The Art Of Losing Customers

It takes a certain combination of events to lose a customer. It is rarely just a single event. It could be cost, customer service, poor quality or maybe just a stronger brand luring the customer to “churn”. Often it is a combination that create that “tipping point” when the customer either consciously or sub-consciously says “that’s it…I’m off”.

In my day job, I hear and learn about good and bad customer experiences and how organisations deal with it. I recently met with a leading Aussie Restaurant chain who are now moving to a model whereby they are valuing their customers and pretty much starting to refund customers on most basic complaints. The point being that the lifetime value of a satisfactory resolution far outweighs the short term cost of a voucher (given by way of a refund). Smart.

At the other end of the spectrum, last week I had an incident with Telstra, Australia’s former State, and now privately owned National telecommunications provider. I even used to work for them and swallowed the cool aid whereby Telstra were doing all sorts of initiatives to improve the customer experience.

In my opinion, the product is good and although premium priced, meets my needs for Internet, Mobile, 4G Remote wifi and Home Phone. I spend $225/month with Telstra and have done so for several years. I had never considered churning. I was loyal. However, in the space of 60 minutes that all changed.

The issue arose when I moved home. I ordered the new home connection in good time and everything was set up and good to go. On the day we moved in however, there was no phone signal to the house. I rang Telstra who were very good in attempting to troubleshoot the issue. However, they soon concluded that an engineer needed to fix the issue. As I often work from home, I was without broadband so had to use my 4G Remote wifi dongle in order to work.

Telstra took about a week to fix the issue and everything was good….until I got the bill.

I had been charged for a Broadband service for the week when I had no service and, to make matters worse, had gone over my monthly 4G Remote Wifi limit and had been charged $120 ($10/GB for 12GB) extra for this cost. Of course, if I had my Broadband service (which gives me 1000 GB/month), this wouldn’t have happened.

Therefore I rang Telstra to get the bill changed. The first lady was a generalist and was not empowered to resolve my issue. She was very helpful and courteous but took almost 30 mins to come to the conclusion that she could not do anything and that my call had to be “escalated” to Customer Complaints.

The Manager then at first failed to understand the issue. He tried to argue that I should not have used my wifi dongle. I tried to explain that I needed to use it in order to work but this seemed to fall on deaf and, dare I say it, ignorant ears. He then said the “best offer” he could give me was for $97. I asked why not the full $120 and the pro rate rebate for my Broadband service. He said it was not the policy to do this and he was only doing this by “breaking the rules”. I was now querying why Telstra would have such an inflexible policy and realised that he also wasn’t empowered to act in the customers best interest. He clearly had a maximum % that he could “refund”.

This got me cross and I asked to speak to his senior. “I am the most senior” he said, continuing with “if you are not happy, I won’t give you the offer and I’ll close the case as ‘customer dissatisfied”. By now, I was beyond dissatisfied. I told him what I thought of both his personal attitude and of Telstra’s so called customer centric strategy.

Interestingly, no more than 15 minutes after I both tweeted and posted a whinge on LinkedIn, he rang back with a “change of heart” and promptly reinstated my $97 rebate. It isn’t the $145 I should have received and it doesn’t allow for the lost income during the hour long call.

The lesson from this is very clear. I’m worth $3000/year to Telstra. In arguing vehemently over an amount that represents less than 5% of this amount, Telstra might lose one customer at $3000/year. However, that is not the whole story. In the first 24 hours, my LinkedIn post had over 5000 views. Not viral as such but how much black paint needs to be dripped into a white paint pot before it becomes discoloured?

So, will I churn? Probably not. I can easily put this down to one poorly trained guy who needs to be empowered and to learn the art of customer empathy. However, it has shifted my position from being loyal to being “open” to move providers.

Is this a good or bad Customer Experience? My Australia Day BBQ

How could a great Customer Experience possibly spoil an Australia Day BBQ?

I’m all for technology enhancing my overall experience. But not when it gets between me and an Aussie BBQ.

It was Australia Day and we had friends and family over to our home enjoying the Public holiday celebration with the traditional dips in the pool, cold wine and, of course, the delights of my culinary skills on the BBQ.Just as I was about to serve, a phone call. Thinking it must be important, I left my Snags, Corn, Burgers and Steaks in the hands of the BBQ gods to answer the phone. Imagine my surprise to hear an automated message from a certain Financial Services provider wishing me a Happy Australia Day!!!

This has led me to think whether this seemingly innocent “customer experience” has added or detracted from my view of their brand. To me, it was intrusive and unnecessary, or maybe I was grumpy because I was hungry. Nevertheless, although well intended, I do not enjoy unsolicited calls even to wish me well. Being automated, it was low cost yet also insincere.

Please people, use technology as a tool to enhance a Customer Experience by all means but please think through whether that experience will add or detract from a customers perception of your brand.

Fortunately, the beers stayed cold, the steak was perfect and I was soon a happy camper again.

I am your Customer

I am your Customer

I may also be your Supplier, your Employee, your Partner, your Student, your Stakeholder, your Consumer, your Influencer or your Citizen.

I reserve the right to voice my opinion about you, your products, your people, your services and my experience with you at any time and across any channel I want.

I reserve the right to be wrong but be treated as if I was right and reserve the right to  accuse you of being wrong, even if you were right.

I expect to be treated as if I was your only customer but I also expect to be treated as the best customer, regardless of whether I may or may not be.

I am your Customer.

However, I reserve the right to go to someone else. It is your job to stop me.

I reserve the right to shop around. It is up to you to make me loyal to your brand.

I reserve the right to expect you to get it right first time, every time even though I realise that nobody is perfect.

I reserve the right not to tell you that though.

I reserve the right to avoid telling you anything about myself although I expect you to know.

I reserve the right to expect the same “deals” as an existing customer as you would to attract new ones.

I am your customer.

I creserve the right to be difficult, annoying, irritable, demanding, irrational and a downright pain in the backside. Sometimes all at once.

However, I am YOUR customer and without me and my fellow customers, you won’t have a business. We know that and expect you to get that.

I am your customer but if you accept me on my terms, I will be your customer for life and will help you achieve your dreams.

 

 

Technology 1 Customer Experience 0

When visiting a restaurant, what are your priorities as a paying customer?
I guess it depends upon the purpose of your visit but quality of food, price, ambience and service are usually near the top of most people’s priorities.
As I am working in Melbourne, VIC at the moment, I found myself in Chinatown and was enticed inside one of seemingly hundreds of competing Chinese restaurants.
The restaurant was cozy, quite busy and I was pleased with my choice.
I was shown to my table and was presented with a tablet pc.
I am fortunate enough to eat out on a fairly regular basis but I thought that giving me a PC was over stretching the hospitality somewhat until I realised that it was not a gift but rather a menu!
The waiter promptly disappeared after giving me a brief and impromptu training session showing me how to navigate the menu and place my order.
On each page of the menu, a list of meals appeared with a picture and price alongside them. I looked around and found that each table was using a tablet and the only members of staff were those delivering food.
The items I ordered arrived quickly and with a minimum amount of fuss. The food was good and my bill arrived along with my coffee. I left the restaurant and it was only when I was outside that I realised that something was missing. It was efficient and modern but had no personality. The customer experience had been diminished by removing a key part of the dining experience, the customer interaction. There had been no recommendations, no small chat, no checking to see everything was ok. There had not even been a good bye.
I sometimes find that organisations become obsessed with technology in driving transformation but overlook the important detail of the customer experience. By removing the waiters, I’m sure the restaurant increased its profitability but I also imagine its revenue may be adversely affected.
If I was the owner of that restaurant, I would employ waiters to provide the personal touch and keep the technology to help customers browse the menu and to improve the ordering process.
It does, however, beg the question of whether technology is a friend or foe of good customer experience. To me, it depends upon how the technology is used. Is it an enabler or a driver?
Excuse the pun but this provides some food for thought!

The real “X Factor”

What is the X Factor in building a profitable brand? This post argues that it is the Customer eXperience and demonstrates why organisations have to deliver a consistent and compelling customer experience across each and every touchpoint.

Forget your TV. The real X Factor will allow you to perform better than your competitors and achieve long term results to delight your shareholders and stakeholders.

The X Factor is on most CEO’s agenda’s yet it often alludes many organisations.

The X factor is widely known, yet rarely understood.

So what is this corporate X Factor?

The X factor is eXperience. The Customer Experience or Cx as it is often abbreviated to.

It includes the User eXperience (or Ux), whoever the “user” might be, as a user could be a customer, a partner, an employee, a Supplier. It all adds up to a perception gained by an individual or collectively by an organisation which will affect the relationship between both parties.

Every interaction between an organisation and its Stakeholders is a “moment of truth” where these perceptions, either positive or negative, are gained. The sum of these “moments of truth” lead to an overall “customer experience” that can affect the economic relationship. Let me use an example of how this might apply to Financial Services.

It used to be that upon getting your first job, you set up a Bank account (often with your parents bank) and you banked with this organisation for life. When you came to buy your first house, you might visit your local Manager who would interview you and then arrange a loan. How times have changed. These days, Banking is highly competitive and has moved to touch every point of our lives. It is easy to change banks, or have many banks. Some specialise in certain types of products but they all want our hard earned cash. The transactional cost of changing banks has lowered so that customer loyalty is far less than it was in previous generations. Therefore the retention of customers has become more important than acquiring customers to most banking organisations. So how does a bank retain your business? It can make its products more attractive and tailored, but this comes at a high price to the bank and has not always been a unique differentiator. Therefore banks have gradually come to realise that by improving every touchpoint with their customer, it not only makes the bank easier and convenient to do business with but also improves our perception of their brand.

The Customer Experience must be considered across every single touchpoint, across every single channel and needs to be consistent for every single customer. Therefore if a Bank has great, customer centric staff in every branch, this is clearly advantageous but a Telephone Banking service which uses a poorly designed Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) menu, long wait times or is not 24/7 might negate all the good work done in the branches. Similarly, a great Mobile App which allows you to do your general banking might be negated by a difficult to use Online Banking web site.

It is true that different customer segments are likely to use different channels, depending upon their needs but few Banking customers will stick to one channel. Therefore every single touchpoint must be looked at and tested from a customers perspective to ensure that they receive a positive and consistent experience. The loyalty generated will drive longer term financial reward, especially in a Social world where good and bad experiences can be shared and communicated globally in seconds.

I have used Banking as an example but the laws of Customer Experience are universal. Create great and lasting Customer Experiences and the rewards will repay the effort over and over.

CRM and Xmas

Why is it that some companies good work in delivering customer service throughout the year goes to pot over Xmas?
I have had a few recent examples where it appears that a lack of preparedness has undermined any goodwill generated previously.
A good example is an excellent web site that I use frequently.

It is called “I Want One Of Those” and features novelty gift items. It is innovative, fresh and well designed. However, it appears to be a victim of its own success.

However, the increased pressure from Xmas has overstressed a poorly designed “non delivery” process. I ordered a present from Australia to be delivered to my parents in the UK. It never arrived. When I enquired, they responded promptly to tell me that I had to complete a “Statutory Declaration” stating that it hadn’t arrived. In other words, they didn’t believe me. They put the Stat Dec form in the post to the RECIPIENT (therefore spoiling any potential surprise) and my parents promptly filled it in and posted it back. By now Xmas was upon us and nothing more had been heard. I chased them up and they had no record of ever sending a Stat Dec to my parents or of receiving one back. Therefore, we had to do it all over again. I asked whether, given that we are in the 21st century, we couldn’t use email to save time. After another day of delibaration by IWOOT, they agreed (poorly designed process!!!) and within 24 hours, they had the 2nd Stat Dec.

By now, it is nearly 2 months since I ordered. I chased them up again yesterday. They confirmed that, yes, they had the Stat Dec but that the item I had ordered was now ‘no longer available” and they would refund me my money.

Think about the Customer Experience. How do you think I feel as a Customer? It was meant to be a birthday present so, thanks to inefficiency at IWOOT, the secret was spoilt and remained unfulfilled. Very unsatisfactory. A refund is hardly what I wanted to hear.

How much of this is due to Xmas and how much to poor processes, it is difficult to say. I do know, however, that their processes have been designed to suit IWOOT (inside-out) and not from a customer perspective (outside-in).

However, there is an interesting conclusion. Have I churned? No. Why? Because the “product” is that good that it is worth more to me to continue using them until a viable alternative appears. This challenges the notion that customer experience drives loyalty. It certainly is a major factor but is not the only factor.

A simple example of CRM done well

When I lived in England, I used to do a 60 mile (100km) round trip to visit my butcher. Within a 5 mile radius, there were major Supermarkets and other larger butchers but I would never consider “churning” from my butcher, Billy Baxter. He is a great example of CRM done well.
Billy ran a small Butchery having previously been a butcher at Harrods. It must have been there that he learnt the art of true Customer Management because this guy is a genius. Let me give you 5 reasons why I was a loyal customer and then I challenge you to think about whether this applies to your organisation, role or client:

When I lived in England, I used to do a 60 mile (100km) round trip to visit my butcher. Within a 5 mile radius, there were major Supermarkets and other larger butchers but I would never consider “churning” from my butcher, Billy Baxter. He is a great example of CRM done well.

Continue reading “A simple example of CRM done well”

Wanted: Customer Centric Recruitment

I am currently searching for a new career opportunity and have been shocked at the way a number of organisations handle the recruitment process from a “Customer Centric” perspective. Some organisations seem to forget that even applicants for opportunities within their organisation should be treated as valuable customers. Maybe this is why they are seeking a CRM Thought Leader in the first place?

An applicant, such as myself, may have been attracted by the hiring companies brand. If that organisation then fails to acknowledge your application or keep you informed, the brand is devalued in the mind of the applicant, who could also be an influencer, customer or shareholder. What does it say about the core values of the company the applicant is hoping to join. Does it not say “you are not important”? In fairness, the majority of companies do appear to acknowledge receipt of the application. It is after that the process seems to break down.

Some organisations recruit through Recruitment Agencies who often regard applicants as little more than a commodity, not an individual with hard earned skills that can add value. This is not just my personal experience. I have spoken to others who have experienced the same. These recruitment agencies act as a filter. They do not often understand the components that might add value to their client. Instead, they look for certain key words to reach a shortlist as quickly as possible. In one example, I heard nothing for two weeks and when I rang them, I found that I had not been shortlisted and they were conducting final interviews that day. That is fine, but wouldn’t it have been a courtesy to let all the non shortlisted applicants know? Agencies often appear unwilling to share information. When I recently asked one supposedly “leading” agency for information about the role or the client, I was sent a generic job description that was clearly drafted on the back of a betting slip.

Luckily, through my career, I have not always used agencies as I have found the majority to be lacking in insight, knowledge and integrity. Harsh? Maybe, but that has been my experience. I have tended to use my network to find new roles and have been lucky to have been approached directly by clients in the past.

However, that is where the lack of a Customer Centric culture breaks through the cracks. The onboarding process often appears to be designed to benefit the hiring company rather than the potential candidate.  I was lucky enough to have been approached last week by a company where I knew some of their key executives. All seemed to be going well until I was put in touch with the recruitment centre who refused to send me any details until I had sent them a formal application, despite the fact that their executives had approached me! Since then, I have left messages for them to acknowledge receipt of the application and to send me the role details. Even allowing for leave, surely there is a process to ensure continuity.

This blog may appear to be a whinge (I am a Pom after all!) but it does amaze me how a supposed Customer Centric culture does not extend to the whole organisation in many places, without any realisation or appreciation for the potential detrimental impact on brand, public image and customer behaviour. Becoming a Customer Centric organisation needs cultural change across the entire organisation. Everyone counts. Everybody can make a difference. I hope that my next role can impress this for my new client or employer.

Incentivizing referrals

An interesting question was posted on LinkedIn asking “do you have great ideas on how to reward customers for their referrals of your brand or products to others?”

I thought I would throw my perspective into the debate in the hope that it will stimulate further debate and sharing of ideas.

I guess a lot depends upon the marketplace you are operating in, the type of customers you target and the value of the referral. I have come across lots of different models but I should point out that I think “Brand Referral” and “Product Referral” are two very different things. “Brand referral” implies that the referrer is already a Brand advocate and a loyal customer. Surely this is the goal of all Marketeers? If you are lucky enough to have customers referring your brand, the best way to reward them is to ensure you continue to understand what they like about your brand and keep doing it. I am not sure reward is appropriate as the customer probably feels that the brand is already rewarding them, hence their loyalty. The brands I am passionate about do not need to reward me. I already refer them without the need to be motivated to do so because I believe in what that brand represents.

Product referral is somewhat different as you still have the opportunity to grow the spend with that customer through cross selling, upselling etc whilst further building loyalty. In other words, you are taking the customer on the journey towards brand loyalty.

A few examples of referral incentives I have come across:

Recruitment: Refer a Contractor to an agency and we will pay you a “Headhunters fee” if they get the job/contract. This also occurs as common practice in many organisations where certain skillsets are in short supply.

Hotels: Invite a friend to stay a week at a discounted rate and you can claim a voucher to come and stay for a weekend free of charge

Cars: Refer a friend for a test drive and receive a $$$ discount on your next service

Insurance: Various but best one I’ve seen is the offer of free charity donations (in lieu of % commission) for each referred Financial Healthcheck.

Legal: Refer 3 friends for a fixed price, discounted Will and get yours free!

Telcom: Free calls to your friends and family members who join our plan. They then contacted the friends directly with a phone call saying that you had referred them because you knew they wanted to save money on their home phone bills. I’ve since noticed cellphone companies using similar tactics.

I should also mention Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) which used referrals as the basis for its entire business model. To me, it was always a way of shipping a product which was in some way deficient (in either quality, cost or market) and using cash as a way of incentivizing agents to rope in friends and family as fellow agents or customers.

I guess the morale of the story is that you have to calculate the value of the referred business and set a value on the recompense to the referrer that is appropriate to the value of the referred business. You can then devise whatever incentives you like so long as it is moral, ethical and not to the detriment of your brand and/or product/service. Remember too that it is always easier and cheaper to retain customers than to find new ones. Therefore you need to ensure that your product/service is able to delight the (new) customer and outstanding customer service processes, people and technology exist in order to retain them. In those cases, you may find referral comes easier and without the need to offer reward.

I have had personal experience with Referral methods in the last few months. My wife and I run a small Australian Bush Lodge Retreat. It is holiday accomodation in SE Queensland for nature lovers wishing to chillout and explore. We ensure that our guest book comments are posted on our website: www.nunyara.com Additionally, we follow up all guests after they have left with a Thank You email offering them a discount on their next stay and a discount to any referred friends or family who make a booking in the next 12 months. We are doing this to establish ourselves in the market but we are already beginning to get referred business. The interesting thing to note is that no-one (yet) has asked or mentioned the referral discount. When we offer it, they say they knew nothing of it and are even more delighted!!!! This has led us to question the whole value of referrals when you have a brand/product/service that has already exceeded the customers expectations. In price sensitive markets, I guess it is likely to have a bigger impact than we have noticed but we are now starting to consider rewarding the referrer unannounced, as a retrospective “Thank You”. We feel this might be a way of exceeding expectations rather than our current approach which is to reward based on a set expectation.

I hope this has provided enough food for thought and I hope will stimulate a debate that might further our knowledge on the effectiveness and innovation within Referral Schemes.