
After all, a steady stream of customer comments is like having top-quality consulting, for free. And the best companies get back to people to ensure them that their comment has been taken on board and was useful. It’s difficult for many organisations to do this, even if they have the corporate willpower.
There are some good ways to do this. Using CustomerGauge, for example, companies can:
- solicit feedback from their customers, automating the data collection and surveying process
- use the “fire fighting “ facilities , and identify issues to be addressed
- once the issue is fixed, they can go back and send a short e-mail thanking those that raised the issue and explaining that they were part of the solution, a.k.a. “the cherry on top”.
Whether or not you do it manually, or make it highly automated, thanking customers must be one of the most underated, yet most effective customer retention methods available. And apart from anything else, it’s just good manners!
I was recently in a meeting with a new client talking about how to best use customer feedback from their just-launched Net Promoter® initiative. We were looking at real comments coming in real time through their CustomerGauge systems. And that’s when one of members of the customer service group exclaimed that he just realised “after looking at all of these comments in depth, I now see how we could use these customers as unpaid business consultants!”. It was as if the scales had lifted from his eyes.
I thought about this for a minute and realized that he had discovered by himself the change management shift from the norm.
If we ask most customer service employees of companies what they think of their customers, the expletives will soon start to fly and the summary is sometimes “customers are pains in the XXX!”. Contrary to the website banners and company mission statement praising the company’s attention to customer service most companies still think of customers as “problems to deal with”.
If we think about customers as resources first, then we can start to think of how we can best “use” our customers to help us. This simple shift in mind-set can make huge changes in the way we deal and think about our customers. Following the Golden rule of Net Promoter® score, “treat your customers as you would like to be treated” coupled with the idea that customers are resources we expect the following type of information to come from our customers for free!
- Identifying process improvements: who better to identify issues with current business practices than the recipients? Customers will let you know when your systems, processes and people are not working as advertised.
- Providing testimonials: there are ones that have fantastic experiences and are willing to tell you if you ask. Using these testimonials on your website and marketing materials is a great way to promote the firm without saying anything.
- Suggest improvements: companies are amazed when they start to ask their customers what they think what information they get back. Many times customers will give insightful ideas for product improvements that can be passed directly to R&D.
- Ideas is for product extensions: just like improvements customers will suggest new products with similar attributes that can be passed to product marketing to design new SKUs
- Extending your marketing reach: with social media platforms today like twitter and Facebook advocates for your products have simple ways to tell thousands of people in seconds about their experience.
In case this is not something you are working on, CustomerGauge allows companies to quickly and continuously survey all of their customers asking the standard Net Promoter Score question and allowing for comments/self-select issues. Using the system’s features companies can route different type responses to the correct departments for immediate action.
A word to the wise: When you start to use customer feedback in this way, have the courtesy to let you customers know, and thank them! That’s when you can really start to build customer loyalty. So harvest your customers, don’t ignore them!
Given today’s lean economic times the need to make the right investment in technology tools for your company is critical. In the last few years, the challenge has been “Can we do this task better/cheaper by using people or software?”
In the case of Net Promoter® Score surveying and reporting the debate is the same. Companies can certainly choose from a vast array of inexpensive survey tools, coupled with mass e-mail systems and MS Excel for the calculations, analytics and graphing. The problem with this solution is that it requires extensive man-hours to customize, execute and report usually leaving little time for the actual analysis. From an unscientific straw poll I did, we believe it’s around 1.5 to 2 days a month to pull together data, graph and present it in a meaningful way to clients. That’s a lot of Excel and Powerpoint time, and a real cost – it’s eating into valuable billable consulting time.
I guess with Easter around the corner, I have chocolate on the brain, and I was reminded of how one of the World’s most famous chocolate makers carried out his research. I refer of course to Mr Willy Wonka, and his rather unique model “Golden Ticket” model of customer research (and succession planning). For those not familiar, the premise is that the lucky individuals that find one of the five golden tickets hidden amongst millions of chocolate bars will get a special tour of the famous factory.
My experience in the business improvement area (whether as employee or an outside consultant) has been a continual search for a “Golden Ticket”, a lucky “Ah Ha” moment where one realizes one has found the root cause of the problem. Once found, we set about fixing the issues, testing to see if it is getting better, sign it off and look for the next issue to solve – a simple procedure, a sort of “Process Improvement 101”.
The real question is “How do we find that most important issues to fix?” in the first place. Well, you ask people, do in-depth research on a few select customers, do some focus groups, ask lots of questions, but of financial or logistic necessity, to just a few individuals. This is a “Wonka-ista” method of hoping the best people get the Golden Tickets and give you the right information, probably once a year. In Wonka’s case, he was relaxed enough to do it just once in his lifetime.