CX and the Art of Getting & Keeping Customers

The Story: How I Ended Up Moving On From My Favourite Cafe

I walked in to my favourite cafe and greeted the fellow behind the counter by his first name. He was so happy to see me that he smiled a huge smile, welcomed me, and came around the counter to shake hands with me.  Delight – what a welcome!

Then I ordered my usual: fresh orange juice, hot chocolate, a croissant, and a pain au chocolate.  My ‘friend’ behind the counter pointed at his orange juice making machine: no oranges, no fresh orange juice – his supplier hadn’t delivered the oranges on that day.  I find myself disappointed – really disappointed.  That is when something important is unconcealed to me: of the breakfast what really matters is the fresh orange juice.

I eat my breakfast noticing all the time the absence of the fresh orange juice.  I pick up my bag, put on my overcoat, say goodbye and leave for work: the client’s offices.

It’s mid-morning and I’m thirsty. I head down to the ground floor where the cafes and restaurants are.  I notice a small place that I had not noticed before.  Why do I notice it? It seems to be like a fresh juice bar! I head over there and sure enough there are various freshly squeezed juices including orange, orange and banana, orange and mango…. A little later I find myself drinking the orange and banana juice. Delicious!

The next day I find myself at this juice bar for breakfast. I help myself to the fresh juice, a croissant, a pain au chocolat, and pay. Whilst paying I strike up a conversation with the lady serving me. Then I take a seat and enjoy my breakfast.

I do the same the next day, and the next day, and the next day.  I find that despite my intentions to go back to my favourite cafe I do not go back. Yes, I think fondly of the fellow who works there. I wonder how he is doing and I wish him the very best. I even think of popping in after work… Yet, I find that I never go back there for breakfast.  I stick with the fresh juice bar.  Why?

It is convenient – on the ground floor of the client’s offices. It always has the products I am looking for. By being a regular customer and willing to initiate conversation I have gotten to know Anne – and she has gotten to know me. The place is clean and there is always plenty of room to stand or sit down and have my breakfast in peace.

What Might This Unconceal About Winning & Keeping Customers?

1 – What happened happened yet I did not intend it to happen. Neither did the fellow working at my favourite cafe. Indeed, if you had told me that things would have worked out this way  I would have argued against it. I would have found many reasons to back up my position. Which makes me wonder how much you/i can trust what customers/prospects say in surveys.

2 – Great customer service was not enough to keep me as a customer.  I am clear that every time I turned up at my favourite cafe I received great customer service. In part this was because I had established a personal connection with the chap behind the counter who served me.

3 – Great personal relationship with the customer facing front line employee was not enough.  Yes, the fellow behind the counter was, to use Richard Shapiro’s language, a Welcomer.  Yes, the fellow behind the counter and I had cultivated a personal relationship with one another such that both of us were genuinely pleased to see one another.  Yes, it was great to be greeted by my first name, with a smile, and asked about what I had been up to since the last visit.  No, this level of relatedness did not turn out to be enough to keep me as a customer.

4 – As a customer I did not realise what really mattered in my ‘eating breakfast’ experience until what really mattered was not present.  In my case what really mattered was freshly squeezed orange juice – the experience (taste, pleasure) associated with drinking this particular product.

5 – The customer’s experience is holistic and it necessarily involves the ‘product’. Put differently, the customer’s experience is more than how you treat the customer when s/he is ‘dancing’ with your organisation.  It is more than having a Welcomer welcoming.  It necessarily involves the ‘product’ that the customer came in search of.

Further Reflections on The Customer’s Experience and Customer Loyalty

Based on my experience of being a customer, it occurs to me that the customer’s experience can be broken down down into the following components:

A.  Desired Outcome: Did I ‘get’ the outcome I was after?  The answer to this question is binary: yes or no.  There is no in between.  Think pregnancy – you are pregnant or you are not pregnant, you cannot be somewhat pregnant.

B.  Treatment: Was I treated the way I desire/expect to be treated whilst in the pursuit of my desired outcome?  The answer to this question is not binary when treatment is taken as a whole across my ‘customer journey’.  There may be elements of the journey where I was treated well. Other elements where I was not treated well.

C.  Effort-Time: How much effort-time did it take for me in working with you/your organisation to generate my desired outcome? I am clear that if you are the supplier that is the least effort-time consuming one to deal with then you have an advantage when it comes to winning my business and keeping me as a customer.

When I look at my transition from using my favourite cafe to using the on-site juice bar I notice that the juice bar won because:

  • It generated my desired outcome – every time without fail;
  • I was not treated as well as I was treated at my favourite cafe bar yet I was treated well enough. And I was able to cause improvements in my treatment by cultivating a more human / intimate relationship with Anne who usually staffed the juice bar; and
  • Doing business with the juice bar saved me time-effort because it was on my path-route to work. Whereas my favourite cafe was a 5-10 minute detour.  So it ended occurring up as convenient.

I thank you for your listening and wish you the very best in your living.  Until the next time….

The customer loyalty paradox (Part II): what we can learn from Richard Shapiro and The Welcomer Edge

Lets take a brief look at Tesco: why data driven marketing and product management is not enough

Tesco has been heralded by the marketing and CRM gurus (mostly marketers and those selling CRM systems) as the poster child of how to thrive by taking a data centred, technology enabled, approach to doing business.  So why is it that Tesco is in real trouble – losing customers, losing market share and issuing its first profit warning in decades?  Customer Service and the Customer Experience.  Here is what The Grocer says (italics are mine):

“Tesco has vowed to create 20,000 new jobs in the UK over the next two years in a bid to improve customer service……..chief executive Philip Clarke admitted in January that standards of service and of the overall customer experience in Tesco stores had slipped below the levels he expected. He claimed Tesco stores had been “running hot” for too long, with staff over-stretched and not sufficiently well trained enough.”

Listen to what Richard Shapiro writes in the Welcomer Edge

There is a new book on the market called The Welcomer Edge. it is written by an authority on customer service and retention.  I found value in this book and I want to share it with you as it illuminates the ‘the road less travelled’ when it comes to cultivating customer loyalty: cultivating loyalty through the personal touch.

Wondering what I am getting at? Business is game of people: people working together to create value for people (customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, the community..) whilst being mindful of and outwitting other people (the competitors).  In this post, I pointed I shared RD Laing’s quote:

“Men can and do destroy the humanity of other men, and the condition of this possibility is that we are interdependent.  We are not self contained monads producing no effects on each other except our reflections.We are both acted upon, changed for good or ill, by other men; and we are agents who act upon others to affect them in different ways”

Why is it worth listening to Richard?

From where I stand, Richard gets it totally and provides a new language/framework to think about the situation at hand. Language and frameworks make all the difference – we are ALWAYS living out of / coming from some kind of framework, usually from some ancient philosopher who died centuries ago.

What does Richard say in the Welcomer Edge? 

In his words:

How can we re-introduce the person touch in business?  Today, most service interactions tend to be robotic, and it’s not because of the customerThe salesperson or customer representative frequently does not make an attempt to make a personal connection or take an interest in the prospective purchaser as a person.”

“…what I learned then, every business should learn now: Customers are people first and consumers second.

There is a particular type of staff person who draws new customers to a business and keeps them.  I call this type the “welcomer”. Welcomers create a relationship with new customer that can last a lifetime.  People are so delighted to do business with welcomers that they will have little reason to change allegiance to the company’s competitors.”

What are the central points that Richard is making in The Welcomer Edge?

He is making clear that which is obvious as common sense in ordinary day living and which is anything but obvious when you examine the way businesses operate.  In Richard’s words:

“…when a customer walks out of a store due to a lack of service, that organisation has just killed its goal of generating repeat business.  Without a consistent flow of repeat business, no company can survive in the long term.”

Do you think he is going over the top, allow me to share my Tesco experience with you. I went to shop at Tesco, about a month ago, only to walk out in disgust empty handed.  Why? Because of the poor service.  There were not enough cashiers so I was ‘forced’ to self-serve only to find that after scanning 20+ items the system would not complete the transaction. Why?  Because I had purchased a DVD that had a 18+ rating.  The system told me to wait and someone would come to help me.  I waited several minutes, nobody came and so I left over £100 of shopping there and walked out in frustration vowing never to return.  And I have not returned.

Richard makes a bold claim that I agree with, in his words:

Welcomers are so important that a company that finds, hires, and rewards them has a distinct advantage over a business that does not.

When I read that sentence I think Zappos (customer care lines staffed by welcomers who create that personal touch).  I think about Richer Sounds in the UK, a hi-fi retailer.  I think about the transformation Howard Shultz brought about when he returned as CEO to take control of a failing Starbucks which had lost sight of why customers came to Starbucks:People come to Starbucks for coffee and human connection.”

Final thoughts, recommendation and an invitation

Final thoughts

Business is ALL about people.  It is time to get that many if not most of us feel that we live in an indifferent world especially when it comes to interacting with organisations and the people who staff them.  Customers are human beings and as such they are a social beings who have a deep need for relatedness and when this is not present most of us pay a big price.  Welcomers, whilst few and far between in the business world (partly because they are not welcomed / acknowledged / inspired / rewarded appropriately) are the difference that makes the difference when it comes to service businesses. Welcomers naturally & automatically reach out, connect and unlock the gate to the human heart inside of customers.  Richard talks about many welcomers and one in particular stood out for me, Javier, this is what he says about his role:

..when I worked at the deli counter, my job wasn’t just to slice cold cuts and cheese.  It was to put a smile on someone’s heart.”

If you have any serious interest in cultivating customer loyalty then you have to get the service interactions right.  That means recruiting a context that: attracts Welcomers to you (to join you as members of staff); allows them to do what they do naturally – be great with people; acknowledges and rewards their contribution so that they stay with you.

Recommendation

How to end this post? Above and beyond the valuable framework and language that Richard provides in The Welcomer Edge there is a certain quality – a human quality – that I really like about this book.  On my shelf it sits next to Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, Chris Zane’s Reinventing The Wheel and Howard Shultz’s Onward.  If you are serious about solving the customer loyalty paradox then I recommend reading The Welcomer Edge along with the others that I have listed here. 

Disclosure: Richard sent me two signed copies of The Welcomer Edge. I am tempted to write that this did not affect my sharing here.  And I know that I cannot say that because we are all affected by the kind or unkind acts of our fellow human beings whether we recognise that consciously or not.  All I can tell you is that it occurs to me that I have shared honestly based on the merits of the book and the value I have gotten out of it.

An invitation

If you have subscribed to The Customer Blog and are keen to read The Welcomer Edge then please email me (maz@thecustomerblog.co.uk) with your address and I will post the spare signed copy of The Welcomer Edge.  Please note that I have only one copy to share so if you want it then email me fast: when it’s gone, it’s gone!