Tuesday, June 24, 2014
When Things Go Wrong....
8:31 pm edt
“Disaster recovery” is something that large organizations - trained in quality
control principles - recognize to be a necessary component of their operations. They know exactly how they want a process
(e.g. guest registration at a hotel) to proceed, but they also recognize that occasionally things won’t go as planned.
In these few instances of failure, they provide a roadmap for employees suggesting specific ways employees can put things
right. These roadmaps (for many different anticipated failures) are their disaster recovery plans.At the Ritz
A disaster recovery policy at one time in place at Ritz Carlton Hotels has become a legendary example. Reportedly
employees were given “Ritz Carlton dollars” to help ameliorate the angst of guests who encountered problems during
their stay at a Ritz property. Maybe requested turn-down service wasn’t rendered. No problem; the housekeeping
staff or front desk personnel could offer the complaining guest a complimentary manicure or dessert. Employees were
kept in reasonable tow by being allocated a fixed number of Ritz dollars every week which they issued to guests to pay for
the proffered reparation – at their own discretion.Disaster Recovery Isn't Well Known
Despite the specifics of the Ritz-Carlton example,
disaster recovery is generally not about 'paying to restore' the customer’s satisfaction. Instead, the generally
respected philosophy of disaster recovery is to show concern that an organization didn’t live up to the needs or expectations
of a guest and is truly sorry. Obviously if turn-down service isn’t provided, there’s likely a systemic
problem with scheduling or personnel that needs to be corrected – but the more immediate “guest-facing”
solution is to show concern and regret by doing something that will be both unexpected and appreciated. The real skill
of successful disaster recovery is in making the reparation both unexpected and truly cherished.
Our reason for this particular Insights column is that while big organizations generally
understand all of this, disaster recovery may not be well understood or practiced by smaller organizations. Our case
in point, a recent dinner at a local restaurant. We were joined by several couples at a restaurant which had delighted
us on several previous meals. Upon arrival we were greeted by the hostess-co-owner and in turn we introduced our guests
as referrals we wished to have experience her restaurant.Thanks, But No Thanks!
Uncharacteristic of previous visits to the restaurant,
from our arrival the experience deteriorated quickly. It seemed that the kitchen (the hostess’s husband) was over-taxed
by a full house. Our appetizers came out in a reasonably timely fashion, but then there was an hour’s wait for
our entrées. In short, a disaster was in full bloom.
When we explained to the Hostess how unfortunate the delay was, we were treated to a defensive discourse about how
busy the kitchen was….and that we and our guests should have more patience. This response illustrates
how organizations without instituted disaster recovery plans often extemporaneously attempt to solve a problem. The
general result is to become rationally self-defensive. But customers almost never want to understand the difficulties
a service provider is experiencing. From their more emotional perspective, they simply wish to enjoy timely and perfect
service! The bottom-line? When a business lacks a scripted or well thought-out disaster recovery plan, the ad-libbed
response may often worsen the disaster rather than curing it.
This example also characterizes another failure
of many organizations. Diners at the restaurant weren’t the only ones aware of a problem; the wait-staff and kitchen
staff should have been aware of their difficulties in meeting the evening’s demand. In such situations, some organizations
will adopt an ostrich demeanor by stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the developing problem as if ignoring the problem will
make it go away. If a member of the wait-staff had confronted the problem and had actively informed us that the kitchen
was having difficulties, we would have been fore-warned and might have accepted conditions more cordially. In addition,
if a gratis appetizer had been offered it could have minimized the pain of the wait avoiding a full-scale disaster.
So the key learning here is to assume the worst - that you won’t always properly
deliver your customers the experience you wish them to have. In the few situations when you fail, you need a practiced
disaster recovery process. Staff and management need a well-planned solution that seeks to placate the angst of your
affected customers. These processes will be your disaster recovery systems.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
SLCP: Getting More Growth and Profits From Your 'Loyal' Customers
4:39 pm edt
Every brand we encounter wants loyalcan be defined in many different ways. Is a loyal customer an exclusive
customer? Does he generate the highest revenue? Does he advocate for your brand or business? Is she less demanding
of exorbitant support and resources?
You Need More than Just Loyal Customers!
With 25 years of working in the category we’ve come to understand that loyalty is not the universal panacea
it’s often touted to be. To achieve profitability and growth you not only need a precise understanding of how
you're defining loyalty; you need a set of further qualifications by which to evaluate your ‘loyal’ customers.
Unless you have a very unique business model, your primary motivation for identifying loyal customers is probably
the belief that the more of them you have, the more likely it is that you can operate at a profit. We don’t disagree
that loyal customers are a desirable asset, but we can offer a new paradigm for managing which of your loyal customers will
lead you to greater profitability. The crux of this identification is data. And, in recent years, many of us are
beginning to acquire more of the right kind of data to help us find the customers who, when properly treated and ‘cultivated’,
can lead a business to the ‘promised land’.
Thanks to today’s acceptance of ‘big data’ we are
reaching the point where most businesses can meaningfully score and segment their customers on a myriad of criteria.
We’ve developed our SLCPSM Model specifically to accomplish profit-based customer scoring.
It’s composed of four characteristics that can be observed for every customer:
- S - Satisfaction – Businesses
continue to expand their satisfaction measurement efforts, but rarely, if ever, are the scores applied to individual
customers (instead of being ‘rolled’ up to a business average). With the proper questions, businesses
have the opportunity to judge customers’ current satisfaction levels with a business.
- L - Loyalty – By overview of a few activities
(Facebook likes, Twitter posts, direct correspondence, participation in company-sponsored events, etc.) we can start
to create an emotional affiliation or loyalty score for each of our customers.
- C - Costs of Servicing – Each of our customers
has a different cost associated with him depending upon how demanding he is of special services and considerations.
Or, she may only buy on deal or by demanding a substantial discount. By tracking these considerations we can
calculate a cost of doing business with for each customer.
- P - Potential – And by tracking
not only what a customer buys from our brand, but the number of purchases she makes in total, we can create a ‘share
of wallet’ or spending proportion for each customer. Selecting customers with less than a 40%,
50% or 60% proportion identifies a segment of customers with upside potential to spend more.
Four Measures Offer a Better View
Through such a multi-criteria segmentation scheme a business would
be in the enviable position to better manage loyal customers; allocating attention and rewards in a very strategic manner.
Not only does the scoring promise to identify logical target-customers for ‘development’, it is also capable of
identifying current customers whom a business may be over-serving, costing it resources unlikely to produce increasing revenues.
A ‘pipe dream’? We don’t think so. It only takes a business willing to make the appropriate
commitment to collecting and consolidating the information. That does mean some additional spending, but more than that,
it requires breaking through the ‘silos’ of all too many businesses in which information is hoarded by discrete
departments who are loathe to share it with others. One current initiative, Chief Customer Officer, begins to
empower this pursuit. We embrace it and look forward to seeing successful applications of SLCP!
Monday, March 17, 2014
Do Satisfied Customers Still Tell Others They Love Your Brand?
11:23 am edt
Social media has given consumers greater opportunity to talk about the brands they know and love. That means
brand advocacy must be skyrocketing, right?
Maybe not. Mindshare World has tracked advocacy-behavior through
annual research in which they ask consumers’ agreement with the following statement, “When I see or hear something
interesting about a brand, I like to pass it on”. Their most recent findings serve as a harsh reminder that we
can’t necessarily count on the continual growth of frequent and positive word of mouth to drive the growth of our businesses.
One might think that technology should be facilitating advocacy-behavior, but apparently more than just ample online
vehicles (for posting) is needed to keep word of mouth healthy. The trend of advocacy behavior is clearly downward:
- In 2010 66%
agreed they would “pass it on”
- In 2011 62%
- In 2012 53%
- In 2013 only 47% agreed they would “pass
And, It Might Be Worse Than It Appears!
Think 47% still seems pretty good? Let’s take a closer look. Unless we’re missing something, the study really
shouldn’t be interpreted as suggesting that 47% of consumers are currently actively advocating brands –
or anything close. What the researcher’s question really seems to ask is: if a brand managed
to get something before an individual and the individual considered it “interesting”,
would they then “like to” pass it on? Do you see the tenuous connections here?
Knowing how many messages are thrown at each one of us every day, there’s a considerable challenge to be met to
get any recommendations!
And, a separate recent study from EngageSciences (telling us that fewer
than 5% of a brand’s fans generate all of the social media referrals for any brand), further suggests that in the real
world there is undoubtedly a huge gap between those who say they would “like to pass it on”, and those who actually
take any action!
What Does This All Mean?
It‘s clear that it’s going to take new strategies and
additional executional effort to maintain (let alone to increase) the frequency, volume, and positive tone of word of mouth
for your brand in the future. Delivering good value for the money and a positive overall customer experience will continue
to be essential, but even they won’t nearly be enough.
Success in engendering word of mouth will be dependent
- Identifying the best potential
advocates (those current customers who have proven behavioral commitment to a brand, have an emotional connection
with the brand and, possess the 'communicator gene'). And,
- Providing each of them with the necessary motivation, content, and opportunity that
will prepare those potential advocates to pass along their own versions of the brand’s story, both online
and offline, to friends, neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and even strangers
Monday, February 24, 2014
Managing Evidence: Getting Credit for Your Brand/Product
6:18 pm est
In legal circles
“tampering with evidence” is strictly taboo...it’s grounds for serious penalties. But in the world of managing
customers’ experiences, "managing evidence" is often not only desirable; it may be a tool necessary for survival!
Perceptive Are Your Customers?
Most customers fail to recognize the quality built into a product
or the efforts extended by a service-provider - even though they may buy your products. They’re generally
unable to fully appreciate the differences between one company’s product and the products of competitors. They
even seldom find the time to consider or appreciate the added value contributed by the perks and niceties that accompany the
products and services they buy. That’s why it’s critical for marketers to call customers’ attention
to these values after the purchase has been made. Otherwise credit isn’t given, increased loyalty (the primary
goal for offering the superior services/products in the first place) may never be realized, and positive word of mouth is
less likely to be generated.
Providing a great customer experience is essential, but it requires additional
effort to see that your customers understand and appreciate what’s being delivered to them. Consider an example.
Norton, the computer security firm, (that might be protecting the computer on which you’re reading this) provides excellent
protective software for computers. But if their software is doing its job, an owner will likely never be bothered; it’s
definitely a ‘low profile’ service. Norton has apparently recognized its need to reinforce its value to
customers by managing evidence. It accomplishes this with a monthly top-line report of the number of computer files checked
in its latest scan; how many problems it detected; and what it has done to safeguard a computer. And, each time the
service updates its virus-detecting database it informs owners with a pop-up. Norton is doing a great job of managing
evidence to remind owners it’s more than ‘paying for itself’.
'Tootin' Our Own Horn
seem uncomfortable with the concept of managing evidence. Given our cultural backdrop, this may be understandable.
After all, Western cultures teach the values of modesty. Further, managers may fall victim to one of two false assumptions:
1.) Assuming customers will be insulted by having good performance pointed out to them; or 2.) Assuming that all existing
customers already understand the added benefits offered by their products. In both cases managers accepting either
of these assumptions are going to be wrong.
Astute managers need to learn how much (or how little) of the value they’re delivering is actually
being perceived by their customers and credited to them. Trusting that one is receiving credit for the value actually
being delivered to customers is a fool's hope.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Easy Way To Increase Your Likes and Followers
5:43 pm est
your company has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or posts videos to YouTube, chances are you’re measuring your ‘success’,
at least partially, by counting your numbers of likes, shares, followers, or views. You may find
yourself benchmarking your volume against competitors’. But, while likes and shares may be the
most obvious metrics available, a a recent AP article by Martha Mendoza offered some startling facts and figures that give
us all something to think about.
Your Facebook Friends May Live in Dhaka!
- While you may not be personally familiar with Dhaka, Bangladesh, the
city of 7 million is an international hub for click farms. These ‘boiler rooms’
of workers generate millions of fans and followers for websites around the world, all for pay.
- Thanks to low labor costs, companies in Dhaka like Unique IT World
can find all the literate workers they need to create phantom social media accounts (difficult to actually distinguish
them from real followers) and then manually click on clients' social media pages.
- Skeptical? It could be coincidence that Dhaka is the home city of the greatest number of fans of
highly ranked celebrities(like soccer star Leo Messi who has 51 million likes) – but probably not.
stranger Dhaka, Bangladesh happens to be the most frequent geographic home for likes of Facebook's own
security page (among the 7.7 million likes), and Google's own Facebook page (15.2 million likes).
So, How Big is
the Click Farm Business?
Surely this activity
has to be an exception, rather than the rule....
security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carla De Micheli estimated in 2013 that revenue generated by creating fake
Twitter followers has reached between $40 to $360 million for the supporting click farms. Similarly, fake
Facebook activities produce $200 million a year in revenue for these click farms!
- Attention US taxpayers. In 2013, the State Department, which has more
than 400,000 likes, agreed to stop buying Facebook fans after its Inspector General criticized the agency
for spending $630,000 to boost the numbers. (We wonder why no one noticed the fans were coming from foreign countries!)
How Much Does a
- For those seeking to inflate their
numbers to please their management or earn a bonus tied to measures of “popularity”, hits, fake fans
and followers really aren’t expensive. Companies like BuyPlusFollowers sell 250 Google+ shares for
$12.95. InstagramEngine sells 1,000 followers for $12. AuthenticHits sells 1,000 SoundCloud plays for $9.
- It’s a very open business, especially offshore, with
firms bearing names like WeSellLikes.com. In Jakarta, Ali Hanafiah will deliver 1,000 Twitter followers for
$10 and 1 million for only $600.
It’s an amazing story. We won’t
try to be ethics cops here, but all this does have to make you wonder what some of those astronomical social media numbers
we see bandied about really mean. And, why are companies trying to game the system? In the end, they may only
be fooling themselves. That’s why in the case of word of mouth we believe it’s dangerous (and incomplete)
to focus on quantitative measures (followers, likes, etc.) alone. Qualitative measures incorporating the ‘energy and
attitudes’ of true fans have to be more important.