When Your Head Is Buried In Your Product, Your Ass Is Towards Your Customers

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When your head is buried in your product – your ass is towards your customers

It is true that without your product or service you would have no business, it is why your business exists. At some point, someone spotted the business opportunity to develop the product or service, and around that, the organization grew and became the business you know.

It is no wonder that your universe revolves around your product.

It is also true that without your customers you would not have a business, without them there would be no need for your product or service. And your customers’ universe revolves around them – not you.

Many companies, even entire industries, are in danger from adopting complacent thinking – if they haven’t already adopted it. Too many do not see the need to operate any differently than they have always done. Why rock the boat?
Think about banking, or insurance, or even many retailers out there – for years nothing much has changed in the way they operate. Why should they change? People need banks, insurance, and shops right.

Yes, people need banks, insurance, and shops – they just might not need yours.

While you were busy optimizing your processes and justifying increasing prices while decreasing service, you did not pay attention to your customers. Suddenly it hits you like a ton of bricks, your customers have started banking with the small local bank, or they are shopping online instead of into your stores.

Don’t become the next BlackBerry

We are in the age of the customer – and that goes for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business. Before you even meet your customers, they know your products, your service, your pricing, and your reputation. And so does your competitors by the way – there is nothing stopping them from copying or undermining your products and your go-to-market strategies.

No industry has realized this predicament more forcefully than one of the newest industries out there – software-as-a-service. This business model relies on customers keeping their subscriptions for long periods of time. It is not uncommon that breakeven on CAC happens after a year or more. It is therefore imperative for these companies to keep retention rates high.

There are two main strategies for retaining customers, you can increase switching costs, which virtually locks-in customers, or you can create products that your customers truly love.

Increasing switching costs is tempting and very effective – at least in the short-term. But remember, your reputation is public knowledge, and few things are more frustrating for your customers than experiencing high switching costs. When customers feel you are intentionally making their lives difficult by placing barriers that limit their ability to move freely, it creates a great deal resentment. Ultimately, it can lead a customer to not only leave you for good, but also warn everyone else from entering into business with you.

Creating products that your customers truly love is easier said than done. Love is fickle – just because you gained their love ones, doesn’t mean you’ll keep it for long. Just ask BlackBerry, they had tremendous success and lost it all because they failed to understand the fickle nature of customers’ love.

The worst part about the BlackBerry story is that it wasn’t a matter of not asking customers what they wanted. They did ask, but they believed they knew better and therefore didn’t act on what they heard.

Taking the first step on the road to customer love

Understanding your customers’ experience with your company holds the key to igniting and maintaining their love. I mean the entire experience, not just the moment of sale. Understanding every touch-point between you and your customer offers insight into many less obvious areas with room for improvement.

Does your website claim white-gloved delivery service, when in fact it’s just two guys with a truck? Do you say you deliver in weeks, and then it ends up taking months? Do customers misunderstand your billing and call your support in frustration? There are undoubtedly many areas within your business that could benefit from being analyzed from a customer’s perspective.

Forrester Research authors; Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, have written an excellent book on the customer experience discipline of thinking Outside In (also the title of the book). One of the tools they highlight is using a customer journey map to build a visual representation of all the channels and touch-points that make up what they call the customer experience ecosystem.

For every interaction between a customer and your company, there are a number of activities that take place behind the scenes. Without mapping the entire customer journey, you could easily lose sight of the forest for the trees. Problems affecting customers’ perception of your company often involve several departments within your organization to be resolved.

For example, increasing the level of customer service in your retail outlets, could involve implementing new hiring policies in your HR department, screening new candidates better for positive service attitudes. Or maybe your legal department’s policies are so restrictive it is preventing your service technicians from fixing customer problems efficiently. Outside In features a case study in which technicians could not help customers because they were not allowed to touch customer owned hardware.

Customer journey maps exist in all shapes and sizes, and there is no one right way to make them. From the Ideation inspired wall of sticky notes, to the pristinely designed slide deck, all that matters is you decide the format that works for your company and you take the first step.

Here are a few resources that can help you get started:

Start by watching this video featuring Kerry Bodine talking about customer journey maps at MozCon 2014

Canvanizer – a great FREE tool for creating sharable and great looking customer journey maps

Is customer service differentiation ok?

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customer serviceThere has been a lot of talk lately around here about the way banks treat their customers differently depending on the amount of business they give them. Many feel that customers without great financial means are treated poorly, given a lesser service and are not valued as much – which is seen as unfair, undemocratic and unethical.

One bank even had the audacity to be quite frank about it, and openly stated exactly how much service they intended to give to customers of various business brackets. If you didn’t like it, you could choose to either do more business with them and get better/more service or find yourself another bank. Here, in Denmark – one of the world’s most egalitarian countries, that was regarded by many as a really big deal and very controversial.

Many took serious offense. Personally I was a bit surprised at the strong response, I thought it was kind of nice to hear something that sounded almost like honesty from a bank…

The heated response this situation caused, might also have been fuel by the fact, that the decision was directed towards private customers, I doubt we would have seen the same reaction had the bank just wanted to get rid of their unprofitable B2B customers.

But is it ok for businesses to say to customers that they don’t want them, or give them a lesser service, because they don’t make enough money off of them?

This is a question you had better be prepared for a hefty discussion about if you dare ask. At least if you happen to be in Denmark…

It is difficult to defend treating people differently when the only thing that sets them apart is money, nonetheless I have, in business, without a shadow of doubt done it myself plenty times.

Have I rescheduled small deliveries, and thereby inconvenienced another customer, in order to accommodate a big one? Yup. Have I held the store open after hours for somebody with a fat wallet? Oh yes. Would I do that for all customers? Hell no.

Of course all customers are important, and all should be treated with a high degree of service, I would never advocate poor service, but fact is that some customers are just more important than others. And what makes a customer more important – well the amount of money they spend. That’s how the cookie crumbles – it’s not personal, just business.

I didn’t always see it this way. Back in the good ol’ days, before reality hit me, when my naive (but beautiful) Scandinavian belief in fairness and equality for all still prevailed, I would have been pretty horrified by even entertaining the idea that it could be defended to treat people differently, based exclusively on how much money they were spending.

But that was before I became responsible for the financial success (or failure) of a business.

10 Reasons Content Marketing is Excellent Customer Service

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The world seems to be in love with content marketing, and for good reason.

Your Ignored Ad Here

We are bombarded daily with messages of all sorts; we are so overwhelmed we do everything we can to filter the noise and only let the most important through. From no-call lists to spam filters, we use every weapon available to stay sane in this meteor shower of selly sell (a term borrowed from Chris Brogan; I love that he always puts it plain and clear when he is in a selly sell frame of mind).

No wonder traditional marketing methods are proving less and less effective.

That’s where content marketing is different. Instead of shouting out your sales pitch in the vain hope someone will hear it, you draw people to you with interesting, informative and helpful content.

But wait – being interesting, informative and helpful, that sounds an awful lot like qualities used in customer service?

Yes, that is exactly what it is and that is the essence of why content marketing makes excellent customer service.

Let me give you 10 reasons:

#1 When you write blog posts that highlights relevant news from your industry you become like a mini newspaper, your customers know that they can count on you to keep them up to date.

#2 Supplying the internet with lots of fresh good content will help your SEO, this in turn will help your customers find you.

#3 Allowing your customers to comment on blog posts shows them that you really really care about them, you want to know what they think and be in a direct dialogue with them.

#4 Providing Q & A’s gives your customers a way to quickly and easily solve minor problems.

#5 When you incorporate social media into your business you give your customers easy access to your company.

#6 Providing how-to-do’s gives your customers the tools they need to get moving.

#7 Offer lots of video content; 65% of all people are visual learners meaning they understand something much better through illustrative content than by reading. So help them understand better.

#8 Give your customers free ebooks; they can keep them and use them later for when they need to be reminded of how to do something.

#9 Intrigue customers with interesting blog posts that will make them feel like they just discovered something great.

#10 Stay in touch with your customers through newsletters; it’s always nice to know you have a friend nearby…

I often hear people refer to “the good ol’ days” when you would get good customer service because you knew who you were dealing with, not like now a days when companies are just big corporations who seem to not care one iota about you.

Well bring back “the good ol’ days” with content marketing. Put a human face on your business, get to know your customers and build long-lasting relationships with them. In the end the efforts you put into this will be rewarded; your customers will be happier, they will recommend you, you will grow and you will feel great because you are doing all of this by being interesting, informative and helpful.