Transforming the Customer Experience

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In Customer Relationships, Complacency is a Profit Killer

We Were Good at Dating, But Terrible at the Marriage Part.  They Left Us For Someone Else.

No, this isn’t part of a marriage counseling session or a relationship reality show, but it is the reality that many of you face.
The really scary part is that many of you may not even realize that this is the situation you are in.
The above statement is what a prospective client said to me a few weeks ago.  His company lost a major client because their competitor came in and wooed them away.  With hindsight being 20/20, this gentleman told me that they had become complacent and took the customer for granted figuring that they would always be there.  They were busy attracting new and other clients.
So, for all of you that find yourself losing customers without knowing exactly why, please reread that last paragraph.
Your customers are NOT buying your product or service.  They are buying the relationship you promise them.  If you don’t hold up your end of the relationship, they’ll leave you.  Often times, the business relationship is the easiest kind of relationship to end.  Your customers don’t need to file papers (usually), they don’t need to let you know why they are leaving, or even that they are leaving at all.   They’ll just go find someone who treats them better than you do that offers the same product at a comparable price.
Just like any personal relationship, check in with your customers to see how they feel with the way things are going.  Is there anything they’d like to see more or less of?  Is there anything they think you should know?  Is there anything going on that they don’t like or would like to see changed?
Asking these questions proactively just may be the difference between your customer saying “I’m so glad that I finally found you!” rather than “We need to talk.”
Please share your thoughts below…

Embrace Your Customers as Partners… REALLY!!!

There is so much press out there right now in the business communities advising you not to have the mindset of “Partnering” with your customers, it’s really driving me nuts! 
 
Some sources say that using the word “partner” implies that you are both on the same level and that there should be a hierarchy in order for you to better lead your client or customers. THEY say that you need to be “above” them.
 
I can understand where they are coming from, but I don’t agree with it.  I think that you should absolutely partner with your customers in order to help them succeed.  By truly partnering with them, you are embracing their goals, challenges, and successes.
When you truly understand and embrace what they want, when their struggles become your struggles, when their successes become your successes, you know that your success is dependent upon their success, then you are a true partner.
That’s where the magic starts to happen.  Your customers and clients turn to you instinctively because they know that you will do absolutely everything within your power to help them and help their customers.  When they achieve their goals and help their customers succeed, they know in large part it is because of their partnership with you.
 
I don’t care what they say, this is what customers truly want.  They want someone to completely put themselves in their shoes, feel their struggles, understand their goals and personalize them.  When customers feel that, they’d be hard pressed to leave someone that they feel is truly invested in helping them succeed.  Customers know that partners are completely invested in the best process and outcome for everyone involved.
 
After all, aren’t true partners there to help you be your best?
I’d love to hear your thoughts below… Please share them with me.

Lego Connects More Than Blocks – It Connects People Through Excellent Customer Service

Connecting with customers is essential to customer loyalty and satisfaction.  It takes a special company, and a special representative, to really make that connection one that makes the news and touches hearts.

Luka is a little boy at the age of 7, but is the customer in this case.  He saved up all of his money and bought a special Lego set.  After taking one of the Lego characters to the store, it unfortunately was lost.  These things happen.  But, Luke wasn’t about to give up.  He wrote a letter to Lego to see if he could get a replacement.

Now, so far, this story isn’t too special.  Yes, he’s a cute kid and many kids and customers write letters to companies when they need some help.

What is so special about this story is the response that he received from Lego. Here is a copy of that letter he received from Lego’s superstar representative Richard.  Richard wrote that he had spoken to Sensei Wu, a master from the  Ninjago line.

Luka,

I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.

He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.

Not many companies bother to respond to letters, much less respond on such a personal level.  This is a stellar example of not only following up, but following up consistently with the branding of the company and making a true connection with the customer.  You bet your last dollar that Luka and most folks that read this story won’t go out of their way to do business with Lego or buy their products at the next opportunity to do so.

Bottom line…  When you get a letter from a customer, respond to it.  And don’t bother to send a canned response.  Folks just don’t like those.  Go ahead and use a framework response if needed, but customize it as much as possible.  Use the sender’s name and reference their specific issue in the way they described it, not just your internal “issue or reference number.”

How many of you can site an example as great as this one?  Unfortunately, I bet it won’t be too many of you.  If you have one, no matter what role you played in the situation as the customer or company, please share below…  I love hearing stories and examples of companies that do things well.
If you’d like to read the original article, click here, then come back and leave your comments below here on this page…

Hampton Inn Personally Reaches Out to Customer Reviews to Strengthen Customer Relationships

Small Gestures Build Customer Intimacy

I noticed today on the the TripAdvisor Site that there were some reviews for the Hampton Inn in Manhattan/Times Square in New York.  In the review section there were numerous extremely favorable responses and just a few non favorable reviews.

What got my attention was not the reviews themselves, but the responses.  Luis Santiago is listed as the Front Desk Supervisor and has responded to each and every review given for as many pages that I was willing to flip through.  When I hit 15 pages containing at least 3 reviews each, I was satisfied and happily impressed.

The responses that Luis gave were not canned responses at all.  He took the time to craft each and every one.  Now, the beauty is that these responses were just a few short sentences, not lengthy at all.  That’s the point, it doesn’t take an enormous amount of effort or time to connect with customers.  It just takes a small step.

Now, for those of you who may be wondering if there any negative feedback, yes there were a few.  I couldn’t find any that were a “One Star” or “Two Star” review, but I did find some negative feedback imbedded in an overall favorable response.  Luis addressed those topics specifically with the reviewer and thanked them for the feedback.  He also told the reviewer that he would take it under consideration to see if any improvements could be made.

Bottom line… This is an example of building and strengthening the customer relationship after the interaction or transaction has been made.  Just the small effort of thanking for the review, thanking the customer for their business, encouraging them to return and addressing any incidental issues is huge in the mind of the customer.

And, it just may garner some unintended unsolicited marketing… as I’m doing here in this blog.  I have no ties whatsoever to the Hampton Inn or plans to visit New York anytime soon.  I’m hoping that this post serves two purposes… 1) to show business leaders that the little things count massively in the overall customer experience; and 2) to send a little extra business to the Hampton Inn in New York.  Please be sure to tell Luis hello!

Please comment below to share your thoughts….

Relationship Marketing Improves the Customer Experience and Profits

It’s all about the relationship. Your product and service don’t really factor into the decision making process of your potential customer. Sure, they’ve decided that they need it, but past that point, it all comes down to the relationship that you are promising to deliver.

Relationships Matter

Think about your personal relationships. Don’t you spend more effort and time on those relationships that are positive in nature? People tend to gravitate toward those who make them feel good and generate positive feelings. This same premise holds true in the business world. People do business with those they know, like, and trust.

Get to Know Your Customers

The time that you spend up front with your customers is invaluable. You want to know about them. What prompted them to need your product or service? How did they find you? How do they use your product or service? What benefits does it afford them? How do they earn the money to purchase from you?

What Matters Most to Your Customers?

An essential part of any successful relationship is getting to know what matters most to the other person in the relationship. Partner with your customers. Customer satisfaction levels dramatically increase when special attention is paid to the very ones that drive the business. Discover the pain points and critical issues that your customers face every day. Discover what makes them feel successful in their field and, on the flip side, what makes them feel vulnerable?

Relationships Thrive on Communication

Communication with customers is ranked as one of the highest driving factors in customer loyalty. Communication breeds engagement. Everyone likes to be asked what their opinions and ideas are. Customers are no different. They like to be asked what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to see more or less of, what ideas they have to make products or services better. Your customers will gladly tell you what you want to know if you simply ask them for the information. They’ve already prequalified themselves as market research because they’ve purchased from you before. They’ve used your product and have formed an opinion. Now ask them for it.

Communication is a Two Way Street

Now comes a critical point to differentiate yourself from your competition – when you engage and communicate with your customers, you need to consider and act on the information they provide. When companies request information and feedback, yet don’t act on it, the relationship of trust suffers. They gave you the input that you asked for, they need some sort of a response from you. Even if you can’t do it, that’s fine. At least let them know that you’ve actively considered it. If you are able to implement their ideas, let them know it was thanks to them.

Connect the Head and the Heart

People make their buying decisions based on emotion and back it up with logic. By focusing on the relationship that you can provide your customers, you’ll be setting yourselves apart from any of your competition. Your competitors are caught up in sales numbers and widgets. You need to be caught up in your customers and how you can strengthen the relationship you have with them. Strong relationships equate to strong businesses.

Customer Intimacy – What is it About Our Product?

When we are looking to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty through customer intimacy, it again boils down to asking questions of your customers.  You know you have a good quality product.  You know you provide pretty good service.  But do you really think it’s a case of “Build It and They Will Come?”

You need to really be in tune with your customers.  You need to ask them the right questions to determine what it is about your products that brings them back to you.

Ask these questions…

What is it that they like about your product or service?  What is it that they DON’T like about it?  How do they benefit by using your product?  If you are business to business, how do your customers make money with your service?  What challenges do they face when using your product?

Now, a lot of you may think that you already do a pretty good job of asking these or similar questions of your customers.  If that is truly the case, then congratulate yourself because you are already ahead of 95% of your competition.  They are still lagging behind in the “Build It and They Will Come” mentality.  Really, that’s so 1989.

If you want to be even smarter about the way you do business and tailor it to your customers, take this next step…

Ask those same questions, but instead of asking about your product or service, substitute the word “business” to get a better gauge on how your business itself is serving your customers.  How is your response time?  Are your salespeople really helping solve problems or just trying to sell product that your customers don’t really need?  Are your customer support staff knowledgeable enough about  your products and services?  Are there any obstacles that make it difficult to do business with you?

There was a saying that I used when I was young to defend my constant question asking.. “The one who asks the most questions learns the most.”  As a business leader, you could use this same premise with a twist…

“The business that asks the most questions and acts on them EARNS the most.”

What do you think?

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