Saturday, February 25, 2006

Delivering the Customer Promise Through Marketing

In marketing/advertising it is not uncommon to use children, mothers, families to show a human link and create acceptance with or for a product or company. Professionals in Law, doctors and even CPAs have taken to the camera to provide unconventional form to provide a humanization to their roles and thus change the stereotyping of the markets they serve.

Showing the human side lets people, especially the client or potential client, see a perspective that is not seen in a courtroom, or office and this is good. My only worry is that the image is relaying a certain promise to the potential client that may not be fulfilled in most cases.

Marketing is responsible for delivering messages and perceptions that the potential customer/client will associate with moving them to action in completing the sales cycle. This is the perceived and sometimes elusive brand promise.

Delivering the brand promise is a key in creating a powerful customer experience that can fulfill a customer’s trust or shatter the trust through the broken promise of a marketing illusion. Marketing departments and small businesses are constantly creating an illusion that may create a first time buy in to the brand by or with a potential customer/client, but will destroy any potential chances for retention or for that mater any customer loyalty. Such advertising, which covers most adds and commercials, is becoming more and more less effective with today's savvy customer markets.

Even if the intention of the marketer is to show determination, reliability, purpose or just the soft side of humanity demonstrating the positive side of life the chance of total fulfillment is small and again it will leave the intended target with the same results of shattered trust.

Honesty in delivering a message or the perception of the brand is a central key to bringing the brand promise to the potential customer/client. In being creative in the portraying of a perceived image the brand can betray the trust of the customer/client or potential client. Creativity and innovative messaging is important to the enhancement and acceptance of the message, but only if what it delivers is true and ethical in its deliverance and allows the fulfillment of the brand promise or perception.

Perhaps before creating an add campaign marketers should provide some customer experience analysis from the customers perspective. Deriving real need and focusing on the customer’s reality instead delivering a false reality that promises temporary fulfillment. Customer perspective and realization have to be central in providing marketing solutions and customer experience management. In the traditional context of marketing this issue plays little if any significance other than assisting in the creation of experiences to solidify a sale.

Customer experience management goes way beyond this and encompasses the entire customer relationship life cycle. It includes the total spectrum of customer interaction on both direct and indirect levels through out the company and is at times brand independent. This is not perceived in the marketing environment and is even less understood. As result both the brand and the marketing message confuse the customer/client pushing them away from the attended goal of inclusion in the sell or company process of lifetime retention.

Where is your marketing headed? Is it still held in the contemptible halls of traditional marketing arrogance or is it centering itself in the promotional environment of developing honest customer experiences that drive life time loyalty and fulfilled promises.

As always we invite you to share your comments.

For more information on the customer experience plaes check out
The Customer Development Center.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lawyers-Customer Service and The Brand

I had recently read a post where a law student at a symposium was asked what she thought about all the various recruitment pamphlets sent to her from various law firms. Her response was of course predictable. You appear to be all the same was her reply. And of course real world customers or potential client customers see it the same way.

I had to really think about this one and after researching all the appropriate links my take on lawyers and law firms in regards to branding and customer service hasn't changed. This is of course based on my experience as a customer experience architect and customer service consultant.

Branding and customer service is an accumulation of various customer experiences and the result of their direct interaction with the customer with or on those experiences.

Law firms or individuals are not customer sensitive when comes to meeting and understanding needs and this comes out of the arrogance born of the aristocratic methods and attitudes of teaching in various law schools and the focus of personal achievement in attaining milestones or case awards over customer service. Rarely is their focus on the customer as a customer and in the development of experience management.

I know you and the 100 or so attorneys that I know are going to yell and scream over this. The Law industry is product focused, not customer or client focused, never has been and in this lies the issue. The Law student very simply and powerfully underlined this in her statement and when law professionals work with the client it is also demonstrated in the relationship that is formed.

If you want to take it a step further perhaps the lawyer jokes could be used as another broad market indicator. These exist because of the self centric view and function of those who are members of the law bar.

Branding is then built around this perception of self and takes a somewhat arrogant position in relationship to the client or potential client. The negative view of attorneys is because of the constant unfulfilled promises of the brand.

Branding is only a part of the equation. However, it is the visible part. The other and stronger part of the equation is centered in the perception and relationship to the client and those experiences that are either directly or indirectly influential in the clients interaction with the firm and its members.

For law firms or individual Lawyers to really move to effective branding and customer centered experience management they need to change their perspective and the perceptions perpetuated by the general society in which they function i.e. promise fulfillment.

There is a great misperception about the power of the brand and loyalty as well. Although somewhat associated the brand only delivers the perceived promise (effective, efficient, reliable, low cost, always win etc) the resulting performance of the firm or individual will determine the fulfillment of that promise and the extent to which a trust bridge is drawn between the lawyer and the client. It is the experiences of the client that build this trust bridge that determines customer loyalty and/or the return of the client. If the promise of the brand, and subsequent marketing meets the need of the client and is fulfilled then trust is extended.

The problem is that most branding in this area either offers no promise (law student observation) or its perceived promises are often misleading and unfulfilled i.e. customer expectations and customer need.

The result is that the Law profession will keep struggling in understanding and determining brand identity. As a result, in the customers eyes all brands are the same.

Please feel free to leave your comments or observations as a part of the blogging and business community.

For more information on customer service and customer experience management please check out The Customer Development Center

Customer Service Goals - Planning for Success

“Those who succeed are those who are willing to do what others aren't.”

All around us businesses are failing to asses and address their failing customer service policies, if they have any at all.

I constantly get mail asking how to address various customer service issues. As I probe into their policies and planning I almost always find that there were no formal customer service plans with goals or policies. I normally get the response, “oh! I don’t write down my plan it takes to much time. I have it all in my head”.

Keeping the plan in your head is no plan at all. There is nothing realized until it is formally put down on paper and organized into a working physical document. I have had large companies that had a committee write down their policies and haven’t changed them in twenty years and we wonder why our customer satisfaction indexes and retention ratings are falling faster than a thermometer at the North Pole.

To succeed you must have a plan and that goes for succeeding in customer service. This is of great importance, because it is in customer service where the real opportunity lies for small businesses to compete heads up with larger institutional organizations.

It is here that large organizations can set themselves apart from their competition and solidify strong brand recognition.

A plan should include not only include the goals of your policies, but also the implementation or call to action of those policies. It should also spell out who has authority to solve customer service issues as well as how to train employees in the implementation of the plan.

This is not at all exhaustive. Your plan should be dynamic , always changing to meet the needs of your customers. Visit often soliciting input from staff, clerks and others that are in contact with the customer.

The point is to succeed at customer service and customer experience management you need to provide a formal plan that spells out as precisely as possible your customer road map for success. Leaving it in your head is a road map to disaster.

As always we invite your comment and feedback as part of the business and blogging community.

For more information on customer service or customer experience management please try"The Customer Development Center

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Perception - A Customer Service Nightmare

I was having a conversation with one of my clients and the topic of customer miss-understanding. We have all had them I'm sure and they are enough to rip your hair out from dealing with them. The cause is poor communication. You are looking at the issue from your need to create sales and generate cash flow and this has little if any to do with the customers need. From a customers perception that is where they are coming from. It’s good to remember that communication is 99% of a sale. It is also the center of any relationship whether personal or business.

He had run a special as a leader to bring in additional traffic into his store. The ad was reviewed and reviewed before printing and distribution. In fact when it was published it was exactly as it was presented. The problem was that many of the clients read it differently than it was intended and when they came into the store to do business their perception of what the ad was about didn't match the intended proposal of the ad.

Every marketer in the country who has written copy has to deal with this. My research shows that they really don't face up to the issue because the individual isn't as important as the group. Yet statistically there is a sizeable niche that is affected negatively by mis-communicated ideas, which has a negative impact on customer loyalty and the brand. This runs true for sales people as well when they present their pitch. In fact, a fair share of the sales rejections comes not as I don't want what you have, but as they were never understood. The customer’s perception of the message was not inline with the intended message as was the case with my client’s ad.

The reason for this is that in marketing our products, brands, or services we focus on generalities, the one size fits all approach. This is the same with direct marketing. The reason why it works is a numbers game and the percentage that get the message are generally enough to keep business going.

In reality focusing on the micro niche and developing specific targeted messages would be of much greater benefit than business as usual in the marketing department. The importance of developing specific groups of organized customer interactions that send the right message can’t be emphasized enough. Creating the right perception and reaction to any given set of experiences adds to the influence of the brand.

As I proposed this to my client he rolled his eyes and argued that this would cost him a fortune. Yes, it does raise the cost, but you also significantly reduce your abandonment rates and defection rates while increasing significantly your customer loyalty and satisfaction indexes. Basically said the individual is more important than the whole. With large customer bases or small ones the results seam to be consistent.

Return increases at an average of twice the expenditure with results as much as 5 times the expenditure. Long term customer value increases and the cost of having to constantly develop new markets as a primary income generator are significantly reduced.

Creating meaningful customer experiences that focus on needs and perceptions is a very powerful approach to success. What you see very often isn't what the customer sees or understands because of their focus and that's a real problem for sales, relationships and the brand. Maybe to really drive successful businesses we need to change our focus and the position from where we are viewing the customer relationship.

As always you are invited to leave your comments and share your opinions. After all you are the community.

If you would like more information on customer service or customer experience management please visit
The Customer Development Center

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Customer Service vs. The Automated Phone System

In today's world of business our customers have placed the terms of engagement as a mandate for better customer service. So why do we feel that we need to rely on automated phones and support machines to dehumanize them. This is literally a slap in the face with nothing less than a steal bar. To make things worse when we hear the comments we ignore them because we are saving money, right?

With the lack customer satisfaction becoming a global epidemic maybe we need to listen a little harder when someone says "Your---- phone system sucks" I don't know about you but I hate automated systems. I hate being derailed from the reason why I called in the first place. I hate having to select options that have nothing to do with what my intentions were and no, I don't know my account number, nor the extension of the person I want to talk to. Hey! I want a warm fuzzy human that can give me real service and real answers.

As a consultant in small business customer service development I have found that customers respond much better to real people. People need touch, feel, smell, taste, and listen experiences. People relate to people and the message you are really sending with a robot system is we really don't care about what you have to say. Go away don't bother us. While that might be a real sentiment for a small minority of customers it surely can't be how you feel about the rest.

Studies have shown that us humans respond to these kinds of experiences with a more positive nature than we do to machines. These touches of human interaction actually are critical to building trust bridges, a key element in customer loyalty and retention development. To make my point let me ask you a question? Have you ever tried to empathize with a machine or still better yet have one empathize with you?

It's interesting that businesses view these systems as cost cutting measures when in reality they cost them far more than they would save due to unhappy and unsatisfied customers and clients. This actually is epidemic when you factor in our growing reliance on systems and software to make our management decisions and manage our customer loyalty and retention programs. No I’m not anti IT, but I am against over reliance.

Damage to the brand from negative experiences can take generations to heal especially those generated from bad customer experiences such as those often suffered with computerized phone systems and automated support systems.

It's interesting that businesses view these systems as cost cutting measures when in reality they cost them far more than they would save due to unhappy and unsatisfied customers and clients.

Damage to the brand (business image) can take generations to heal because of bad customer experiences such as those often suffered with computerized phone systems.

This applies to all business but especially to small and medium size businesses since there is a growing trend to adopt automated phone technology. Small and Medium size

Friday, February 03, 2006

Blog Power to The Consumer - Customer Service

Earlier today as I was visiting the Church of the Customer Blog web site my attention was called to a posting concerning a blog posted by Zane Safrit from Conference Calls Unlimited concerning a lapse in T-Mobile 4 day turn around service.

As business owners, managers and advisers we need to understand the implications of lapses in our customer service grid. The power of the blog is enormous and has the ability to humble even the largest companies. Dell lost 14% market share to a pair of bloggers who received less than honorable service. Talk about a customer experience nightmare.

In recent news a very popular international model was taken down for drug use. She lost huge contracts putting a serious bite in her bank. The companies one of which was a Swedish clothing designer learned about social responsibility and blog power.

What amazes me is why more consumers aren't organizing to taking down the large and small for abusive practices, false branding, irresponsible marketing, lousy merchandise/product design and just good old fashion BAD service. What confounds me even more is the lack of serious customer service policies and their enforcement by management.

Look out business America the time will come when the consumer will unleash their blogging power and organize boycotts and protest with global proportions. Take notice and respect the power of the customer in dictating the worth of your company. Lie to them, mistreat them, cheat them, and ignore them at your peril. But remember they will always have the last word.

We invite you to leave your comment or opinion.

For more information on Customer Service, Feedback, Customer Loyalty, or Customer Experience Management we invite you to visit "The Customer Development Center"