Wouldn’t it be great if consumers queued up to be your customers, rather like the queues outside Apple Stores? You would have customers in the palm of your hand, clamouring to know what you were going to do next to make their lives that little bit easier and happier.
In over 30 years as client and agency insight specialist I have witnessed many market research departments and market researchers scratch their heads over economic models of consumer behaviour as predictive tools. Consumers are unpredictable and prone to impulse which creates a gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do.
Over the last decade WDG has been looking into this phenomenon, and has worked with customer experience specialists and behavioural economists and we all agree that organisations that direct their business model to achieving customer excellence are more successful at closing the gap. They achieve greater control of consumer behaviour by understanding how they can optimise the customer’s experience at each point of interaction.
By looking at your business through a different lens, for example, how customer-focused are you as an organisation? and what happens at points in the customer journey where they interact with the business? you can start to develop a program that is all about creating positive and, importantly, memorable experiences for the customer.
Shifting slightly to the left of complex rating systems and behavioural models, WDG has developed an intuitive process that is easy to understand and implement. It is also one that the entire organisation can invest enthusiasm for and put into practice. We use CX insights and metrics to understand from the customer’s perspective the key touchpoints where company/brand and customer interface. We use the same process across each customer segment and journey map. Working with your internal teams we can develop performance targets to each significant touchpoint in the customer journey.
Customer excellence is achieved where companies have operational confidence to far exceed customer expectations at each touchpoint. In effect, treating your customer as you would want to be treated as a customer. Not only is this an income generating initiative it has positive effects for your team in terms of emotional reward and job satisfaction.
This week I attended a most enlightening webinar on Customer Experience Excellence delivered by David Conway, Nunwood’s Chief Strategy Officer. In it, David compared customer experience among USA companies with UK organisations and concluded that, using Customer Experience Excellence ratings, the US is years ahead. It may be something to do with the fact that digital technology and social media are much more an integrated part of business in the USA, rather than the separate disciplines that many UK and European companies consider them to be.
More likely, according to Nunwood – and no way I’d disagree – the main reason why organisations excel at delivering good customer experience is because they excel at getting the culture right in their business in the first place. They employ people with the right attitude, who are motivated to work hard and who understand the company ethos which centers around the customer. This only really works well if it is driven from the very top of the organisation, a visionary of how the customer experience should be delivered : : think Walt Disney and the Disney theme parks.
Nunwood isolates the key constituents of good CX into ‘6 Pillars of CX Excellence’:
- Personalisation – treat the customer as an individual, understand their needs, show them you know them
- Integrity – trust, demonstrate that the company stands for something bigger than profit
- Time and Effort – value the customer’s time
- Expectations – raise the bar, go the extra mile and surprise the customer with something relevant
- Resolution – transform a poor experience into a great one, assume the customers’ innocence and see their point of view
- Empathy – show emotional intelligence to the customer
Companies that embed each of the pillars into their culture and across every channel, who continuously listen to their customers and innovate their approach to CX, are at the top of the customer experience pyramid. Companies like USAA, Publix, Disney, Costco and Southwest airlines in the USA, Amazon in USA and UK, and First Direct, Waitrose, John Lewis, Nationwide and Specsavers in the UK. All excel at their customer experience.
But what about SME’s? Adopting Nunswood’s 6 Pillars is more than just a simple case of sitting the workforce down and explaining that a few things around the place are going to change. Smaller organisations are, on the whole, more adaptable to change but possibly less committed to make the financial investment required to imbue the business with a customer-centric culture. This might involve redesigning the CRM, retraining all customer facing employees and salesforce, digitising the business for social engagement, reviewing customer support agreements – indeed whatever it takes to bring the customer into its heart.
In fact, creating a good customer experience needn’t involve massive costly change all at once. For instance, take Telephony: reduce the time taken to answer customer calls AND employ a real person with product knowledge to answer calls OR reduce the number of steps in an automatic call system before customers reach the intended department. Take e-commerce: make sure your site is mobile friendly AND customer friendly signposting AND information such as carrier tracking and returns policies are clearly shown before payment is made AND the customer can get instant feedback to questions.
Of course, as most of the great CX organisations understand, putting the customer first and central doesn’t mean losing touch with the bottom line. In this inverse relationship with business the internal investment in CX becomes the main contributor to the bottom line.
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better” Jeff Bezos CEO Amazon
Market Research Society has published findings from a study on consumer privacy that shows that despite continuing negative publicity surrounding banks, they are still most trusted with our personal information. According to the research, concerns about increased government surveillance and websites and communications platforms that soak up personal data has led to only one in ten of us feeling in control of our personal information.
Read more in the article:
A number of recent business articles have been banging on about the reduced need for websites as businesses and consumers have become more interested in using community platforms and user generated content. In other words, they have lost relevance to todays aggregated digital information streaming society. As one article put it ‘the delivery of content and interaction has been set free from conventional web design’.
Last year we launched this website. It may not be perfect but it explains our market research business, and we anticipate that we make subtle changes when needed to keep up with digital technology, and we overhaul the site every 2 to 3 years or when larger changes are afoot, whichever comes first. We operate B2B and use blogging and social media to drive traffic here, and with over a third of our new business last year coming through the website I am reluctant to describe it as redundant, at least not yet.
The journey that websites have taken in just two decades shows that they are willing to change and function as part of a digital strategy. However, there will come a time when website will mean something completely different, possibly a generic term for all content generated by a single user held in the cloud. What websites succeed in doing today will be incorporated into new technology tomorrow and that’s fine by me.
The last few years of marketing press has been about Big Data, it’s impact and effect of every one of us. We are surrounded by data noise but we continue to feed the data baby with social media, instant messaging, purchase transactions, GPS signals, mobile phone usage etc. It is insatiable.
Famously, IBM recently stated that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, so much so that 90% of the data in the world has been generated in the last two years alone. Does this mean that we are becoming more enlightened and sophisticated in the sharing and use of information? Much of the time we are responsible for creating data without even realising, which is a frightening thought. Servers record our every move / opinion / image posted, building a massive footprint for every one of us.
When we are in control of the information we generate it can have a huge impact on our lives, enabling us to make informed decisions about our spending, the products we use, travel, health issues, investments etc. Social media has transformed the lives of many creating a wide network of ‘friends’ to share thoughts, create ideas, post images and videos, and stream media. When it is out of our control it we can simply feel disconnected at best, or it can inflict serious damage to our reputation at worst.
Businesses on the other hand have only scratched the surface of Big Data. Too often it is seen as a CRM tool, as a means to capture prospects, to broadcast their brand message across the net. Many companies still do not have a social media marketing policy. They generate the same content across Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter et al without understanding the different platforms, audiences, usage patterns etc. Multi media advertising is seen as a great opportunity for many advertisers, but it risks alienating customers: consumers can find it ‘annoying’, ‘intrusive’, or skip it as soon as it appears on their screen.
Companies can benefit from getting to know their customer beyond the CRM metrics. Engaging with them on social media creates a greater opportunity to manage what is being said about the brand, and identifying advocates creates a mouthpiece for positive marketing. Crowd sourcing and co-creation treats customers as part of the team and engages with them in a way that was hitherto seen as risky by marketing teams.
Big Data has so many more applications for business it is almost unfathomable. Detailed knowledge of suppliers, supply chain and prices can deliver efficiencies and greater control over the costs and timescales impacting the business. As for consumers, we are benefiting from the impact of information through greater choice of products and services, more intelligent pricing, and a broader knowledge of the world around us.
Like it or loathe it, like the universe Big Data can only expand.
I am sure you have been there: one minute your relationship works, you are both happy and you have invested a lot of time in each other; the next minute it all goes eerily quiet, he doesn’t call or answer your emails and you begin to realise that it may be all over. Then you hear that someone else is on the scene and you start to question why. What did you do that was so wrong?
Clients can be very fickle folk – I’ve been there and I know. As an ex-client I can say with hand on heart that it is not always the agency’s fault when a relationship comes to an end. Often it has simply run its course and the client wants to try out other suppliers. Budget influences the continuation of a relationship, and no agency worth their mettle wants to regard themselves as cheap. Internal politics may change the structure of the client department or restrict the process of appointing external suppliers. All of which is frustrating for the agency that has developed a deep understanding of the company, its products and services, its interface with customers, and its employees.
Even more frustrating for the supplier is when a client contact moves on. This is the primary point of communication with the company and once it is lost it knocks the relationship with the company back quite significantly. He or she may inform their suppliers and pass on the details of the new incumbent but this happens as much as it doesn’t. Finding out on LinkedIn is not ideal, but at least it is a place to reconnect and be referred to the contact’s replacement.
When you are in the middle of a good relationship it is easy to forget what it took to get there; the emails and phone calls, the numerous small projects and presentations that finally won the client over. Like any relationship it has to add value to both parties. From the suppliers perspective having a developing knowledge about the company is not sufficient, it has to introduce fresh ideas for the client to think about, recommendations that move the business forward, and be prepared to challenge the client when needed. A good client should be transparent with the supplier in a long term relationship: be up front with budgets, honest with timings, and prepared to share the intended outcome of each project. A good client should not take advantage of the relationship expecting ‘freebies’ or impossible timings, or even usurping the supplier’s time with other clients.
And when it comes to the end of the road, be honest. Tell them and explain why. Nobody likes to be dumped without a good reason.
The YouTube video pokes fun at clients. I apologise, but as an ex-client and agency researcher it is very funny
For more than two decades WDG Research has enjoyed working on many interesting and varied market research projects. Our client portfolio extends across many industries from fmcg to finance, automative to leisure, advertising to DIY – to name a few – and we are pleased to have a family of clients who repeatedly use our services over the years. Here are some considered thoughts about briefing agencies, specifically marketing research agencies but the rules certainly apply to other marketing services.
It is no surprise that every client has a specific style in briefing a job; some are verbally delivered over the phone, or at a meeting, or more commonly we receive briefs by email and on the odd occasion on LinkedIn. Sometimes we are given an initial general description in return for a ballpark quote, while others prepare an extensive and detailed document, and there are many variations in between.
There is certainly no right or wrong way to deliver a research brief so long as there is a stage where both parties reach a point of clarification on the objectives for the research, method of research to be used, sample size and structure, locations, materials required from the client, timings and of course the cost. The parameters of budget and timescales are important in designing a solid research project – good research cannot be done yesterday but a reputable agency will pull out all stops to deliver. So often research is used as a final sign-off at the end of a development programme and inevitably tight deadlines arise and the client often has only loose change left to spend. We’ve all been there.
That said, there are good briefs and bad briefs. The bad ones blindfold the agency, preventing it from designing a good solid research method that will meet all objectives. Bad briefs withhold the context of the research or its role in the development and marketing programme. Agencies need to know this information to create data and insights which will move the project further along in its development. Remember, if the agency is a member of the Market Research Society it is governed by conduct codes which include client confidentiality – code B6. So please clients, trust your agency and regard it as a member of your team at least for the duration of the project.
Sometimes the details of the research are not always delivered contemparaneously as different departments have their input. As client researchers, a role more commonly found pre-Millenium, it was our responsibility to gather inputs from all relevant departments and design a complete brief before approaching an agency. At WDG we are all ex-client researchers and we care about the value of the research to the client. We aim to understand the client’s objectives for undertaking research and as the direct link to their customer/audience it is important for us to make worthwhile and salient recommendations.
A good brief on the other hand is fully considered before the research agency is approached – sometimes discussion with an agency can help the client to reach this stage pre-brief. Ideally the client is able to explain the context of the subject to be researched and the brief will include how it impacts on subsequent activity. The agency can then design a research study that is timely, that uses the optimum methodology, and explores all the issues. Moreover it can deliver recommendations that are relevant.
Ultimately, any brief is a good brief, but the client will get sharper results with a brief that is complete in itself and embraces the agency’s knowledge and skills in delivering great insights. Try it out and know that you are spending your budget wisely.
A quick clarification of ‘new generation’ before blogging on. Online research has been around for some time now with lots of options to choose from (online panels, communities, internal CRM, social media..). Improvements in digital and mobile research has meant that greater value can be gained across all nternet-based platforms to reach an audience. These tools are evolving in sophistication and accessibility, so for the moment we are using the collective term ‘new generation’ to separate them from traditional approaches in quantitative research.
Online research, social media and community panels have now eclipsed traditional quant methods in terms of preference by marketers, but seriously, does new mean better? There are limitations to both and it is these that hinder the quality outcome of studies. So before embarking on a new research programme, consider the options against the objectives and the audience to be measured.
At WDG we believe in the specific merits of both new generation and traditional methods and will always promote the best tool for the job. Online research is cost effective, fast and controllable. Traditional face to face and telephone interviewing benefits from person-to-person interaction; the interviewer can challenge responses and clarify questions at any point in the proceedings.
Simplifying your choice
The benefits of new generation research methods
It’s cost effective. There is no denying that this is the case; recruitment costs are reduced where respondents are more easily reached through the internet; social media sites have a ready made engaged audience to test early concepts and opinions; in many instances survey software has already been developed thereby minimizing set-up costs.
It’s time saving. Time is money and automated analytics is a significant time saver; the process from questionnaire deployment to analysis is faster; real time data can be customised and fed instantaneously to key personnel, regional offices, and stakeholders.
It’s convenient. Respondents can complete the study at a convenient time and place – within a stated time frame; smartphone and tablet usage enables greater convenience and comfort in completing surveys; sensitive and personal questions can be asked without compromising respondents’ privacy. This achieves a potent quality and reliability of response.
A wider geographic reach as more of the UK/global population uses internet and digital media.
Multimedia stimuli can be used and responded to.
The benefits of traditional quantitative methods
Not everyone is internet/social media savvy; just because someone has internet doesn’t mean they have the time or interest in completing online surveys; traditional survey recruitment reaches all segments of the population.
Benefits taste, smell and feel studies, such as product development.
Non-verbal responses add depth and clarity to trad face to face interviews
Challenge responses where it is felt respondent didn’t fully understand question; ideal for more complex surveys.
When deciding which approach will work best for your research study, consider who your audience is (are they active social media users? what is the internet/smartphone penetration amongst this audience?), and what you expect them to do and over what duration (online has a higher drop-out rate than traditional).
We hope we have overturned the myth that traditional quantitative research has had its day – it will always have an important place in marketing development and planning. New generation methodologies are improving and developing to enable faster and more precise readings of audiences, but human interaction is here to stay.
Do you ever ask yourself whose responsibility this is? Aren’t Central and local government and the Bank of England tasked with this?
If your business is doing well and has been one of the success stories to rise out of the recession then hearty congratulations. Your success is no doubt offering a boost in employment and supplier contracts to your local economy and there are additional and obvious benefits to this.
For some localised businesses however, a return to growth seems a long way off. Securing the right amount of funds to invest in business continues to be difficult as banks are still refusing to take the risk and are sometimes downright myopic.
The good news we hear is that the economy is showing signs of growth as reported by Bank of England Interest Setting Committee who have revised this year’s final quarter estimates from 0.5% to 0.7%. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also revised its prediction to a 1.5% growth in the UK economy compared with 0.8% set in May 2013. The Metro reported in 3 Sept that retail spending (excl fuel) was expected to increase year on year to August by 2.3%, this in spite of inflation continuing to outstrip wage growth.
So, with all these signs pointing to a brighter future it is madness that there are good businesses, which are often at the tail end of the supply chain, still caught up in the recession’s grip. Firefighting to keep a business viable, lack of investment, and strident cutbacks in all but the essentials does not give these companies sufficient leverage to bounce back.
It has occurred to me that successful businesses could offer assistance to struggling businesses with a view to passing on knowledge, motivation, physical help, and hard cash. Help could take many forms: mentoring where support and advice is needed, financial investment to enable the business to ‘gear-up for growth’, manpower investment (i.e. sharing skills by deploying employees of the successful business to work in the struggling business for a stated period), the list could go on.
The benefits to the successful business are the positive message it sends to employees and future employees, owning a share of a growing business, developing new skills acquired via supported business, positive PR, developing good community relations.
The community benefits as more successful businesses create employment, demand for accommodation (and schools, health centres etc), increase spending in the community occurs….the positive knock-on effect is fairly tangible.
The downside is if the supported company fails. It is a risk and an important consideration – how likely is it to fail? So this is my random thought, but I would appreciate your view.
You may not realise this but you could be marketing your small business at this very moment. Are you sitting at your laptop in an office or on a train, or are you reading this on a mobile device in a public space? Wherever you are you create an impression of yourself to the outside world, and there are times when this impression matters to you and your business.
For instance, when you meet new people each of you is assessing one another for all sorts of cues (how old, interesting, funny, intelligent, wealthy, single, married ….). In a business environment you may be looking for integrity, common values, knowledge, experience etc. People can generally see through insincerity, and more often than not are tuned in to blaggers. The visual cues are constant and even when you think people aren’t noticing you – they are.
Standing at the edge of a rugby/football/hockey pitch on Sunday mornings cheering on little Oscar/Wayne/Pippa may not be the obvious place where you are marketing your business, but just think of the conversations you have with other spectators/parents. Initially the chat is casual, bantery and overall convivial. Simply by shooting the chilly breeze with a fellow you inevitably market yourself, and by extension what you do. Eventually – perhaps not on the first meeting – you mention your business or what it is that you do. This is when what you do and who you are should have some positive congruence in the mind of the listener (“I like this person, she comes across as intelligent and switched on and is good company on a cold day. Interesting, she says she is an accountant, I bet she’s not lazy/unconscientious…”). Next time his accountant gives him grief you will be on his list of replacements.
The clothes you wear are also part of your marketing kit bag. Some businesses have uniforms or logo’d sweatshirts, or a colour preference. Your personal marketing effort has to be in line with the company’s positioning or it can be a truly disappointing experience for everyone else. The miserable and indifferent airline rep at the check-in desk can create a bad experience for the customer even if the airline is known for delivering a first class customer experience. The uniform that represents all the brand values that the customer has come to expect is totally incongruent with the service.
Dress for success is a seasoned adage used by stylists which doesn’t necessarily mean suited and booted. Wearing clothes that suit you, are comfortable, stylish and get you noticed are far more likely to create a confident impression. Even if your business requires overalls or a hard hat, dressing smartly when making a first contact with clients is always a favourable move.
Social media is another place where we need to take care how we present ourselves – it is becoming increasingly important as a marketing tool. Remember to stay true to yourself and not follow the crowd for added popularity – it often backfires and at the very least you end up with 00’s of followers who you would prefer not to have. Blogs, photo files, profiles all reflect an image of you so make sure its the image you want people to see.
I do a lot of formal networking and have run networking meetings. What you say and how you behave at such events will affect how people perceive you and your company. Many people just don’t ‘get it’ and within minutes of arriving are delivering non verbal negatives. In such environments focus on being you and show an interest in others. Be the touchline buddy who can engage in conversation, be authentic and impress your fellow networkers with your integrity. You may be surprised how many good networkers regard contacts as business buddies because they know about each other and have shared values in business. They refer business opportunities to one another and work in association because they know that this will enhance their business. Networking success doesn’t happen overnight but it can deliver the sweetest business in the long term.
In a perfect world we should all be marketing ourselves with the same open authentic approach, but while there are still plenty of people who remain oblivious to this need there are opportunites for you to make it work to your advantage. Focus on your subliminal marketing activity so that you always send out the message you want. Get followers who follow you because your message resonates with them and remember (without paranoia) that people notice you when you are least aware. When they meet you, they should get a feel for what a great business you run.