With so much customer focus why am I not drowning in thank you cards?

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.

 

The latest 6 secrets of good service

I have often wondered about the folly of companies pursuing the new stuff (Relationship Marketing, CRM, Customer Experience, Social Media….) whilst neglecting to provide good service.  Why?  Because I know that my social circle uses service as the key dimension to choose between one supplier and another.

At the weekend I read my weekly copy of Marketing magazine and came upon a piece that talks to this point.  Marketing teamed up with Lightspeed Research and Promise to undertake quantitative and qualitative research to figure out which brands customers are to recommend and which fail the grade.

The key point that this article makes is this “Brands spending millions on the above-the-line marketing are failing at the first hurdle when it comes to customer satisfaction”.

One of the paragraphs that jumped out to me because I have experienced this as a truth and so have many others is as follows: “The research reveals that even for product-driven companies, consumers comments are almost always focused on service. This means that the more inferior the service a brand offers, the lower the satisfaction score they are likely to get.”

The research found that the top 10 brands customers are likely to recommend in the future are: Virgin Atlantic, BMW, Mercedes, Samsung, Boots, Sainsburys, Eurostar, M+S, Toyota and VW.

The brands that ended up towards the bottom of the recommendation table are from the following sectors: utilities (Npower, British Gas, EDT, E.ON), telecoms (BT, T-Mobile, Talk-Talk) and financial services (Egg, HSBC, Barcalys, Lloyds TSB, NatWest, Virgin Money).  Ryanair was second to last – and that is to be expected.

Here is another paragraph that struck me as worth sharing:  “Promise recommends that all brands – regardless of sector – think of customers as human beings to interact with, rather than as an amorphous mass to be sold to.” That sentence says it all: companies need to balance out their obsession with selling (the direct route to the customer wallet) with good customer service (the indirect route to long term relationships, higher revenues and higher profits).  I still find it amazing that after ten years+ of relationship marketing and CRM that the point needs to be made that customers are human beings and should be treated as such.  I believe I wrote a post on that some weeks ago, here it is:  Blind to the Obvious Part III

Another finding that is worth sharing is that “While many marketers have increased their focus on social media …..word of mouth remains by far the most important channel for peer-to-peer recommendations.  Two-thirds (66%) of consumers make recommendations this way.  In comparison, just 15% of recommendations are made via social networking sites.”

Promise, as a result of qualitative research, has put forward a list of 6 things that brands need to work on to deliver high customer satisfaction:

1. Be customer centred – that is to say look at the situation from the customer point of view and work on the assumption that customers are reasonable human beings.  For example fit service around customers: “know what I said and calling me back when I have got the time.  That would show me I’m really valued”.

2. Have superstar staff – apparently spending millions on TV advertising is not that smart if the brand’s staff don’t know and can’t advice customers on the basics of the product.

3. Delight the customer – exceed the post-purchase expectations: “when my flowers from Interflora arrived at my wife’s doorstep wilted, I phoned them and they sent me £50 vouchers.  It was really good of them.”

4. Keep your promises – “I was on hold with my insurance company and then an automated message tells me it will call me back in 10 minutes – and you know what, they actually did.”

5. Sort out service recovery – my post on The Suites Hotel in Knowsley talks to this very point;

6. Build a relationship – being handed from one agent to another and having to start from the beginning each time is a real hassle for customers: “With BT you can never trace who you have spoken to and which country they’re in. There’s no relationship at all, it’s confusing.”

My take on this:  I continue to be amazed at how the obvious (what we all know) has to be restated again and again in one form or another.  Time and time again the critical importance of good service is highlighted.  Time and time again this insight is ignored by many organisations as if this insight is too painful and has to be repressed.