Monthly Archives: December 2010
Dear readers, professionals and fellow human beings
I thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Your reading encourages me to write and share my point of view with you. And I always look forward to hearing your point of view.
I thank you for taking the time to comment on what I have written. Your commenting leaves me feeling connected. It also makes me feel that it is a useful use of my life energy to write.
I thank you for writing to me directly to let me know what you think of this blog and what contribution it makes to you.
I thank you for connecting up with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.
Please know that I am grateful that you exist, that our paths have crossed and that we are in conversation.
I hope you will make this Christmas a joyous one for yourself, your loved ones, your fellow human beings. And I wish you the same for 2011.
If I can help you then please do reach out to me. My philosophy is simple: we can make heaven or hell for each other, I have no interest in hell as it is already crowded, I am totally passionate about co-creating heaven with you!
Be well. Be great. “Be the change you wish to see in this world” Gandhi.
In the period of 1950s the concept of the marketing mix was introduced and this led to the birth of the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promotion. This has been extended to include another 3Ps: People, Process, Physical Evidence.
With the birth of the Customer age in the 1990s Robert Lauterborn proposed the 4Cs: Customer, Cost, Convenience, Communication. Whilst this is a move in the right direction it is not enough. To my mind it smacks of the abstract, the intellectual, a machine way of thinking and talking. A move forward yet still within the Newtonian paradigm of the universe (including human beings) as a gigantic clock.
How about embracing the 5Hs: Human, Heart, Honesty, Hospitality and Harmony?
Get that you are dealing with flesh and blood human beings and treat your customers as human beings. Strive to treat them with the best of our humanity: kindness, benevolence, humaneness.
Being human, we notice, even if it is at a subconscious level, when these qualities are present or not. Given the choice we walk towards organisations that have a human look and feel: that are humane and treat us as human beings not machines.
How about starting with a small step that makes a huge difference: speaking with a human, conversational, voice?
As the expression goes “Have a heart!”. What does that mean? In a word it means compassion. The ability and willingness to put yourself in the shoes of your customer. To see life through her eyes, to experience what she is experiencing. It means following the golden rule “Treat your fellow man/woman in the manner in which you would like to be treated if you were in his/her shoes? Go further and embrace the platinum rule “treat your customer as he/she would like to be treated”.
How about following Zappos and making it easy for your customers to reach out and speak with you? To reach out to you – via chat, click to call etc – when she is shopping and needs guidance or reassurance? To reach out to you when she needs help in using your product or service?
How about making it easy for customers to make complaints? How about making it easy to return faulty goods? And so forth.
Let go of the spin and be honest with people in a tactful way.
Human beings stay clear of people who they find to be dishonest. When you are honest I may not like what you say yet I will respect you for being honest. Tell it as it is – upfront – it will save you a lot of pain later on: sooner or later your true colour will show especially in this densely connected world. When I catch you being dishonest (including omitting stuff that you do not want me to know) then I no longer trust you. If I don’t trust you then you are going to have to pay in way or another if you want to do business with me.
Put bluntly put as much focus on the steak – the product, the service, the reality – as you do to the sizzle of advertising and other marketing messages. Another way of saying this is to say ensure that there is a harmony between the sizzle and the steak.
Be a good host, be hospitable – to prospects, new customers, existing customers and customers who have either left or are on their way.
When you are being a good host you take the time and trouble to think of your guests and their needs. You do your best to welcome them, to make them feel at ease, to introduce them to people that they will find interesting or useful. And when the time comes for them to leave, a good host will see them to the door and wish them well and mean it! How about behaving the same way with your prospects, new customers, existing customers etc?
How about inviting your customers into the business? To listen, to share, to collaborate on new product ideas, product development, marketing communications, customer services and so forth? Incidentally, the important part about ‘social media’ is not the media, it is the social. In a social environment your character, your reputation and your manners speak so loudly that few listen to your words. A good host is mindful of this and acts accordingly.
As human beings we love harmony and we strive after it. Harmony is pleasing as it gives us peace of mind. So how about focusing your efforts on creating harmony? What does that mean in practice? Lets take a look at the dictionary definition: “the just adaptation of parts to each other, so as to form a complete, symmetrical or pleasing whole”.
How about a harmony between the promises made and the experience delivered? How about orchestrating harmony between all the silos that impact the customer experience? How about harmony between the short-term and the longer term?
It is my belief that if you don’t get the social part – that is the human desires for beauty, for meaning, for connection, for honesty…. – you are going to be increasingly lost in the 21st century. Maybe I am deluding myself. What do you think?
On the one hand just about every large UK based corporate is professing their commitment to the customer. Some say they are committed to customer service. Some declare their commitment to customer focus. A few are bold enough to state that they are customer-centric. And many are busy improving the customer experience.
So how is it that deep in the festive season that not a single corporate – Sky, BT, Orange, Amazon etc – has written to thank me for being a customer over the last year? If the customer is king – as is so widely accepted – then does the king not even merit a thank you wrapped up in a Christmas card or email? Maybe I am just a poor customer and you are a good customer. Are you drowning in thank you’s wrapped up in Christmas cards?
Think what my experience as a customer would be if I received a thank you card at Christmas. Just a genuine thank you with no up-sell or x-sell message or offer. Is it possible that would have occurred as positive customer experience? For me definitely. How about you?
Interestingly, the only cards that I have received are from small recruitment agencies. Whilst they have followed the Christmas ritual they have not done so with heart. Or put differently personalisation and personal are very different. Business people confuse the two and at their costs. Enough on that – I will write a post to explain the difference.
It strikes me that customer-centricity in the UK is like the fresh fruit in the UK supermarkets: the fruit looks good yet when I bite into the fruit it is almost always tasteless. Now compare that with France where the fruit does not look as good yet is delicious.
Many years ago I worked for International Distillers & Vintners (IDV), a company that sold premium branded alcoholic drinks to the supermarkets, restaurants, clubs, cafes etc. One of the challenges that the salesmen encountered was that almost always they were on the back foot. As soon as they started the sales discussions (for new orders) the customer invariably brought up the issues he was experiencing with the company: not getting the products on time, receiving the wrong products, receiving the wrong quantities, pricing, discounts, billings…. This made it really difficult for the salesmen to sell. The salesmen had to apologise and sort out the problems first and then talk about sales. Or they had to promise to sort out the issues and offer even bigger discounts to get the customer to place the order.
It seems to me that we have arrived at the same situation in the B2C. Anyone with access to the internet can share their views and their experiences with, and on, any organisation. And everyone with access to the internet can read those views and experiences. This puts the B2C marketer in the same position as the IDV salesmen. If the marketer is going to succeed then he/she either has to sort out the customer issues or give a big discount to tempt people to buy.
Surely the sensible option is to sort out, even prevent, the issue that are resulting in poor customer experiences and a negative word of mouth. Who has the access to this information? Who knows what customers are ringing up about? Who knows why they are ringing? Who knows what business policies, practices and operations are failing the customer? The Customer Services function.
If that is not reason enough to merge these functions and put them under one department, I can think of several more:
- Marketing actions impact the customer and where they impact the customer negatively it is the people in customer services who get to know about it first;
- Marketing spends considerable sums of money with market research agencies to better a better picture of customers yet the customer services function is interacting with many thousands of customers on a daily basis and can provide customer insight as well as conduct research;
- The performance of the Customer Services function has a direct impact on the word of mouth that is taking place online and offline and WOM is marketing;
- The new role of the Marketing function is the design and orchestration of a superior customer experience and in that role the Customer Services function plays a key role;
- By fusing with the functions together it may encourage marketers to actually speak with real customers rather than reading about customers as abstractions in market research reports;
- The fusion will allow the Customer Services function to escape the relentless focus on cost-cutting and making its treasure (customer insight) available to a function that has more clout; and
- From a customer perspective it makes a difference if the left arm (Customer Services) knows what the right arm (Marketing) is up to.
In the new world, where we trust TripAdvisor more than any hotel, Marketing and Customer Services are two sides of the same coin. When one side of the coin is ugly it really does not matter how beautiful the other side is – the coin, as a whole, is not attractive as one in which both sides are beautiful. I am convinced that the potential for synergy – where 1+1 > 2 – is there.
What do you think? What have I missed – apart from the fact that it is unlikely to happen any time soon?