Tag Archives: customer behavior

AT&T, iPhone 5, and What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate

The stats were in a week or so ago…iPhone 5 set a bunch of records for pre-order volume.

As I mentioned here only a few short weeks prior to that my trusted iPhone 3gs went for a swim so I duly made my way to the AT&T store to leverage my upgrade discount and order my iPhone on “opening day”.

Of course, because I hadn’t called at midnight the night before or waited in line on the sidewalk I didn’t get in to order my phone until the afternoon. By that time I was told that orders being taken were expected to ship within two weeks, rather than the anticipated one week, but that I would be able to track my order status online.

The picture above is my actual order status. Notice anything? Somehow, in ten days, according to this, the is no difference in status from the moment when I was standing talking to the AT&T employee in the store to now. My order is processing.

I put this in the “failed customer self service” folder.

Order status checkers like this one are create tools to reduce call volume. The more customers who can see what is going on with their order the fewer will clog the phone lines with questions about shipping dates.

Unless of course you fail to update that status at all.

Not only does this produce more phone activity but it also sends a subtle message that either you’re hiding something or you don’t care all that much about the customer.

So why might a system like this show NO activity over ten days?

  • We’re slammed and the system is overloaded
  • We don’t know from the supplier when the items will be available
  • We now know it will take four weeks so we’re avoiding telling you
  • We didn’t create enough differentiate status levels in the system

In truth the reason doesn’t matter, the communication does. Even if “the system” posted a status that said “we’re backlogged and hope to clear the jam buy the following date” it would be more communication than “processing”. My order has been “processing” since I first said, “Hey, I’m here to order and iPhone 5.”!!

If you’re going to use a customer self service tool like a status checker you need to remember a couple key rules for success:

Rule 1: Keep the information up to date
Now to be fair the information on my status above may BE up to date. My order may not have moved at all. But you would think that it would have processed by now and just be awaiting inventory. But is does not appear to be up to date. By leaving it mostly blank the system has failed at its two primary purposes: reducing call volume and communicating status to the customer.

Rule 2: Communicate, even if it is bad news
It is far better to know that my order will be delayed than it is to keep guessing. By communicating even the bad news you communicate that you care about the customer. Trying to hide the bad news says you care more about your image than you do about your customer.

Rule 3: Think with a customer perspective
Too often these systems glitches become internal finger pointing or design arguments. If you failed to think like a customer during design think like one during the problem period. I wonder if anyone at AT&T is asking how customers feel about a dead order status?

Customer self service tools are great when they’re firing on all cylinders. When they’re not you need to react quickly, communicate effectively, and think like the customer.

What other types of “customer self service” tools have you run across and how effectively were they managed?

Bonus points if you know the movie that is referenced in the title of today’s post.  🙂

 

How Likely Are You to Recommend?

If you’ve purchased anything online lately, or even walked into  a store where you’ve had to interact with a sales person, odds are fairly high that  you’ve received the follow on questionnaire that asks:

“How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

It has become almost startling now as my iPhone receives that email with the survey attached before I even walk out of the store. It also seems to me that I am being asked this question more and more frequently.

Now, as a marketing guy I understand that… companies are trying to calculate their Net Promoter Score.  They really just want to know how well they’re doing.

Just briefly today I want to pose some questions that are worth considering when you start to think about using Net Promoter Score as a measure of how well your organization is serving your customers.

1. Is the answer to the question of whether someone will promote you or not reflective of your overall relationship or just the most recent transaction?

I have had great experiences with front desk people at hotels, airlines folks, cell phone sales people (and just as many bad ones) and my response to the question of whether I’ll promote or not is typically based on that most recent few minutes.

That means that in order to get an accurate picture of my relationship to any of those businesses they’d need to get me to answer that question after every significant transaction and calculate an average. I can guarantee you I won’t fill out the survey every time!

As a result it is important to remember that:
Timing and frequency are crucial to get right

2. Does a customer’s positive response mean that they’ll actually promote your organization?

Obviously that differs person to person and situation by situation but it cannot be assumed that “yes I WOULD promote” equates to “yes I WILL promote”.

Rather than asking the blanket “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” it becomes more useful to suggest where and when you might recommend: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend who is looking to book a vacation?”

Remember:
Providing context makes it easier for the customer who wants to promote you to recognize the opportunity to promote you.

3. How can you make it easier for your customers to promote you?

Asking the blanket question gets you a philosophical response, providing context makes it easier for the customer to consider action, but you’re still asking them to engage in creative effort.

  • Why not, instead, provide customers with a couple of options: “If you’re willing to promote us would you please like our page on facebook?” or “If you had a great experience with us today would you be willing to post the following tweet: etc. etc. etc.”

Remember:
The easier you make it for someone to promote you the more likely it is that they will.

Rather than just asking folks if they’d be willing to promote your organization provide them with the ways and means to do so and you’ll find you get much more mileage out of the practice of capturing net promoter information.

When was the last time you answered positively on a “will you recommend us” survey? How quickly did you actually recommend and what means did you employ?

Managing Customer Experience: Two Perspectives

There is quite a lot being said, and written, about Customer Experience Management these days and it can easily be overlooked as something that only applies to a small number of specific industries: retail, services, CPG etc.

The truth is that the thought process around managing customer experiences applies to just about ANY interaction between an organization and the people who use the goods or services of that organization.

  • Non-profits like to think of these people as donors of constituents, but they ARE customers.
  • Churches like to think of these people as members but they ARE customers.
  • Youth sports organizations like to think of these people as players but they ARE customers.

I think you get the idea.

When thinking about managing a customer experience it is important to remember that there are two distinct perspectives involved, each with their own set of drivers.

Perspective #1: Inside Looking Out
This is the easy one to think through because it is the perspective of the organization that has customers.

The inside looking out perspective is generally guided by four questions that drive ever deepening levels of engagement with customers. The answers to these questions help shape the experience from the inside looking out point of view:

  • What do we Know? (General customer demographic info)
  • What do we Do? (Segmentation and campaigns)
  • What do we Suggest? (Loyalty and engagement)
  • What do we Create? (The set of experiences that drive movement)

Obviously a lot more could be said here but these four question provide the framework for developing progressively more robust customer experiences.  Using one of our less obvious “industry” choices from above:

  • Churches first need to know who is attending, even basic name address and phone number helps, but learning more about their family is even better information: kids? ages? interests?
  • Then they need to target communication that is pertinent to the attender. You wouldn’t want to send a new visitor who is a 65 yr old retiree information about nursery services on Sunday morning.
  • Once they get to know the person and their family suggesting ways to get involved, ways to feel plugged in, that are specific to them becomes important in terms of creating stickiness.
  • Thinking through how you then keep the new family coming based on multiple anchor points is important. How many churches have had the discussion about having services for everything from pre-school through high school on the same night mid-week in order to create “family time”?

Perspective #2: Outside Looking In

This perspective is often the forgotten point of view. Customers are the one “having the experience” so it is crucial to remember they are looking at it through a different set of questions:

  • Should I Explore? (Deciding if they want to know more about you)
  • Should I Buy? (Deciding if they will buy)
  • Should I Promote? (Deciding if they’ll recommend you to friends)

How about a youth soccer program this time:

  • Parents know about clubs other than the ones their kids are involved in and have to make a decision about whether or not to explore a competitors policies, costs, teams, and coaches.
  • Once they becomes educated the next decision is whether or not to have their child play for that club.
  • If the experience is a good one they can become a significant recruiting source based on what they tell other parents.

I’ll write more about how to manage these two perspectives in days to come but for now it is important to remember that they both exist and they’re both driven by different sets of questions. Understanding how your customers move through their own questions is key to bringing these two perspectives into alignment.

What do you provide that helps your customers make their three decision to explore, buy, and promote?

Creating Customer Expecta…

 

What did you expect next? …tion? shun? xion? or some other form of finishing the word?

It’s interesting isn’t it how easy it is to create expectations. Whether good, bad or indifferent we’re creating expectations all the time. In our work, in our homes, with our co-workers, with our family expectations abound.

Think about every place you create expectations for your customers. Now think again. Does your tag line create expectations? Does your name? Does the graphical approach to your web site create a certain set of expected deliverables? The answer is yes, whether you realize it or not.

  • The truth is that customer expectations are being set, met or missed, and reset all the time. We’re constantly raising or lowering the bar. This up and down motion isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, if the bar stays put we’re invisible. So how do we take care to accurately set the expectations of people whom we’ve not yet met? By remembering to apply some simple guidelines:

1. Entice but don’t Exaggerate
So often titles and tagline are built purely to entice customers to come take a look behind the curtain and too often the”surprise” behind the curtain is an epic failure.

A friend on Facebook recently had a video posted in their status entitle something akin too: “Failed Surprise Attack”. I click off to video land to watch the supposedly failed sneak attack only to find nothing sneaky OR attacky about it. Multiple multiple people had commented that there was nothing worth watching in the video, it turned out to be a couple body builders flexing in the mirror.

I was so frustrated by the stupidity of it that I now am questioning whether I’ll look at anything that friend has in their status line ever again and I even went so far as to delete the view from my own status in hopes the same judgment would not be cast upon me.

The failed expectation resulted in negative results because the enticement turned out to be a gross exaggeration.

2. Remember the Reset
Don’t forget that every time you meet, exceed, or fail to meet expectations you’re resetting the bar. Meeting expectations raises confidence levels in further ability to meet them, exceeding expectations sets a higher standard, failing to meet them my result in a loss of opportunity to have another shot.

I recently had what I thought was a horrid rental experience with Thrifty Car Rental. My expectation was a fee of about $42.50 through priceline. My bill upon checking out the car showed charges closer to $150. I figured they had switched cars on me, pre-charged for gas, not3. O honored my agreed price and several other nasties but just left because I was in a hurry. I vowed they’d never agin get my business.

When I returned the car the guy at the check-in window explained all the rigamarole to me and showed how my final bill went back down to $42.50, exceeding my lowered expectations and perhaps winning back at least a chance to get back my business.

3. Oopsies  are Opportunities
We’ll all fail to meet expectations from time to time. Rather than seeing this as a failure see it as an opportunity to become something more than invisible.

I posted recently about a customer service experience with Mike’s Camera. Lo and behold who should reach out to me but Mike. Now, to be clear, I wrote that they had failed at meeting my expectations but had done just enough to make it up to not lose me as a customer.

Mike wasn’t satisfied with just enough though. Mike reached out and offered to make it MORE right on my next rental. An offer which I will no doubt take him up on the next time I need to rent a lens. Mike get’s it. He saw the oops as an opportunity.

In every case communication is the key but remembering these guidelines can help you set and manage expectations in a more reasonable and controllable fashion resulting in winning, and keeping, more customers.

What expectations do you think you set with customers or business associates?

 

The Conerstone of Loyalty: Capturing Customer Behavior

I was saddened to learn within the last few weeks that the television show Cheers is not quite the cultural reference it once was. Sam and Diane’s clumsy relational tension, Norm and Cliff pontificating from the corner of the bar, Carla’s cutting wit…it just doesn’t hold the same sway it once did.

That being said I still believe that show’s tag line pretty much sums up the idea of why we need to capture customer behavior:

“You want to go where everybody knows your name”

 

Cheers was one of those bars where the regulars WERE known by name. All they had to do was walk in the door and a glass was pulled up to start provision of their favorite libation. Part of the draw of the show was that we all like that kind of service. We like walking into a place where we’re known and treated like family.

But it’s more than that. If it was JUST knowing someones name it would be easy. The difference comes when you can ask, “So what’ll it be…the usual?” and know what you’re talking about.

I fly United probably more that any other airline because Denver is a hub for them. What if United defaulted to an aisle seat when I booked online because I have proven, over ten years, that that is where I want to sit.

I stay at Hilton properties quite often. What if the Hilton web site picked a king size, non-smoking room as a first choice every time I logged in and looked to make a reservation. They should be WELL acquainted with that choice by now.

And perhaps the craziest of all…Based solely on my direct purchase history with them, Disney SHOULD be able to identify:

  • The names and birth-dates of everyone in my family
  • Our wedding anniversary
  • The time of year we like to travel
  • The number of days we typically visit the parks
  • The extras we like to include in our trips

Data like that is a GOLD MINE. With information like in hand they could tailor enticing offers based on specific data and past behavior. They could actually ask, “Mr. Fletcher will it be the usual this year? A three day stay sometime in October?”  or “Mr. Fletcher would you and your wife like to join us for a cruise this July to celebrate your 22nd anniversary? What about bringing the kids this time? They’re probably a little…Grumpy…you left them out last time. We’d like to offer you a free cabin upgrade so you can bring them along.”

I know, I know, it sounds like it could border on creepy and I do push the boundaries there to make a strong example but the data they should already have on file would make that type of communication incredibly simple.

All of a sudden I’m not just receiving 20% off coupons like everyone else. I’m known by name. I’m not standing in line, pun intended, with a thousands of people who have never had an annual pass. I’m appreciated. I’m not clicking on a blanket email link. I’m getting a specific offer that says : ‘We know you and have something special for YOU because we value you as a customer.’

Let me say that one more time:

  • We know you
  • We value you
  • We have something special for YOU

THAT drives loyalty like nothing else.

What more could you do with the customer data you already have? What other types of data should you be capturing in order to show your customers you know their name, and so much more?