Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

C-Sat Surveys Can Cause Intra-Organizational Conflict

October 20, 2010

I’ve grown somewhat leery of customer satisfaction surveys in recent years.  While I still believe they can add highly useful information for a company to make improvements to the customer experience, I am also convinced that many companies aren’t doing said research properly.

My reservations aside, regardless of whether a company is doing C-Sat research properly, customer satisfaction surveys can also cause intra-organizational friction and conflict.  Because of the ways departments are incentivized and compensated, some will benefit more than others.  Moreover, because many companies either don’t  link their desired financial and operational outcomes – or don’t link them well enough – to the survey, many departments can claim that the research isn’t working.  C-Sat research is fraught with inter-departmental conflict because companies are conducting it with vague objectives and rewarding – or punishing – departments for their ability or inability to meet those vague objectives.

The key to reducing the conflict caused by C-Sat surveys is to have all affected departments share in framing the objectives.  Before the survey is even designed, all parties should have an idea of what is going to be measured – whether it is repeat business, reduced complaints, shorter customer waiting times – and what they will all be accountable for.  Stakeholders should also work together to see how – or if – they can link the survey’s results to financial and operational performance.  And the stakeholders should be provided information, training, and guidelines to aid their managerial actions in response to the survey’s results.

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No Money to Conduct Primary Research? You May Have Done a Lot of it Already!

June 8, 2010

Last week, I wrote about an entrepreneur who was conducting secondary marketing research so he could develop his business plan. This week, I am writing to talk about primary research – data your company generates on its own. Often, we think of surveys and focus groups when we hear “primary research.” And those methods can indeed be costly. However, your business is probably generating volumes of primary data right under your nose. You’re out to hear the voice of your customers and prospects when you do primary research, and primary data is coming to you at nearly every touch point you have with them. Think of these sources:

Customer Service Calls

When customers call for customer service, or prospects call for information, what are the most common things they ask about? If your business sells handbags, which ones are frequently inquired about? Are the handbags most inquired about those that are higher or lower priced? Are they new handbags you’ve introduced? Are they mostly imported handbags? Also, who is making the inquiries? Are they long-term customers? Prospects? If long-term customers are inquiring about one line of handbags and prospects about another, you can tailor your marketing messages to their interests.

Customer Complaints

Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of a complaint. But complaints can be a great source of information. They can alert you to product defects, service breakdowns, and even give you ideas for enhancing your product or service. They can even help you save a long-term relationship and avoid bad word-of-mouth press. If women are complaining that the strap on one of the handbags you sell is uncomfortable to hang over their shoulders, that can prompt you to look for alternatives, or contact the supplier with that information. If a customer complains about the treatment an employee gave him/her, you might use that as an opportunity to either train your staff on improved customer service or discipline that employee.

It’s often said that 96% of a business’ dissatisfied customers will not complain; 91% will quietly go away; and those silent dissatisfied customers will likely communicate their dissatisfaction to at least nine other people. Encourage your customers to speak up when they’re not happy. Complaints can be a rich source of research.

Your Salespeople

Your salespeople are out in the field. They see everything at the frontlines. What successes are they having? What gripes do they have? Let’s say that a salesperson occasionally sells handbags to men, who are buying it for their wives, girlfriends, or mothers. You might have them inquire about the occasion. Perhaps it’s a birthday. When you know  the buyer’s spouse or significant other’s birthday, you might send a personal message to the gentleman around the same time next year, encouraging him to buy a new handbag. Salespeople can also tell you that they’re losing business to competitors because the sales cycle is too long, or too complicated, or there’s too much administrative work. They might also tell you that they’ve lost sales because your business doesn’t accept credit cards. All of these insights can be very helpful. You should encourage your salespeople to engage the customers and prospects, and also encourage them – without judgment – to share their successes, failures, and challenges with you.

Your Competition

Your competitors can be a great resource for your marketing research. Check out their Websites from time to time; follow them on Twitter; “Like” them on Facebook; read their blogs; subscribe to their newsletter; buy their products from time to time; drop in on them if they are a retailer, restaurant, etc. These techniques can alert you to their promotion schedule, the types of customers they are pursuing; the products and/or services they are emphasizing most heavily, what markets they’re in, and so forth. You might also be able to pick up the phone and talk to your competitors directly. It may be that they serve a different niche and that there’s plenty of business to go around. Plus, the fact that you are in the same business gives you an affinity that encourages both your competitors and you to help each other out.

Warranty Cards

Encouraging your customers to fill out a warranty card can also provide useful information: contact information, birthdate, age, type of product purchased, and other kinds of information. This will give you an idea of the type of customer that buys your product. Also, if customers invoke the warranty at some point, you can also get some idea for the products that are having the issue, the types of customers it has been happening with, and the most frequently occurring defects.

Previous Promotions

Look back at some of the ads you ran. How did they perform? Did you test two types of ads? Which one did better? Knowing which promotional tactics work well and which don’t can ensure that you’re directing your marketing dollars more effectively.

This list is far from comprehensive. You can also obtain primary research from trade and professional associations in your industry, as well as from chambers of commerce. You can also get information from your suppliers/vendors. And just plain old networking can give you information.

Primary research is generally expensive, but there’s so much of it that you’re likely already doing, that you may have a wealth of research right within your walls. Mining that information is like mining gold!

Do you have a lot of information you’re collecting that you’re not using to generate new or repeat business? Are you collecting mountains of information but can’t make any sense of it? Would this kind of primary research be of valuable to you, but you just don’t know where to start? Analysights can get you on the right track. Call us at (847) 895-2565 or visit our website at www.analysights.com.

Comcast: A Case of Customer Satisfaction “DON’Ts”

September 19, 2009

I write a lot about customer satisfaction market research.  Yet, no amount of customer satisfaction research can replace common sense.  Every business knows that a satisfied customer is a returning customer.  Except Comcast.  No customer satisfaction survey will ever provide you with useful feedback if the quality of your customer service is blatantly bad to begin with.

Yesterday evening, my high-speed Internet access went out.  And because I have both phone and Internet access through Comcast, I also lost dial tone on my landline.  From my business phone, I called Comcast to report the outage.  And from that point until a few minutes ago, the textbook example of customer service “Don’ts” emerged one by one.

DON’T Keep Doing Things that Don’t Work!

It was Friday afternoon, almost 5:00.  The customer service agent attempted to reset my modem remotely.  That didn’t work (in fact, in the five times my Internet connection has gone out over the past year, that approach has never worked).  The result: A technician was going to have to come to my home to fix it.  Wonderful.  That leads me to the next “Don’t:”

Don’t Inconvenience the Customer

These days, almost everything runs on Internet or phone.  I realize the weekend was on, but a company should try to get these matters resolved quickly.  The soonest Comcast could send a technician would be Sunday, at 8:00 a.m.  Not only is that unresponsive, it ignores that fact that households may have church obligations.  And at 8:00 in the morning?  Anyone who’s not in church is probably sleeping in. 

Fortunately, my Internet service and dial tone came back on an hour later.  I decided to wait until Comcast called to confirm the appointment to tell them not to come.  Then came the next Don’t:

DON’T Call the Customer Just to Put Him/Her on Hold!

Around 1:30 this afternoon, my cell phone rings.  It’s a recorded message saying to the effect: “This is Comcast calling about your scheduled service.  Please wait for an agent.”  Huh?  If you are calling a customer, make sure you have someone ready to talk to the customer when he/she answers the phone.  Would you call your friend and say: “Steve, this is Alex.  Hold on for one second until I’m ready to talk to you”?  But even that wasn’t the worst part:

DON’T Annoy the Customer

That recorded message played over and over again!  After six or seven repetitions, I hung up and decided to call Comcast directly to cancel my trouble call.  And then more Don’ts:

DON’T HAVE AN INCONVENIENT AUTOMATED SYSTEM

It took about 4 minutes to work through the customer service menu items.  And then…

DON’T KEEP IN-BOUND CUSTOMER CALLS WAITING

First of all, make it easy for customers to call in and report their issue and set, adjust, or cancel their trouble calls.  Second, make sure you have adequate staff to handle calls.  People calling customer service are likely already frustrated.  Long hold times will only agitate their frustration.  It was almost 10 minutes I was on hold.  I finally spoke to the agent and then cancelled the trouble call.  I thought that was the end of it.  But a new don’t emerged:

DON’T Use Automation Technology if it’s Not Working Properly

Less than 20 minutes after I hung up with the Comcast agent, my cell phone rang.  It was Comcast again.  Calling with that same recorded message, telling me to wait for an agent.  10 more times I heard it.  Shouldn’t Comcast’s system have recorded my cancellation in real time?  I was annoyed and decided to wait for the agent, and when she came on the line I told her how annoying that message is.  Her reply brought me to the final don’t…

DON’T IGNORE COMMON COMPLAINTS

The agent acknowledged that many customers complained about that infernal recording and it was “reported to management”.  Reported to management?  Why hasn’t management done anything about it?  If Comcast had given me a customer satisfaction survey at that point, the scores would have all been the lowest I could give.

Too bad Comcast has virtually no competition in my community.  After a couple hundred disgruntled customers defected to other phone/cable/Internet providers, Comcast would get the message and respond nimbly to customer dissatisfaction.  Until then, they have Carte Blanche to be a textbook case of customer service disasters. 

Customer Loyalty Key to Restaurants Surviving Recession

March 16, 2009

In just the past year, we have witnessed many restaurant chains filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – Black Angus Steakhouse, Metromedia Stakehouses (which operates Bonanza and Ponderosa steakhouses), VICORP (operator of Bakers Square and Village Inn Restaurants) – and the Chapter 7 liquidation of Bennigan’s.  The economy, undoubtedly, was a key culprit in these restaurants’  troubles.

While it is true the people dine out less when times are tight, it is also true that people do not stop dining out all together.  In fact, loyal customers continue to patronize restaurants that deliver a highly satisfying dining experience, according to an article in the March 2009 issue of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review by Joe Cardador and Mark Hunter of Kansas City, Mo.-based research firm Service Management Group.

According to Cardador and Hunter, highly satisfied restaurant guests spend slightly more money than guests who were merely satisfied.  In addition, highly satisfied restaurant patrons are twice as likely to return and three times as likely to recommend the restaurant to others than those patrons who were simply satisfied.

Creating the highly satisfying experience  that creates a loyal customer begins with the server, say Cardador and Hunter.  “By simply greeting guests, checking back with them regularly, thanking them for their business and ensuring that a manager is visible in the dining room, restaurants can nearly quadruple  (emphasis added) guest satisfaction compared to a guest who receives zero or just one of those behaviors.”

The authors go on to say that patrons who come to a restaurant either because of a highly satisfying prior dining experience or a recommendation tend to spend more money than those patrons coming into the restaurant because of a promotion or ad.  And customers who experienced all of the service behaviors stated above tend to tip better.

Cardador and Hunter’s article can be viewed online at Quirk’s web site.

The lesson applies not just to restaurants, but to all businesses.  Customers can be made loyal when businesses deliver more than they expect to receive.  And this does not mean giving away the store.  Overdelivering can be a simple and costless as those server behaviors above, or courtesy calls to customers telling them the status of an order.

In any case, it is far cheaper and more profitable to provide knock-your-socks-off service to customers than promotional discounts.  The former creates customers who value your company and your brand; the latter generates price-sensitve customers who will switch to your competitors for a better offer and lowers your brand’s image in their eyes.

Even Pro Baseball is Marketing in the Recession

February 26, 2009

If my last blog post is any indication, the March 2 issue of Fortune magazine is a goldmine of stories about the importance of marketing during this recession. Another article from this issue, “Baseball Battles The Slump”, caught my eye, about how the Arizona Diamondbacks keeps its fans loyal during these hard times.

According to the article, when a longtime season ticket holder e-mailed D-Back CEO Derrick Hall, informing him she’d fallen on hard times and asked his help in helping her hold on to her season tickets, Hall personally phoned her and arranged for her to share her season tickets.

In addition, with Phoenix having the lowest per-capita income of any Major League Baseball city, Hall wanted to insure the Diamondbacks retained the loyalty of their lower-and middle-income fans, instituting “kid’s pricing” for hot dogs and other concessions, and having pro shops where fans can buy D-Backs merchandise for about one-third of what other MLB teams charge.

What really impressed me was that when dining out, Hall picks up the tab of family whose youngster is wearing a D-Back’s hat; how Hall gives away free tickets to local schools; and that he praises players who mingle with fans before games and sign as many autographs as possible.

Hall demonstrates five valuable marketing principles we must never forget:

  • Know your customers;
  • Listen to your customers;
  • Appreciate your customers;
  • Instill a customer appreciation orientation in your employees; and
  • Give your customers a great experience along with a great product or service.

These principles work in any economy, but companies who continue to practice them during the recession will really score a home run!