Dunvegan Blog

Meaningful Customer Feedback for Meaningful Action

At the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association's (TMSA) recent Leadership Conference, participants representing such well known companies as Fedex, Saddle Creek Logistics, Supply Chain Brain, ODW Logistics and the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) gathered over lunch to discuss their company's use of customer feedback for meaningful action. The conversation was facilitated by Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group who encouraged all participants to share their experiences and best practices.

Receiving customer feedback did not appear to be a problem; the challenge lies in capturing the information from a wide array of channels and organizing it in a useful way. Some participants were compiling information from their inbound call centers, sales teams, accounts receivable, social media posts as well as incoming email and web inquiries. In some cases, text analytics were being used to identify themes within the feedback.

Some participants were reaching out to customers to capture feedback in an organized format which is much easier to tabulate and analyze; the information can be  stored in the company CRM so it is accessible to everyone who might "touch" the customer.

In either case, the biggest challenge arises in implementation of meaningful action based on the customer feedback. When customers are dissatisfied, the immediate reaction involves identification and resolution of the individual customer's problem/complaint. And, often the process stops there.

The time to ask for customer referrals and testimonials is when the customer is delighted; following up and actually requesting these referrals requires a process and practice, as well as tracking to ensure that it is being done and done in a timely and effective manner. All too often people get caught up in solving problems and neglect to capitalize on the opportunities for business development.

Another challenge is utilizing the content of the customer feedback to reveal topics/content of interest to the customer, opportunities for adding value to your products and services to better meet the customers' needs, opportunities to show customers how to extract full value from the products and services already available.

Customer feedback can provide a wealth of content for your content marketing efforts and help you build strong customer relationships in the process!

All participants received a complimentary copy of Miner's ebook "Measuring Up! A Guide to Success with Customer Feedback" available on Amazon.

To learn how your company can extract maximum value from customer feedback, please contact Anne Miner at anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com or toll free at 888-281-3074.

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Will 2016 be the Year of Customer?

Any time someone learns that my specialty is customer satisfaction and retention, they immediately rhyme off a list of companies that need my service, along with a litany of grievances about how those companies have treated them.

Despite the attention that customer service, satisfaction and retention has received over the past 30 plus years, it appears that customer care hasn't really improved. As someone who has devoted her career to helping companies create strong bonds with their customers, I am discouraged by the fact that so many companies are failing to meet their customers' expectations.

Companies recognize that positive customer experiences are of utmost importance. Customer feedback provides solid insight to what the customer is experiencing and how to make that experience positive. Virtually every company has some form of customer feedback system so, it cannot be that customers have no opportunities to be heard. And, with so many feedback systems in place, it cannot be that companies lack awareness of customer issues.

Why are we not making more progress in this area? Where is the point of failure?

I have observed that companies focusing on "scores" or "ratings" (e.g., NPS or CustomerSat), rather than on the insights customer feedback provides, are less successful at retaining their customers. Customers become cynical about spending time on customer satisfaction surveys when they see no improvement in the service they receive. This creates another issue as customers cease to provide feedback, and as the responding population shrinks, the measures become less and less representative of all customers.

I have observed that companies systematically measuring customer perceptions of service excellence, focusing on what the company is both willing and able to change, engaging their customers in identifying solutions and taking swift action to resolve customer issues, are better able to deliver positive customer experiences, meet customer expectations and create competitor-resistant relationships.

Where does your company focus its attention? Is this the year that you will decide to change your perspective on customer feedback? Will you listen to the customers who take time to provide feedback and focus on improving the customer experience rather than on "scores"? Will you implement processes to address customer concerns immediately and completely?

Need help? I am happy to invest 30 minutes on an Introductory call with you to explore how we can be of service. Click here to schedule a time to talk.

Wishing you and your customers a successful and positive experience in the year ahead!

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We live in a "do-it-yourself" world!

Yes, we live in a "do-it-yourself" world; a world in which we have instant access to such a vast array of information, there is almost no question that cannot be answered with the help of Google and a few keystrokes. As a result, we think we can do anything ourselves and the truth is, yes we can.

The question is should we?

When speaking about customer satisfaction measurement, voice of the customer or lost business assessment, company owners often tell me they can "do it themselves" or "do that internally". My answer is, "Yes, you absolutely can. You can learn the process, study best practices, acquire the appropriate software, train your own people to be programmers, interviewers, coders and analysts.

Before you make that decision, the first question you need to ask yourself is this ... is conducting your own customer satisfaction measurement or voice of the customer program the highest and best use of your organization's time, energy and talent?

The second question is ... will this investment in internal resources contribute to your bottom line?

When the answer to either of these questions is "no", then you are better to outsource this work to someone who has chosen to master this subject area, someone who has invested in learning both theoretically and practically how best to perform this work; pay them to get the work done better and faster than you can do it yourself.

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Business Essentials - Customer Care Practices That Matter!

In "Simply Better: Winning and Keeping Customers by Delivering What Matters Most" authors Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan, argue that successful differentiation lies not in unique selling propositions (USP) but in generic category benefits, like good service, on time delivery and quality products, that any company can provide. The key  is to consistently deliver better than the competitors.

Over the past 10 years, The Dunvegan Group has conducted extensive research to identify the factors that contribute to competitor-resistant customer relationships. We have found seven fundamental factors that we refer to as "Business Essentials". Seven areas where companies can differentiate themselves through consistently delivering better than the competitors - or more precisely better than customers perceive the competitors as delivering.

Here are the seven elements of the Dunvegan Business Essentials Index™:

  1. Reacting quickly to customer needs
  2. Doing what you say you will do
  3. Being accessible
  4. Taking time to listen and understand customer concerns and needs
  5. Being proactive in communicating changes regarding how you are fulfilling customer needs
  6. Having accurate billings and statements
  7. Being easy to do business with

Consistently delivering on these seven essential customer care practices has the potential to set your company apart from competitors, strengthen the bond with your customers and help your company grow!

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Customer Care Rules

 

You do know that  a "one size fits all" approach to customer care is unlikely to succeed in building strong relationships with all of your customers - right?

And, you already know that applying the Golden Rule, "Treat others the way you would like to be treated" does not work for everyone.

So, what's to be done?

The Platinum Rule, "Treat others the way they would like to be treated" has a much greater likelihood of success, not only with customers but with everyone!

But, how will you know how to treat them?

Observe their behavior and adapt to it.

If they speak quickly - you speak quickly. If they speak at a more moderate pace, you do the same.

If they begin every sentence with "I", you need to acknowledge and compliment them. You begin each sentence with "You".

Do they make decisions quickly? Once they start nodding, you need to stop talking or run the risk of talking them all the way to "No".

Are they reluctant to make a quick decision? Respect and acknowledge their need to contemplate and validate before deciding.

Want to learn more about how to apply the Platinum Rule? Just ask ... Anne Miner, 888-281-3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com

 

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Customer Transferals versus Customer Referrals

 

As customer care and retention specialists, The Dunvegan Group is expected to maintain long term relationships with its own customers. And we do. In fact, we have served one of our very first customers since 1988!

 

Customer retention provides a high level of stability to any business. Organic growth can occur naturally as the relationship strengthens and new opportunities are identified. Non-organic growth through sales expansion requires acquisition of new customers.

 

We generally accept that referrals are a powerful source of new business; when existing customers offer their support through introductions and sponsorship the likelihood of success is much increased. In fact, the customer's willingness to provide a referral or recommendation is an indicator of the strength of the relationship.

 

During a recent discussion of the new business sources for The Dunvegan Group, we came to the realization that our own growth is more likely to be a result of “transferal” than referral. Transferal results when our key customer contacts, particularly those who are senior executives, move to a new company.

 

Transferal executives often uncover a need for Customer Care and Retention services and invite The Dunvegan Group into the new organization. While this does not guarantee we will win the business, it certainly provides a significant advantage when the executive can speak about the value we deliver, from their own personal experience.

 

Transferal creates an opportunity to continue working with a treasured colleague, in a new environment and the new company's Customer Care program will accelerate at a more rapid pace than is possible when all parties are new to the table.

 

Nurturing your customer relationships for both referrals and transferals makes good business sense!

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Do your customers recommend you?

Do your customers recommend you to others?

We all know that "word of mouth" or personal recommendations are the most powerful of all forms of advertising. But, is the likelihood that customers will recommend you enough to support continuous growth in new customers, retention of existing customers and growth of revenue from existing customers?

Some customers may say they are likely to recommend you but have no intention or need to do business with you again themselves. Perhaps they have moved to a condo and no longer require a yard service or perhaps their child is now fully trained and no longer requires Pull Ups. A recommendation may attract a replacement customer but will not necessarily indicate customer retention or lead to revenue growth.

Another customer may say they are not likely to recommend you ... yet they themselves stay with you and increase their spending! This can occur when your product or service is not an appropriate subject for polite conversation, or  your products and services provide the customer with a competitive advantage. In such instances, their unwillingness to recommend you will have no impact on their own use of your products and revenue growth may occur in spite of poor recommendation ratings.

So, what's the solution?

First of all, we must all accept that there is more to understanding customer retention than their likelihood of recommending you.

We need to know:

  • What customers value about your products and services - why they come to your and buy your particular offering
  • How customers see your products and services in comparison to the competition
  • Whether customers intend to continue doing business with you or are thinking about switching

And in each case, we need to understand the reasons behind the customer's perceptions and intended behaviors.

We also need to know how well your company performs when it comes to problem resolution. Every company will let its customers down from time to time; human error is inevitable. How you recover and remedy the situation is critical to customer retention. Our own research has shown that a problem poorly resolved (e.g., where the customer is not completely satisfied) is as likely to result in a lost customer as a problem not addressed. In other words, unless you are prepared to completely satisfy the customer, it would be better not to spend your energy on it as the customer is just as likely to leave.

The Dunvegan System™ provides continuous customer feedback from the beginning of your relationship with your customer, throughout their life-cycle. Clients have found that our system provides precise guidance on how best to serve each customer, how to ensure that customers are retained and where there are opportunities for revenue growth.

Sound like what you need? Give us a call and let's begin the conversation!

 

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How to Improve your "Close Ratio"

Operating within the business-to-business, consultative sales world? Does your sales team "close" the majority of the opportunities they pursue? Meaning that more than half of the proposals/bids you submit result in new contracts?

If not, here are five possible reasons ... your sales team may be:

1. Talking to the "wrong companies".

2. Talking about the "wrong benefits"

3. Talking about the "wrong solution".

4. Talking to the "wrong" people.

5. Failing to follow-up.

What can be done to improve your company's close ratio? Let's look at each of these situations individually.

1. Talking to the "wrong companies". First you must know the profile of your "ideal customer"; the more detailed the description the better. Ideally, your profile will include the type, size and location of your "ideal customer" as well as the challenges they are facing/problems to be solved and the culture/business philosophy of the companies that are your best customers. A systematic prospect qualification process will identify companies that fit your "ideal customer profile" in terms of needs, wants, readiness and ability to purchase. This process can be implemented through your inbound call center or through outbound calls to prospects. Prospects who do not fit your ideal profile can be directed to alternate sources leaving your sales team to focus on qualified Ideal customer prospects. Prospects who do fit your ideal profile but are not yet "ready" can be nurtured through automated processes until the time is "right".

2. Talking about the "wrong benefits". A preliminary assessment of the prospects objectives can be performed during either inbound or outbound calls with the prospect. When the prospect's profile matches that of your "ideal customer" AND the prospect's needs, wants, willingness and ability to pay, can be met by deploying the benefits of your solution, the probability of closing the sale is enhanced.

3. Talking about the "wrong solution". The information gathered through the qualification process should identify the prospect's specific needs/wants as well as the available budget ~ the sales team is responsible for matching the best solution to the needs/wants and budget. Your solution may not be the best solution for the prospect - better to opt out than persist in trying to sell them.

4. Talking to the "wrong" people. This can be a delicate problem to solve. Often the people who call your Contact Center have been assigned the task of information gathering only and they may have little or no authority in the actual bid/RFP evaluation. A critical element of the qualification process must be to identify the key individuals who will be involved in the decision, what level of authority they have and what their specific roles will be.

5. Failing to follow-up. Prospects expect that your sales team will follow-up to answer questions, to demonstrate your interest in their business. How your team treats the prospect during the bid/RFP process tells the prospect what they can expect once they become a customer.

To diagnose the specific areas for improvement within your own organization, you may consider a Wins and Losses Analysis where prospects are asked for their perspective on the process and how it could have been improved. Through conversations with your prospects, the reasons for winning and for losing new business opportunities can be determined and processes developed to address the challenges.

Having well organized and active qualification and nurturing processes will put "warm and ready" ideal customer prospects, in the hands of your sales team for development.

Having systematic processes for matching your solutions with the prospect's wants, needs, willingness and ability to pay will improve the likelihood of success in securing the business.

With increased efficiency, your sales team will have time to ensure that every RFP/bid submission is followed-up with the prospect.

As you can see, improving your "close ratio" is a multi-faceted, continuous process and should be viewed in the context of building long-term, competitor resistant relationships with companies and individuals who fit your "ideal customer" profile.

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Does your company's mission reflect your ideal customer?

Whether we think of your company's mission as a statement of the problem in the marketplace that your company exists to solve, or a statement of why your company exists, without customers to exchange money for your solution, your company will not succeed. Many a business has failed by focusing on producing a product or service to solve a problem that customers either did not know they had, or did not care to solve at that moment. Or on the flip side, offering the solution to a broad market when a very specific niche would have been more ideal.

Customers can be fickle and they can change their minds rapidly; what they think they want on Monday is discarded on Tuesday when the cost of the solution exceeds the value they think they will receive.

It is imperative that you have an on-going dialogue or conversation with your customers to keep up with their changing needs and expectations. Notice the reference to "keeping up with ... expectations"  rather than "exceeding expectations". What customers expect is that you will be there with the right product or service to solve their "problem" or fulfill their "want", at the moment it emerges - there is no need for you to exceed their expectations or provide them with something they did not expect. Remember, the minute we have an experience, it becomes entrenched in our expectations and thus, you will exceed any given customer's expectations only once.

Every business would agree that the cost of securing a new customer far exceeds the cost to keep a customer with whom you already have a relationship. The estimates range from 5 times the cost to well over ten times as much to acquire a new customer.

So, one would think that the customers with whom you already have a relationship would be treated like golden assets. And that these golden assets would be seen as the fundamental reason the company exists.

Your mission statement - the statement of why your company exists - needs to reflect:

  • Who you serve - who is your ideal customer
  • The problem you solve or want you fulfill
  • How your solution is better than other solutions available

 Above all, your mission needs to emphasize the value you place on the customers who place their trust in you!

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Customer Satisfaction, Customer Retention and Company Vision

Should your company vision focus on your customers? Or should you have a distinct vision for customer care?

Most company visions are internally focused … for example, “To be the best ____” or “To be the biggest ___”, or “To be recognized as _________”, without reflecting the company’s greatest asset – its customers – as a vital component of success.

As you build your business – growing customers and revenues – you will soon discover that a good part of your time, energy and money will be expended to simply “hold your position”. Whatever your customer churn level, you must constantly replace lost business BEFORE you can grow.

When you reduce the churn, you reduce the effort required to stand still. When you reduce the churn, you reduce the cost of replacement. When you reduce the churn, your employee engagement is likely to increase as they see relationships as more than transactions. When you reduce the churn you inevitably improve customer advocacy.

To get your organization to a higher level of performance with higher customer satisfaction, and improved customer retention, you – the business leader – will need to develop and demonstrate a specific vision of customer care and inspire your employees to make the customer your primary focus.

Your customer care vision will need to include:

  • Your determination to know your customer – his needs, wants and expectations, his role in buying decisions, his demographics or firmographics
  • Your desire to create positive customer experiences and customer satisfaction with the organization’s products and services, including graceful problem resolution
  • Your dedication to building long-term relationships with your customers – relationships that will bring the customers back time and time again.
  • Your commitment to ensuring that your customers are willing to advocate for the organization – voluntarily referring more and more customers.

 

No matter who your customers are – patients, students, members, citizens, clients – it’s your organization’s top leadership that must spearhead the customer care and customer retention process. By “top” leadership, I truly mean the top – most often this leader will have a C-suite title like CEO, COO or CFO.

It is imperative for top leadership to be as committed to customer care and customer retention as you are to the bottom line – a distinct vision for customer care is a sound way to show your commitment.

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