Category Archives: Customer Engagement

Is The Way We Are Going About Customer Acquisition and Retention Dead Wrong?

In light of the Comcast call that went viral I invite you to listen to these wise words (bolding is my work).

There is no question that acquiring and retaining customers is vital to every company, but it’s the way companies are going about it that’s dead wrong…..

Charles Green, coauthor of the Trusted Advisor, points out that many companies have the client focus of a vulture – the pay close attention to what clients are up to, but only in order to figure out the right time to pounce and tear at their flesh….

Sales plans, computerised data sharing, and advertising strategies are not relationship-building vehicles. While an automated phone system may improve an organisation’s operational efficiencies, it rarely improves the customer experience. In fact, most have the opposite effect…..

The point is, though we can learn the language of our industry, sit up straight, dress appropriately, and speak knowledgeably about product, when the conversation doesn’t feel natural, doesn’t respond precisely to the customer’s questions, doesn’t engage the customer in an authentic way, there will ultimately be no sale. And no matter how many time we hear the same feedback ……., we struggle to behave differently because we don’t know how to get beyond our customer facing “script”. Besides, we aren’t particularly interested in, much less skilled at “seeing” and responding to, each customer as a one-of-a-kind human being….

Today, more than ever, consumers are seeking to be acknowledged as unique individuals with lives, needs, tastes, and desires that differ widely from those around them….

So, assuming your products or services are of good quality and competitively priced, one of the most powerful differentiators has to do with conversations you have with customers. The conversation is the relationship ….

No matter what your job is …… the key is your context, your beliefs about your responsibility to customers and the relationships you intend to enjoy or endure with them … if I’m in the checkout line at my grocery store (or any checkout counter anywhere in the world) it would be easy for you to think that you are doing your job if you ring up the sale and hand me my purchases, the correct change, and a receipt. That you get points for using my name …. That if you have a customer loyalty program, you get more points for asking me for my membership card so you can check to see if I can get a discount….

But, I’ll tell you what makes the real difference. That you look into my eyes and connect with me, even if only for a seconds. Human to human. A real smile suggests, “I see you”. This seems like such a small thing, perhaps foolish to some, yet it’s what we all want, deep down where it counts. To be seen.

I’m reminded of the African greeting sawu bona, which means “I see you.” The response is sikhona, which means “I am here.” The order is important. It’s as if until you see me, I don’t exist. Raking your eyes quickly over someone’s face is not seeing them. So if you want to see your customers, really look at them. What takes mere seconds can make people return again and again.

- Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership

If insanity is doing the same stuff over and over and expecting a different result then it occurs to me that many of us who are working on the Customer stuff can be labelled insane. Relationship is not merely the sum of a series of interactions. Relationships do not reside in CRM databases.  Communication is more than bombarding customers with sales messages across any number of channels. Personal is more than sending the customer emails and addressing her by using her name. Engagement is more than a customer opening up your email and clicking your offer.  Customer Experience is more than a new name for the Customer Services function.

I dedicate this to conversation to a fellow human being (and friend) who gets and lives that which Susan Scott is communicating:  Lonnie Mayne, President of InMoment.

Looking Under The Hood Of Customer And Employee Engagement

A Skeptical Look Under The Hood Of Customer Engagement?

Why is Customer Engagement so fashionable?  Is that because Tops, Middles, and Marketers have found Jesus and come to love the Customer? I say “No!”

It occurs to me that Customer Engagement has become fashionable because marketers have found it increasingly difficult to get the customer’s attention long enough to exercise their dark arts of activating-influencing-manipulating human beings to want what the marketers are paid to sell.

Put differently, the purpose of the bag of tricks that falls under fine sounding rhetoric of Customer Engagement is to get customers to march in tune with the marketer’s agenda: tell us about yourself so we can sell your data and send you marketing messages; buy from us and buy more from us; and sell us, and for us, by recommending us to your social network.

I say Customer Engagement is a Taker’s way of taking whilst masking-disguising the taking that is going on. Is it then a real surprise that whilst there is so much talk of Customer Engagement, there is so little in the way of success?  Which might explain why the masters of the dark arts (those who advise-assist marketers) are busy inventing new tools-tricks for taking. And why marketers continue to fall for the latest tool-trick?

You may not be as skeptical as me; being skeptical as opposed to trusting-gullible is the norm, that is our default wiring.  So I invite your to play a mind game. Imagine that every company that is busy with Customer Engagement scraps their existing engagement tools-tricks. Instead, customers vote and choose their champion: the customer champion. This customer champion is invited to any-every discussion in the business which makes decisions that impact customers. And no decision can be made without the agreement of the customer champion.  In giving his/her consent the customer champion solicits the views of the people he represents: the customers.  Is this not real engagement with customers?  Then ask yourself if any business/organisation is doing this today. How many names have you come up with? Who even gets close to something like this?

What Is The Alternative To Customer Engagement?

If you showed up and travelled through life as a Giver how would you approach the Customer challenge?  I say that you would not be asking yourself  the following question: “How do I get the customers to engage with me and my agenda?”

It occurs to me that as a Giver you would be grappling with the following kinds of questions:

  1. How do I create superior value for my customers?
  2. How do I make their lives simpler-easier?
  3. How do I enrich the lives of our customers?
  4. What will it take for our organisation to leave customers feeling happy doing business with us and grateful that we exist?”

A Skeptical Look Under The Hood Of Employee Engagement?

Why is it the Employee Engagement is so fashionable? Is it because Tops, Middles and HR folks have found Jesus, recognised the universal brotherhood of man, and come to see the folks that work in the business as fellow human beings – of equal worth and value? I say “No!”

It occurs to me that Employee Engagement has become fashionable because the business place is so competitive. As such there is tremendous pressure on organisations to increase productivity and cut costs.  And for some organisations, there is the added pressure of generating knowledge and converting this knowledge into new products, new services, and better (cheaper) ways of doing things.

Imagine one of the Tops getting up and saying: “We are keen, even desperate, to get as much knowledge-innovation-work out of our human resources as possible whilst paying the absolute minimum that we can get away with paying.”  How much better, upstanding, uplifting, it sounds for a Top to talk about Employee Engagement.

I get that you may think that what I speak here is far-fetched. Let’s put that to the test. Imagine every company that is touting Employee Engagement goes to their employees and asks them to vote for and nominate an employees champion. And once this champion is appointed, s/he has to be presented in any-all discussion that affect the lives of the employees. And that no decisions that affect employees can be made unless the employees champion gives his/her agreement.  Now tell me how many companies that you know which practice anything like this.

I say Employee Engagement is just another term devised by Takers to disguise their taking. And I am clear that most employee are wise to this. Why might just explain why there is so little ‘engagement’ and genuine collaboration in the very companies that are touting Employee Engagement and devising-implementing the latest bag of tricks dreamed up by those passing themselves of as masters of manipulating people (psychologists, social scientists, academics, consultants, change agents..).

What Is The Alternative To Employee Engagement?

I say that if you genuinely care about your fellow human beings you would never refer to them as human resources. Just get present to this term: where is the dignity in the term human resource?  When you get home do you refer to husband/wife/partner and children as human resources?  Do you view-call your friends and members of your social network human resources?

So how would you treat your employees if you showed up and travelled in this world as a Giver?  Allow me to ask the same question differently. What are the kinds of questions you would be asking yourself if you genuinely cared by the wellbeing of your employees and the business?  I say that you would be grappling with the following kinds of questions:

  1. What kind of workplace is most likely to show up as a great place to work for the people who work (or we want to work) in our organisation?

  2. How do we involve our employees in the key business decisions especially those that affect them and their interactions-relationships with our-their customers?

  3. How do we shape what we do and the way that we do it such that this resonates deeply with that which provides genuine meaning, uplifts our employees, and calls forth the very best they have to offer?  What is it that we are doing-causing in the world that is speaks to and is worthy of the very best that lies at the deep core of our employees?

  4. How do we make sure that we share, equitably, the fruits of the creativity-knowledge-innovation-work that flows from our employees?

I welcome your thoughts on the matters I have touched upon here.

What Is The Access To Cultivating Customer Engagement and Customer Relationships?

My eldest son is in the process of buying a car, his first car.  He knows his budget (£6,0000. He knows the make and model of the car (Ford Fiesta).  Given this he knows that he will buy a used car – couple of years old.  His goal is to have this car in place by the end of this month.  His challenge is that he has never bought a car before.

What comes with this goal and challenge?  Concern. What is he concerned about?  He is concerned that he will get it wrong: that he will buy the wrong car – it is not sound; and or that he will pay too much for the car.  What does he want?  He wants help: he wants someone he can count on, who has his best interests at heart, to take the problem off his hands.  So he turned to me.

I have no experience in buying cars. My youngest brother is into cars, has bought-sold many cars, and so I have used his services.  So when my son asked me for help, I found myself telling him that I was not in a position to help him.  This was his reply:

“You’re not any help, are you!” 

It is the way that he said this that got my attention.  It was a voice of mild anger and strong disappointment.  Why?  Is relationship missing?  No, we have a strong relationship and this has been the case since his birth. Is engagement missing? No, we are engaged in each others lives – sometimes more than I’d like it to be and other times less than I’d like it to be.

Reflecting on that which occurred it hit me that we value those who show up as useful to us given our circumstances and the ‘projects’ we are grappling with.  Put differently, if you show up as useful to me then I am open to entering into a conversation with you. And through a series of conversations-interactions a relationship emerges.

Looked at this way, it hits me that all the talk of, and focus, on generating customer engagement and building customer relationships through a variety of tips, tricks and technology is misplaced.  It is misplaced. It is foolish. It is a red herring – distracting from that which matters.

So where should our focus be? On usefulness! It is when we show up as useful that the gate towards conversation and thus engagement opens.  It is only when mutual usefulness is present, does trading occur.  And it is on the basis of the repeated conversations-interactions-trading that a relationship emerges. Consider that when someone no longer ‘shows up as useful’ and they want to engage with you, have a relationship with you, they show up as clingy-needy. What is it that almost all of us do when this occurs?  We distance ourselves from these people. Why?  The simply do not show up as useful to us given our circumstances and our ‘projects’.

Please note that it is not enough to be useful as in have a useful product, service or solution.  It is necessary that one ‘shows up as useful’ to those whom we wish to trade with.  That means that an essential task is to cultivate awareness of our usefulness – to all who matter.  This was brought home to me in a recent conversation when the lady at the table said something to the effect “Where were you three months ago?  Why haven’t I heard of you? You should make sure you are on the Gartner report.”

In 25+ years of business life, I can only remember a handful of conversations where the people who matter in organisational life (Tops, Middles) grappled seriously with the question of usefulness: how can we be useful and show up as useful in the lives of our customers?

 

Halfords Autocentres Co-create a Great Customer Experience

The Situation: An Unexpected Problem Shows Up

I got a phone call to tell me that it had not been possible to get the road tax renewed. Why? Because the MOT had run out. Given that I had asked (and paid for) the car to be ‘road taxed’ over two weeks ago, I was not happy to get this news when the road tax had run out. So I set myself the task of getting the car through its MOT on the next day – the day where I would be working from home.

The Customer Experience

1) Research Phase: Finding A Suitable Local MOT Centre

About 7-8 am I turned up at Google and searched for MOT centres in my part of the world. Halfords Autocentres caught my eye. Why? I know where the local centre is and it is only five minutes drive from my home. And because of the offer.

MOT Only £27.42 – 50% Off

Book Now To Take Advantage Of Our Exclusive Online Deal. Save Today!

The offer – MOT for only £27 and ability to book online – was too good to resist.  So I clicked on the link and ended up on a well designed-helpful web page. Here is screenshot of the middle section of this page:

HalfordsMOTBookingScreen

This one page, answered my key questions-concerns:

1. Can I book online? Yes

2. Can I make an MOT booking for today? Yes, provided there is an open slot at your chosen centre.

3. How long does it take? 45 minutes if no repairs needed, up to 60 minutes if minor repairs needed.

4. What happens if the car fails the MOT?  Most repairs can be carried out at the autocentre on the day of the MOT.

2. Purchase Phase: Booking and Paying Online

Within five minutes I had selected my local Halfords autocentre, entered the details of my wife’s car, selected the ‘MOT’ product, accessed the MOT calendar, found an empty slot for that day, booked that slot, entered my contact details, paid, got a confirmation, and printed off my the relevant documents.  Easy!

3. MOT Phase: Arrival At Local Autocentre

Five minutes before my appointed slot, I turned up at the local Halford Autocentre. Alex was on reception, he recognised me, he smiled, he welcomed me.  I did not have anything to explain as Alex had a copy of my booking.

Exactly on time, one of the mechanics showed up, took the keys and got on with testing my wife’s car; I could see exactly what was happening because the office and service bays are separated by glass.  Whilst the mechanic was conducting the test, Alex and I were catching up when he was not taking calls (from customers) or serving customers who popped in.

4. MOT Phase: Results and Departure from Local Autocentre

The forty-five minutes flew by. Alex went to talk with the mechanics. Coming back he told me that the car had ‘failed’ its MOT and there was nothing to worry about. Noticing my confusion, Alex explained that the regulations had changed and so the ‘state of wiring’ in-around the engine did not meet regulations. And there was nothing to worry about because the mechanics were tidying up the wiring – the job would be done in the next five to ten minutes.

True to his promise, within 10 minutes Alex had my MOT certificate ready. He went through it including pointing out that two tyres would need to be replaced soon. At the end of this review I was expecting to be charged for the ‘tidying up’ of the wiring. Surprise! No charge.

I thanked Alex. I thanked the mechanic who came into the office at the moment. And I wished them both a great Christmas and the very best for 2014.  What did I get in return?  An early Christmas gift. Both Alex and the mechanic said, with a certain genuineness (conveyed by the tone of their voices) “And the same to you, mate!”

What Made This Such a Great Experience?

It occurs to me that the following factors worked together to make my experience a great one:

  1. Compelling offer (price competitive MOT, online booking) that grabbed my attention

  2. Well designed MOT page that is informative, useful and usable

  3. Easy to find local Halfords autocentre, easy to search for MOT slots by day, one click booking of an empty time slot, easy payment-checkout process, online confirmation of booking, ease of printing out the paperwork.

  4. The right hand knows what the left hand is doing – in this case the local Halfords autocentre knew of my booking, had printed off the paperwork, and were expecting me.

  5. Keeping the promise – the MOT was completed within 45 minutes. And the minor repairs ‘tidying up the wiring’ in-around the engine was completed in the 5 – 10 minutes, and in any case less than the 60 minutes quoted on the website at the time of booking.

  6. A friendly face that I knew, who knew me, and who welcomed me.

  7. Generosity – the chaps at Halfords could have charged me for ‘tidying up’ the wiring. And I would have paid. They didn’t. Most importantly, they made no big deal of it. In a world where I expect to pay for everything, this generosity of spirit was and is welcome.

  8. The humanity right at the end – between myself, Alex and the mechanic. I can still hear the genuine warmth-melody of “And the same to you mate!”

And Finally

It occurs to me that:

whilst there is truth in the saying that customers don’t want relationships with companies, this truth turns out to be falsehood when it comes to the human to human level: between the customer and the employees (flesh and blood human beings) who deal with, serve, and help the customer.

great experience designers craft experiences where hi-touch integrates with and complement hi-tech; hi-tech is great for making it easy to get jobs done; hi-touch is essential for calling forth the kind of emotions that cultivate emotional bonds.

Halfords Autocentres have got it right when it comes to the MOT experience – at least in my case, for this specific experience.

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders and What Can We Learn From Them (Part 3 – Brands That Have “Cracked The Code”)

This third post completes the series of posts based on the Nunwood’s 2013 annual customer experience excellence report (The UK’s Top Customer Brands: How They Achieve Success).  You can find the earlier posts here:

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 1)

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 2)

Which UK Brands Have “Cracked The Code”?

In the executive summary section, I noticed the following assertion:

“Overall there was no change in the mean score across all the brands evaluated. This suggests that …… some brands are improving exponentially and others are falling behind……

There are some brands however who have “cracked the code”, and are making major leaps forward notably Butlins, QVC, Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff.

In the rest of this post, I wish to take a closer look at Giff Gaff . Why? Because Giff Gaff is innovative and because of the way it actually does put customers at the heart of the business.

Giff Gaff

Who leads the “Value Top 10″ table? Giff Gaff.  What allows this brand, this organisation to create this kind of value for its customers?

Giff Gaff is something of an anomaly in the field of mobile communications. A SIM only provider with no high street presence, it is entirely focused on delivering best value. Giff Gaff gives back to their members through savings – cutting away costs that rivals have to cover such as physical stores, customer service teams …..

A quirky company Giff Gaff say you are not a customer – you are a member of the family.  Members of the Giff Gaff family save considerable amounts on their purchases and receive rewards for promoting services and contributing to their on-line care.

The concept of membership, being part of something, is powerful one and for Giff Gaff it leads to a highly engaged and hugely active online community. 

Drawing its name from a Scottish phrase for mutual giving, this community is encouraged to share ideas, potential rewards and price plans via forums. Many unique selling points and technical developments are credited to members…….

Fundamental to its success has been the unique way they have put customers at the very centres of their business…… The notion of a common sense of purpose with your customers is a powerful one.

What I want to draw your attention to the following:

1. It occurs to me that Giff Gaff is inventing-experimenting with-perfecting a new way of doing business.  Not a customer-centred way of doing business. Nor a shareholder centred way of doing business. No, it is deeply immersed in a ‘community-membership’ way of doing business.  In this way of doing business, the customer plays many roles in addition to the role of customer: as marketer, as sales person, as R&D advisor, as customer services agent, as a ‘shareholder’…..

2. I am clear that Giff Gaff has got social right because social is the heart-ethos of the business. Social is not a bolt-on. Social is the business. I say mutual giving is the definitive test of an authentically social way of showing up in the world.

3. Will Giff Gaff do to the mobile industry what the mini-mills did to the US steel industry?  That is to say is Giff Gaff show up for me as an example of a low end disruptive innovator according to Clayton Christensen model. Or will its parent O2 ‘kill’ it like GM did with Saturn when Saturn became a threat to GM’s way of doing business?

As a member of Giff Gaff I notice that Giff Gaff is travelling the path that Amazon/Bezos has travelled. Which path?  The path of listening to customers and using this listening to figure out which products-services to introduce next. For example, Giff Gaff is no longer a SIM only provider. Giff Gaff now sells a small range of the popular phones.

If you want to learn more about Giff Gaff then I recommend reading the following posts:

giffgaff where customers are ‘members’ who sit at the heart of the organisation

giffgaff: what impact will the 8 hour service interrruption have on brand reputation and customer loyalty?

giffgaff: how to generate delight and advocacy without spending a fortune

Want to learn more

If you want to learn more about these brands (Giff Gaff, Butlins, QVC, Tesco Mobile), or any of the other Top 10 UK Customer Experience brands,  I suggest that you download-read Nunwood’s annual Customer Experience report: CEE-Centre-2013-UK-Full-Report

And the table of the Top 100 UK customer experience brands is here:  NUNW00D-CEEC-UK-2013-TOP-1001

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