I recently joined Mitchel Forney, the Marketing Coordinator at Voiance Language Services, on a webinar to discuss the 5 Decisions that will help you fully understand the customer perspective, thus enabling your company to deliver excellent customer service, increase customer advocacy and loyalty, and improve profitability.
Here are the questions from webinar listeners and my answers:
Mitchel: My company wants to use social media, but we are concerned with the possibility of random people writing unkind things. We could always delete poster comments like that, but could we still have a spirit of “belief” if we did that?
Jeanne: Wow, that is an important question. Glad you asked. You should consider the negative comments a gift. It does two things: 1. Shows your customers you are not afraid to say your feet are made of clay, that you make mistakes. It shows you are transparent. 2. The thing that works in social media and word of mouth – it needs to be a conversation – if it feels or smacks in any way like ‘these are a bunch of great comments we filtered through and put up on our website so you can see how great we are’ – customers will call you-know-what on that immediately. By putting up the negative ones, it gives you the opportunity to address those things and use them to fix operations. You should be regularly looking through comments and feedbacks as an engine to drive improvement in your operations.
Those negative comments are a gift. Doing that is even as important for employees as it is internally. You need those cultural boost action items.
Mitchel: Sometimes it seems more profitable for my position and my company to give less to the customer in order to create shareholder value. Any deviation from that is frowned upon, partially because money is really tight. Any advice?
Jeanne: What drives shareholder value? Customers buying things and staying, becoming more profitable, not having to get new customers. Employees staying, not having to get new employees. What we lose sight of is that shareholder value is directly tied to growing the asset of customer base. We need to know our customers base and invest in them to grow the profitability, the loyalty and prosperity of the customer base. Companies need to work a little more with shareholders and the financial community to help connect the dots between the two. Instead of a series of financial line items, talk about the experience and show the connection between decisions and the creation of a deeper and robust customer relationship.
Mitchel: How can I express some of these ideas to upper management? I think this would really help my company.
Jeanne: Well of course, selfishly, have them read my book. First of all, in the best scenarios, upper management gets it already. If you can’t get them immediately engaged, there are probably some leaders, maybe regional managers, that are zealots about it. Get them involved. And start doing the customer math. Retention rates give us a false positive. 78% seems OK, but it means you lost “x” number of customers. So do the math: number of customers brought in during the month, volume and value, and how many you lost, volume and value. By creating power and passion behind those real numbers, you can create pain about the money going out the door. And that can start the conversation. It never fails. Try it.
Mitchel: I think my company would have to say “I’m sorry” a LOT to follow your advice. Could that really be helpful?
Jeanne: So here’s the thing. If you say I’m sorry without the engine for solving the problem, it’s not a good thing. Go out and identify the things you need to improve on, solve those problems to reduce the number of apologies, rather than getting better at apologizing. There’s a difference between saying sorry for not fixing things you know about and saying sorry when unexpected things happen. If you’re saying sorry a lot for things you’re not fixing, then that’s just not caring about your business as much as you should, if I may speak bluntly.
Mitchel: We already have pretty high customer satisfaction, but we don’t seem to have the same kind of effects in the market like some of your examples. How can we get a culture change if we’re already “pretty good”?
Jeanne: What does satisfaction mean to you? Is it translating into the growth of the customer base? Do the customer math. There’s not always a direct correlation between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty and growth. One thing that you can do which is very powerful is to call 100 lost customers, and have them tell you what the issues are. It should start to tell you the story about why you’re not earning people’s raves.
Listen to the webinar: 5 Decisions That Will Help You Become
a Beloved and Prosperous Company.