Tag Archives: Word-of-Mouth

Why INVESTING in Your Customers WINS today…and tomorrow

Customer Experiene as part of Customer Obsession is the next big ideaIt doesn’t matter whether you are an investment advisor or product manager or the owner of your business, there is one thing everyone wants…a Return on their Investment. If you think about any aspect in business, there is always this looming question, “What’s going to be the return if we invest in this product or service or customer or employee or _________ (fill in the blank).

It’s how business works and it may be more important today than ever before. With our low “barrier to entry” of businesses popping up at any time to offer something better, faster, cheaper or anything else that can hurt us, it’s very important to make the right decisions in this area. I spent my early professional days in sales for IBM and if we couldn’t demonstrate an ROI, we were toast. Thank heavens I went to MBA school and put some primary emphasis in the finance area or I would have really struggled with understanding how important this was to companies…it’s vital.

Some ROIs are simple to measure…we spent this and we saw this in return…easy calculation. Others are much more difficult because their components are hard to track. It isn’t that we can’t find the ways to measure things, it’s that we can’t track the components that go into the measurement. Marketing is always a target in this area…lots of things going on but in many ways it can be difficult to track specifically what is going on in these areas.

“Customer Investments” are another area that is difficult for most executives to get their arms around when it comes to ROI. That might sound a bit silly since they are the ones that pay you the money for the “return” on everything you do, but it’s often an issue. For example, if someone in your organization comes up and says they want to invest in a customer event, the first question is what is going to be the return on that event. What if it was a “customer appreciation” event…how do you measure the ROI of giving back to a group that has already given you their money? Difficult discussion inside the organization.

The problem with investing in your customer it that it seems to be difficult to track…there are lots of moving parts to a customer lifecycle. So we try to track their activities through our “Customer Journey” or “Customer Lifecycle.” This helps…but it’s not exact in most cases. So as a business leader, how do you know if and where you should be investing in your customer? This can be a very difficult question for business leaders to answer.

Your customer also wants to know the answer….where are you investing in ME? What are you doing to make my experience and life easier and better when I deal with you? Why are you investing in these other areas instead of investing in me, your customer, and the one that pays you money so you can do all these other things? What about ME?

Let’s say you held a customer meeting with all your customers in the room with one purpose…showing them where you invested your money in the company last year. You create a pie chart and colored in all the areas showing how you allocated $1 of investment into your business. Would they be happy with the pie chart or ask the questions in the paragraph above? You might try to convince them that everything you invested in was to help them, the customer. The reason you put more money into products and services and building improvements and marketing and_____ was to help them, the customer. This might work for some, but most don’t see the direct connection to them.

The one area customers tell us they want you to invest in is THEIR EXPERIENCE. They want you to invest in the way they are being treated by your company…everyone in your company. Investing in products and services is great…but it’s something they use, not directly into them. The way the customer sees it, they can go get these products and services from one of your hundred other competitors. If all they wanted was the best product, they can find it. Most businesses really don’t compete and lead because they have the best product or service…it’s because of a variety of other factors involved in their purchase.

The CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE is the biggest reason customers will rank you above your other hundred competitors that sell the same, or close to the same, product or service. Amazon is a great example in my area of the world…you can get anything Amazon sells somewhere else…maybe even cheaper…but not with “One-click” and the promise they will make it right for you. There are lots of places that offer better and more thrilling rides than Disneyland…but they are the only ones that offer the entire experience of fun and happiness in everything they do for every member of your family. We go to Amazon and Disneyland not because of the products and service but because of the experience.

Here’s a simple way to illustrate this point I think will resonate with everyone reading this today…

If it was only about us wanting the very best product and service, why would we need more than one company in every category…we would all just buy from the one company because they sell the very best product or offer the very best services. We don’t…we want choices and we want to be treated incredibly well by the company we are buying from…we want the very best experience.

Online shopping has complicated this for everyone. The reason many still go to the corner mom and pop drugstore isn’t because of selection or the very best products…it’s the experience. The reason we still go to the corner bakery isn’t because of their selection, it’s because we know the owner and we get treated like a human being with an awesome experience.

Here’s a great strategy if you are a small to mid-sized company that isn’t public…hold an annual meeting with your customers. You don’t have to hold an annual meeting by law…so hold one anyway and invite all your customers. The purpose is to share with them how you are going to invest your dollars tomorrow. Explain to them how you have been relentlessly focused on investing finding/creating the very best products and services you can possibly find. See how they react…they will like it, but it won’t be spectacular.

But then tell them you are going to invest your money in THEM this year. While you will will continue to have great products and services, the bulk of your investment dollars are going back into them, the customer. You are going to invest the money you used to spend on trying to be the best product company into being the best “customer company” and giving them an experience that is better than anything they have ever seen in your industry. You are going to be relentlessly focused on them this year and giving them an experience they can’t wait to talk about and tell others…the meeting will completely change in attitude…it will rock!

After the standing ovation dies down…and there will be one…you now know where you should be investing your money. Some might leave because they only want the best product for the cheapest price…let them go. The majority will stay and thank you for INVESTING IN THEM…the ones that pay you the money in the first place…the ones that will be loyal…the ones that will spread word-of-mouth about you to others, just like them.

Your ROI will certainly start to look very different…it will show you how increasing loyalty, retention, and advocacy leads to both an increase in share of wallet per customer and lower costs in serving these customers…because they are now part of your sales and marketing team helping you spread the word and get more customers at a much lower cost. Higher returns and lowered costs gives you a much better ROI. Invest DIRECTLY into your CUSTOMER and see what a difference this can make to your ROI and the differentiation of your business.

To Be CUSTOMER OBSESSED…“Burn the Ships”

Customer Obsession needs a strategy around customer experienceDescribing this is pretty simple…executing it seems to be incredibly difficult. The concept of “Burn the Ships” is well-known, understood, but often not embraced or followed. It’s one of those great statements to get people fired up. But when it comes to actually making it happen, it comes up short.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, allow me to give you an easy definition. “Burn the Ships” means you are all-in, 100% engaged, committing everything to the activity or journey you are on…it simply means there is no going back. It was coined a long time ago to explain that when explorers got to an island, they were not leaving. Without burning the ships, the crew keeps thinking, “If things go bad we can run back to our ships and sail back to where we came from where it is known and safe.” But if the captain burned the ships, there was no going back…they had to figure out how to survive and settle on the island.

It is a great analogy in business. Having worked with leaders in many different companies over the past 30 years has shown me how incredible this can be for a company…and their employees know whether they have burned the ships or if they still have a way to go back to the way things were. Without burning the ships you get phrases such as…

  • The “flavor of the month” – things are always changing…something new happens all the time
  • Shiny Objects” – there is always something new and exciting to catch your eye and pursue but don’t worry, there is always a new shiny object out there
  • Don’t get wedded to the change” – if you’re married you are stuck so don’t get married to the new changes since we want to go back to the old way of doing things
  • The latest brainstorm” – when leadership has a new idea and wants to implement it but the employees know they can delay it until the next brainstorm

These are the kinds of things that kill innovation, momentum, and change inside an organization. Do any of these sound familiar in your organization? If so, might be time to think about “burning the ships” and communicating to your employees, “We aren’t going back to the old way of doing things so let’s all work together to make this be a phenomenal successful.”

This phrase has never been more important in my world than in helping CEOs and Business Owners understand that being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and moving their company from GREAT TO REMARKABLE is a “burn the ships strategy”. It isn’t just “something we are going to try and see how it goes.” It requires the leadership team and employees to be ALL IN or it will fail. I know that sounds harsh, but it will. Customer Obsession isn’t something you can do half-way or even most of the way…it has to be all the way to make it successful…which is why most won’t change.

CUSTOMER OBSESSION IS WHO YOU ARE, NOT WHAT YOU DO.

It becomes part of the DNA of your company…it is who you are. It gives you purpose and answers the WHY question of “Why are we in business?” We are in business to obsess over our customers and treat them better than anyone else so they feel awesome and more important than they did before they met us.” This is being Customer Obsessed.

You can’t get there when everyone feels like there is a “ship” to run back to…the old way of doing things. If the employees feel like this is an “initiative” or a “project” or something that has a “start and a finish,” it will fail. You might get better as a company by focusing more on your customer, but you won’t become REMARKABLE or MEMORABLE. And you won’t get the massive WORD-OF-MOUTH that comes when you are memorable and remarkable.

Treating Customer Obsession as something less that “all-in” will also come up short on results. You won’t see the big benefits in your business. They won’t talk about you, they won’t share what you do, and they won’t set you apart from all your competition. You might be one of the best but you won’t stand alone and “head and shoulders” above everyone else.

I would also argue it probably won’t be worth it if you don’t go all in because you will still incur significant costs (time, resources, and capital) but you won’t get the commensurate rewards (lower marketing costs, higher margins, more customer retention/loyalty, and advocacy). And I always believe if you are going to spend the resources, you should benefit from the rewards.

CUSTOMER OBSESSION is awesome…it is a way of life both your customer and your employees will love…because there is a singular focus…THE CUSTOMER. It’s really easy in many ways because everyone is doing something that answers the question, “Is this going to make our customers life better than it was before they interacted with us?” If the answer is no, then you aren’t “all in” on customer obsession. This makes things really simple…everything a company does is to help answer YES to that question…everything.

And the best part is your CUSTOMER KNOWS IT. They see it, feel it, and love it! It’s what separates the great companies from the remarkable ones. It’s what gets talked about and shared.

Some companies do this RANDOMLY…not every day with every interaction. We termed this “RANDOM ACTS OF EXCELLENCE AND CHAOS” in our book, “Creating and Delivering Totally Awesome Customer Experiences.” This means that some days you deliver awesomeness and some days things are a mess. The customer gets confused about who you are and what is the norm. And when customers get confused, they defect and leave. Randomness might seem better than average…but it’s not. It causes the customer to not know what they are going to get…this creates fear…not a good thing for customers to be feeling.

If you want to be ALL ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS, then BURN THE SHIPS and go ALL IN. It’s a strategic decision about the direction you want to take your company, not an initiative or project. It will become WHO YOU ARE and WHAT PEOPLE TALK ABOUT when it comes to your company. It’s an amazing place to be and there are many examples of companies who are Customer Obsessed. You know it when you visit them…from Fortune 500 down to the “mom and pop” store on the corner where you pay 20% more but love the way you are treated. They exist and they are REMARKABLE!

How to Get MORE of your #1 ASSET…Your BEST Customers

Customer Experience creates differentiation and customer obsessionWhen I talk to CEOs and Business Owners about their customers, they can always tell me who their BEST CUSTOMERS are and why they are number one. It’s easy…they know who they are and they know what they buy. But when I ask them what they are doing to get more of these types of customers, this is where the answers get a bit fuzzier.

It usually has something to do with sales and sometimes marketing…but usually it’s focused around sales. They have a sales team “dedicated” to finding some of these customers and then enticing them into the company in some way…usually through some special deal. But it’s generally focused on the company going after the customer by tracking them down, meeting with them, figuring out a way they can help them, putting some special incentives together so they will try them out, and hopefully closing the sale.

This is an expensive and time consuming process…regardless of whether it works and has been used by companies for years. There is nothing wrong with this process in general…other than the cost and the close ratios. These can sometimes be high and low, respectively…but you keep it going because they are identified as your best customers.

If you are a retailer, it’s much more difficult to invest in the above process because you don’t have the margin per customer to dedicate to this kind of effort. So you might resort to “bring a friend” in programs or other such incentives designed to attract other highly desirable customers. This process can also be expensive and may not give you the volume of results you want.

There’s another way to go about attracting top customers. Another way to attract more top customers and win their attention and their business…often times without giving up margin and with a higher close ratio than your sales team. TURN YOUR BEST CUSTOMERS INTO YOUR SALES TEAM.

Create the processes and plans to enable your best customers to do the marketing and selling for you. This has proven to be the lowest cost and highest return for getting more of your top customers. It’s called “credible” WORD-OF-MOUTH. Credible because it is being spread by your most valuable and respected customers to other prospective customers.

Now you’re probably saying something like, “Of course word-of-mouth is great, everyone knows that and we get some of this from these customers so that’s nothing new. We would love to have more of it but we ask and ask and get minimal return from our existing customers…especially without some incentive.” The problem for most companies is that they really aren’t investing in their best customers in a way that would cause them to tell others about them. And I’m not talking about just “telling others”… I’m talking about “passionately raving about you” to others. There is a huge difference.

I will be the first to admit this is NOT EASY. It takes a strategic, consistent, and process oriented approach to make it happen. But these are your TOP CUSTOMERS we’re talking about…isn’t that worth some significant investment of time and resources? If you truly want more of these, then it is worth a very specific strategy and process for getting them.

The absolute best, “long-tail” approach to creating ADVOCATES that will rave about you and tell others just like them is to CREATE AN AWESOME AND INCREDIBLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE they love and can’t wait to tell others about. It starts and ends with the customer experience…not products or services. Creating this experience doesn’t happen overnight…but it can completely differentiate your business…for a very long time and give you more of your best customers.

To help you get started thinking in the right direction, let me give you a key question you might want to start asking your leadership team and employees…

“What is the one thing we could do for our top customers that would cause them to say, ‘WOW, I love working with you because you _______ (fill in the blank)…this is so different from the way anyone else treats me and you make me feel incredibly important.’”

Start with this one question. Find out from your employees what they think would be the right phrase to fill in the blank and start collecting this information. Don’t ask them to come up with a list, just ask them for one thing. Believe me, they will give you more than one and that’s OK. But just get them to focus on the one thing they feel is the most important factor that would cause your best customer to make the statement above.

Once you have collected the information, sit down as a leadership team and go through and discuss every comment/suggestion. You will immediately see which ones jump off the page and will cause you to say, “WOW, there are some great ideas in here that we should seriously consider.”

Prioritize the list of items you feel would totally amaze your customer if you did these things. Come up with the number one item in the top list of items. Now, here’s the magic…

DO THAT ONE ITEM…DO IT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE…DO IT WITH PASSION AND COMMITMENT!

If you make this happen, you will have started on a path to thinking and acting more CUSTOMER OBESESSED. However, this isn’t the ultimate solution…that takes a full “Customer Obsession Strategy” and plan to really change your company. But this is a good start.

When you have a strategy and plan to get your customers feeling this important and special and giving them an experience where they consistently say, “WOW you treat me so much better than any of your competitors,” you are well on your way to being differentiated and Customer Obsessed. And when your customers feel this way, they tell others…often and regularly. They become your ADVOCATES in the market to other people just like them…other TOP CUSTOMERS. Now you have your top customers doing your marketing to other potential top customers! And according to the statistics, 90% of the people believe the recommendation from someone they know or are connected with…90%.

Create a list of Advocates who are your top customers and you have created the most successful way to get more of your #1 Asset…your best customers.

Experience Wins Over Quality and Selection…Two Examples

Lady serving wine - Depositphotos_85961822_original - smallerThis past week we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary…a wonderful time of the year. We always do something fun and memorable and we also have a family party. We have an awesome family and get together all the time…this weekend was no exception. During this anniversary week I am particularly aware of how we are treated by different people/establishments as they learn it is our anniversary (and because this is and area I help companies improve in for a living).

However, it’s also important to know that when I look for people and companies to do something “special” because it’s our anniversary, I’m not talking about them giving us things…simply to offer some type of “memorable” experience we can talk about for years to come. It isn’t about “the stuff” but about “how we are made to feel special” that captures my attention and what I share with others. The Experience is far more important than something we might get in the process…this is what makes it memorable.

There are a couple of examples I want to share that demonstrate the difference between product/service quality and experience.

The first one just happened…it is about Trophy Cupcakes. For our family party we ordered a dozen different cupcakes so our family could sample several varieties of their creations…always fun and a hit with everyone. The cupcakes were awesome and everyone loved the varieties…but that wasn’t the primary topic of conversation. The majority of time was spent talking about the experience we had in getting the cupcakes…which was memorable, but not good. Here’s what happened…

We ordered the cupcakes two days ahead of time and on their website and chose 11am as our time to pick them up…right after church. We got there around noon due to some delays, which should have ensured they would be boxed and ready for a quick pick up since they have already been paid for as well. My wife ran in to grab them while I waited in the car…and I waited and waited.

When she got there, they weren’t ready…hadn’t even started to box them up. OK, that wasn’t ideal but how long can it take to box up a dozen cupcakes? More than half an hour is how long. There were other people in the store they were serving at the same time and they didn’t have enough of some of the cupcakes everyone wanted so there were discussions about who could get what cupcakes. Well, among all the chaos going on in the store, it just kept getting longer and longer to get the cupcakes made up and then boxed. Cupcakes that were ordered 2 days earlier and set for a specific time to be picked up were still being prepared and then needed to be packaged. Why did we bother ordering them?

This was a great example of where the awesome quality of the product didn’t overshadow a lousy experience. While everyone loved the product, the conversation was about how crazy the experience was to get 12 cupcakes in a box. This was what became memorable…and what was being talked about. A big reason this gets talked about today is TIME. It is the most valuable commodity we all have and when someone misuses it, we aren’t happy…and it eclipses product/service. It is one of the most critical components of the customer experience today.

Right now you might be saying, “But the cupcakes were awesome (which they were) and this should win over the customer.” It doesn’t…never does in my experience. How you are treated and made to feel is what becomes memorable and what gets talked about…because it’s personal. It becomes about you at this point and so it overshadows product. And in our particular case, do you think for one moment Trophy Cupcakes is the only place that has awesome cupcakes? There are many places that serve really fun and incredible cupcakes…this high quality product is the “expected” today…a baseline from which to grow from.

What people look for (since products are really great today) is how they are treated…how you make them feel…how personal is the experience…did they feel like you cared and you were important to them…these are the components that customers are looking for today…not just great products. Trophy cupcakes failed in this area for us…great product…not so great of an experience.

Another quick example is of a very well-known company, McDonald’s, and how they missed the mark. In a recent article in Business Insider, they talked about how the franchisees are telling McDonald’s corporate that it never was about offering more selection and products…it is about the experience. One of the reasons for posting lower second quarter results is how they tried to keep up with other fast food companies and offer a broader menu. It didn’t work.

What I believe they failed to see were two things. First, it wasn’t about adding more products. It is and  always has been about the “consistent and reliable” experience people get when they go to McDonald’s. It never has been about the food…it’s been about the service…fast, convenient, and consistent. And they offer things to keep the kids busy while mom and dad can grab some very average food. That’s the premise Ray Kroc had when he created the company many years ago.

Second, McDonald’s wasn’t paying close attention to the “personas” of their ideal customers. Did their core customer audience tell them they would be much happier, more loyal, and an advocate for McDonald’s if they offered more products? I don’t think so…I think this was purely a reaction to the competition and feeling the need to add more products to keep up with them. Rather than pay attention to their competition, they should have capitalized on their solid customer base and given them an even better experience and stuck to the primary products their audience wants. This is where they excel and can lead.

Even big companies can lose their way…and it shows quickly in their financial returns. Smaller companies can become obsolete in that same period of time and be gone. This isn’t uncommon today…but it can prevented. It not only can it be prevented, but companies can capitalize on it and excel ahead of their competitors.

Focusing on “your game” of what makes you unique…what your customers would love to experience when they interact with you…and creating new ways to make them feel incredibly awesome is a stronger path to success than either great products or more products. It isn’t about the products/services today…it’s how the customer feels before, during, and after any interaction with your company. Focus on this and you won’t have to worry about what new products/services your competitors add…your customers will love buying the ones you offer. And they will reward you with their LOYALTY and their WORD-OF-MOUTH…which leads to a more successful business well into the future.

Stop ENVYING your Competitors and Win Big

customer experiences and customer obsession keep you from being commoditizedENVY by definition means you are chasing something…wanting to be like something else. This has become a mainstay in businesses today… “We want to be like ABC Company only better.” When you can stop this thinking and action, you can put yourself on a path to real success that others will envy!

Copying someone else means you think they are either better or have something you don’t have…and you want to be just like them in a particular area. But copying someone also means COMMODITIZATION…regardless of your products or services. Becoming a commodity says you do the same things as your competition…only you try to do it faster, cheaper, or somewhat better. In today’s Internet Economy, more and more companies are being commoditized and trying to “one up” each other to move to the top of the heap.

I believe this is a LOSERS GAME.

It’s one you can’t win…at least not easily…and everyone else is playing it as well which makes it even more difficult to win. And even if you can win it for a moment, there is someone waiting in the wings to enter the market with lower cost structure and lower prices or better services to take this spot away from you. It’s an expensive, stressful, and low rewarding game in business today.

There is an alternative…forget about ENVYING YOUR COMPETITION and DO SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from them.

The one thing that has been proven over and over to be incredibly difficulty to beat out is an INCREDIBLY REMARKABLE AND MEMBORABLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. This can’t be commoditized because YOU OWN IT in your own special way. Someone else can have an awesome experience as well but it is unique to them. It doesn’t compete on price or terms or delivery or any other commodity element. It is UNIQUE TO YOU!

And when you create something that your CUSTOMERS ABSOLUTELY LOVE you win. They come back and they tell all their friends about you and become your ADVOCATES. This is how you win big without envying your competition. Create your own “wonderfulness” and deliver this to your customers in everything you do…through every employee…with passion.

THIS CAN’T BE COPIED…BUT CAN BE ENVIED.

This is the path to INDIVIDUALISM as a BRAND and something you own…no one else. It is something that sets you apart and gets people TALKING ABOUT YOU instead of your competition. No longer will people say, “Oh, they are just like so and so only they offer a little better price or a few more features, or something else.” NO, now they say, “They are unlike anyone else in the market I have experienced and I love working with them because they are completely different and really care about my experience and how I feel.”

This is the game changer and what sets you apart from the “Envy Game” that is difficult, if not impossible to win. Become the one that is envied…not the one that envies other businesses. This will set yourself apart from everyone in your industry. This is how you win today in a very crowded, noisy, and highly commoditized world.

If you want to learn more about what this looks like and how some of the best companies in the world do this, shoot me a message and I can share some more things with you to think about in your quest for uniqueness and non-envy!

Is there a “Dollar Shave” Deal Headed Your Way?

awesome customer experiences create customer obsession and avoid commoditizationUnilever just realized that they “missed it” when it came to competition in their razor space…and it cost them over $1 Billion dollars…the amount they just paid for Dollar Shave Club. They disrupted Unilever (and other shaver products) and created a new product with powerful marketing that captured a huge market share.

This isn’t a new story…it is happening in virtually every industry today. Someone is coming in and causing disruption by creating a better product or service at a lower cost…and appealing to the incumbent’s audience. They are taking away their marketshare with better products, lower prices, and better delivery. With the Internet Revolution taking over from where the Industrial Revolution left off, we are seeing a massive increase in COMMODITIZATION everywhere. This is awesome for the consumer and buyers…not so awesome for the companies that are now having to compete with these disruptors.

From all indications, this isn’t going away…it is going to escalate even faster than we are seeing today. The “barrier to entry” in many industries is so low that someone can show up tomorrow and immediately take away your customers and marketshare. But your costs are still the same and your pricing is based on this cost structure. What do you do? If you are some mega-giant company, you buy them out of the market…just like Unilever did to Dollar Shave. They essentially realized they had to give up $1 Billion dollars to take them out of the market. What would it cost you if you had to take out a major disruptor in your industry? Or could you even do it or would it put you under? These are important and critical questions for any leadership team today.

While this may sound like doom and gloom, there is a silver lining to this situation. There is a way that companies can help avoid this trap of commoditization. There is a way you can do battle with a “disruptor” coming into your market.

It’s what the most respected consulting and research firms have been telling us for the past few years…

Create a company based on an INCREDIBLE AND AMAZING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE and you can either avoid or at least survive a disruptor entering your market. There it is…the strategy to combat this wave of disruptors and “bottom feeders” in your industry. A way to set yourself apart and let them feed on your competitors. A way to avoid commoditization and survive the disruptor revolution!

And if you think about it…if you are in an industry where everyone is viewed as a commodity, if you create an AWESOME CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE you can essentially be the DISRUPTOR in your own industry. I’m not talking about a GREAT EXPERIENCE…I’m talking about an INCREDIBLY AWESOME, AMAZING, AND REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE…one that causes your customer to say, “WOW, you are amazing and treat me better than anyone else in your industry by far.” When they say this, you have become the disruptor and the one that everyone is going to try and compete against.

Today you not only have the answer to how to avoid this disruption, you have the ability to eclipse all your competition and BECOME THE DISRUPTOR. It takes these key ingredients…

  • Vision by Leadership – the top person in the company has to lead this effort
  • A change in Business Strategy
  • A specific model to create these awesome customer experiences
  • Focused effort…by everyone in the company
  • Employees that embrace CUSTOMER OBSESSION
  • Staying the course to change from a “product/service centric” company to an “customer centric company”
  • Someone to lead you through this new vision of disruption

Are you up to the challenge? Are you willing to admit you are exposed to disruption in your market and that there is probably a “Dollar Shave” company being developed right now that can come into your market at any time and disrupt it? You can view this as a THREAT or an OPPORTUNITY in your company. I love to look at things like this as incredible opportunities to not only disrupt but to lead. If you are as well, maybe this is your time to strike…your time to DISRUPT YOUR COMPETITION.

Why isn’t EVERY Company Customer Centric or OBSESSED…3 Reasons

Subscribe image - journeysThere are very few business leaders I talk with that don’t tell me they either think they are Customer Centric or that they want to try and be more Customer Centric. With all this interest in it from the outside, why aren’t more doing this today?

There are three primary reasons I see that keep companies from becoming more Customer Centric. And if you can’t become Customer Centric, you certainly can’t become CUSTOMER OBSESSED. Here are the three primary reasons I see today that cause most companies to stay where they are or go in a different direction…

  1. They have to CHANGE and can’t “Window Dress” it… Everyone loves the idea of being customer centric…or saying they want to be obsessing over their customers…until they realize THEY have to change. There’s that awful and scary word that most businesses dread…CHANGE. And this usually isn’t some minor change…this is changing every part of your company so they are ALWAYS putting the customer first in all their decisions and actions. This sounds easy…it’s not. And because it isn’t easy, most companies never get there…they abort part way through any effort or don’t even begin when the see how daunting it could be for their organization.

And because it looks daunting, they resort to something I feel is almost worse than doing nothing…they “window dress” with the intent of pretending to be but in reality they aren’t. You see it as a customer…the receptionist is really great and friendly but the rest of your experience is not. Or the person you are talking to on the phone is incredibly helpful and giving but when you walk into the business you see something entirely different. This isn’t being Customer Obsessed, this is trying to fake it and get away without the hard work of change.

Before any company begins the process of wanting to be Customer Obsessed and Customer Centric, they need to look long and deep into the effort and make an executive level commitment to seeing it through. It isn’t something you can “fake your way through” because unfortunately, the one group that will call you out is also the one group that pays the rent…the CUSTOMER. They see right through this and realize you really aren’t all about them.

The companies that do make this commitment and fight through the “Valley of Despair” in their journey to becoming Customer Obsessed and Customer Centric enjoy many rewards their competition will never see. They died in the “Valley” and never came out…they quit. They couldn’t fight through the process of CHANGE so they couldn’t reap the rewards. Make the commitment from the top level of the company and see it through…the rewards will amaze you when you reach the other side and where your customers see just how awesome you treat them…and they will reward you with LOYALTY and WORD-OF-MOUTH.

  1. They don’t UNDERSTAND what it means…have you ever had something that was truly amazing and you tried to describe it to someone else and they just “don’t get it?” This is exactly what this reason is all about. You can try to explain it in several different ways but in the end, you realize they still just don’t get it. Like when you are talking to your kids about math for example…you see it clearly and they just don’t get it. So you try a different way…same result.

Until you reach a point where they go, “Oh, now I see what you are talking about,” they will never become Customer Centric or strive to be Customer Obsessed. It isn’t because they don’t want to or aren’t willing to make the changes like the companies in number one above, they simply just don’t get it. Customer Centricity, believe it or not, falls into this category.

You are probably saying to yourself right now, “How can someone not get being “all about” their customers?” They can certainly get the words but what they can’t get is how you change your entire company to do everything with the customer in the center of the universe. They usually grew up in the Industrial Revolution and so they think in terms of “products and services” rather than the customer. They have products and services at the center of their universe and this is how the entire company has been built and how it runs today. Now you are asking them to erase that thinking and put the customer at the center of every process, decision, and action. This isn’t easy for many to understand and grasp.

For some it takes time to sink in…for others it is like the math problem…you have to try many different ways to explain it so they hopefully get and understand it at some point. I know, it sounds easy…but take it from someone that talks about this 24/7, it isn’t easy. It can actually be incredibly frustrating because I see it so clearly so my goal is to try and put it into a package others can understand and grasp…my biggest challenge. But when they get it…the light goes on…not just any light but a big huge spotlight and it’s like they have seen into a new world…it’s one of my biggest highlights in what I do.

  1. They already THINK THEY ARE…there is nothing more dangerous to me in the business world that seeing someone think they get something (and act on it) when you know they clearly don’t. It’s either because of number 2 above (they don’t fully understand it) or they are just fooling themselves because they want to be but they aren’t willing to do number one (commit to change) above.

This is the most difficult leader for me to deal with…they actually think they are and they clearly aren’t. Rather than be open to seeing what it’s really like to be Customer Centric and Obsessed over them, they just say they are already. Even when I ask them why they believe they are, they don’t really say anything that is concrete or distinct. If they did, we could talk through it and show them the differences. Instead, they are usually “closed minded” to seeing what its really all about. This is dangerous…

For this group, I generally just move on. I have learned over many years this is a very difficult person to change…and it takes a ton of effort. I would rather invest the time into number 1 and 2 above and help them get to the point where they want to do something. This is much more rewarding because they truly want to be, they just need help getting there. The leader that thinks they get it is one that probably never will.

This is the group that says things like…

  • “We already treat our customers really well”
  • “We love our customers so I don’t really know what we would change”
  • “Our customers are very important to us”
  • “We have great products/services and also give great customer service”

These are “red flag” statements because they are denying there may be ways to really push the customer experience over the top and create incredible differentiation. They are limiting statements. With this group, my goal is to always get them to be in group number 1 or 2 above…because then I have a chance to show them what it’s like to be obsessed with their customers and how incredibly awesome it could be for them.

If you aren’t CUSTOMER CENTRIC or CUSTOMER OBSESSED, see what number you might fit into…and then decide if you are ready to completely change your company into something that all the major research and consulting firms are saying is the only way to survive in the future. If you are, CONGRATULATIONS…you are going to be among the elite…the few that dominate and lead their markets. You have taken the first step on the path to MOVE FROM GREAT TO REMARKABLE!!

Why isn’t EVERY Company Customer Centric or OBSESSED…3 Reasons

There are very few business leaders I talk with that don’t tell me they either think they are Customer Centric or that they want to try and be more Customer Centric. With all this interest in it from the outside, why aren’t more doing this today?

There are three primary reasons I see that keep companies from becoming more Customer Centric. And if you can’t become Customer Centric, you certainly can’t become CUSTOMER OBSESSED. Here are the three primary reasons I see today that cause most companies to stay where they are or go in a different direction…

  1. They have to CHANGE and can’t “Window Dress” it… Everyone loves the idea of being customer centric…or saying they want to be obsessing over their customers…until they realize THEY have to change. There’s that awful and scary word that most businesses dread…CHANGE. And this usually isn’t some minor change…this is changing every part of your company so they are ALWAYS putting the customer first in all their decisions and actions. This sounds easy…it’s not. And because it isn’t easy, most companies never get there…they abort part way through any effort or don’t even begin when the see how daunting it could be for their organization.

And because it looks daunting, they resort to something I feel is almost worse than doing nothing…they “window dress” with the intent of pretending to be but in reality they aren’t. You see it as a customer…the receptionist is really great and friendly but the rest of your experience is not. Or the person you are talking to on the phone is incredibly helpful and giving but when you walk into the business you see something entirely different. This isn’t being Customer Obsessed, this is trying to fake it and get away without the hard work of change.

Before any company begins the process of wanting to be Customer Obsessed and Customer Centric, they need to look long and deep into the effort and make an executive level commitment to seeing it through. It isn’t something you can “fake your way through” because unfortunately, the one group that will call you out is also the one group that pays the rent…the CUSTOMER. They see right through this and realize you really aren’t all about them.

The companies that do make this commitment and fight through the “Valley of Despair” in their journey to becoming Customer Obsessed and Customer Centric enjoy many rewards their competition will never see. They died in the “Valley” and never came out…they quit. They couldn’t fight through the process of CHANGE so they couldn’t reap the rewards. Make the commitment from the top level of the company and see it through…the rewards will amaze you when you reach the other side and where your customers see just how awesome you treat them…and they will reward you with LOYALTY and WORD-OF-MOUTH.

  1. They don’t UNDERSTAND what it means…have you ever had something that was truly amazing and you tried to describe it to someone else and they just “don’t get it?” This is exactly what this reason is all about. You can try to explain it in several different ways but in the end, you realize they still just don’t get it. Like when you are talking to your kids about math for example…you see it clearly and they just don’t get it. So you try a different way…same result.

Until you reach a point where they go, “Oh, now I see what you are talking about,” they will never become Customer Centric or strive to be Customer Obsessed. It isn’t because they don’t want to or aren’t willing to make the changes like the companies in number one above, they simply just don’t get it. Customer Centricity, believe it or not, falls into this category.

You are probably saying to yourself right now, “How can someone not get being “all about” their customers?” They can certainly get the words but what they can’t get is how you change your entire company to do everything with the customer in the center of the universe. They usually grew up in the Industrial Revolution and so they think in terms of “products and services” rather than the customer. They have products and services at the center of their universe and this is how the entire company has been built and how it runs today. Now you are asking them to erase that thinking and put the customer at the center of every process, decision, and action. This isn’t easy for many to understand and grasp.

For some it takes time to sink in…for others it is like the math problem…you have to try many different ways to explain it so they hopefully get and understand it at some point. I know, it sounds easy…but take it from someone that talks about this 24/7, it isn’t easy. It can actually be incredibly frustrating because I see it so clearly so my goal is to try and put it into a package others can understand and grasp…my biggest challenge. But when they get it…the light goes on…not just any light but a big huge spotlight and it’s like they have seen into a new world…it’s one of my biggest highlights in what I do.

  1. They already THINK THEY ARE…there is nothing more dangerous to me in the business world that seeing someone think they get something (and act on it) when you know they clearly don’t. It’s either because of number 2 above (they don’t fully understand it) or they are just fooling themselves because they want to be but they aren’t willing to do number one (commit to change) above.

This is the most difficult leader for me to deal with…they actually think they are and they clearly aren’t. Rather than be open to seeing what it’s really like to be Customer Centric and Obsessed over them, they just say they are already. Even when I ask them why they believe they are, they don’t really say anything that is concrete or distinct. If they did, we could talk through it and show them the differences. Instead, they are usually “closed minded” to seeing what its really all about. This is dangerous…

For this group, I generally just move on. I have learned over many years this is a very difficult person to change…and it takes a ton of effort. I would rather invest the time into number 1 and 2 above and help them get to the point where they want to do something. This is much more rewarding because they truly want to be, they just need help getting there. The leader that thinks they get it is one that probably never will.

This is the group that says things like…

  • “We already treat our customers really well”
  • “We love our customers so I don’t really know what we would change”
  • “Our customers are very important to us”
  • “We have great products/services and also give great customer service”

These are “red flag” statements because they are denying there may be ways to really push the customer experience over the top and create incredible differentiation. They are limiting statements. With this group, my goal is to always get them to be in group number 1 or 2 above…because then I have a chance to show them what it’s like to be obsessed with their customers and how incredibly awesome it could be for them.

If you aren’t CUSTOMER CENTRIC or CUSTOMER OBSESSED, see what number you might fit into…and then decide if you are ready to completely change your company into something that all the major research and consulting firms are saying is the only way to survive in the future. If you are, CONGRATULATIONS…you are going to be among the elite…the few that dominate and lead their markets. You have taken the first step on the path to MOVE FROM GREAT TO REMARKABLE!!

Which Side of the 20/5 Rule is Your Company On?

Happy customers because they received an awesome customer experience and are now advocatesRaising your blood pressure is not generally viewed as a good thing…but there is one area I know you will be happy to see it go up a bit…on a regular basis. It all depends on which side of the 20/5 rule you are sitting on…

The 20/5 Rule is simple to understand and everyone instinctively knows it to be true. It focuses on what people talk about…what they tell others about you. It focuses on “Awesome Customer Experiences” as opposed “Terrible Customer Experiences.” There is far more conversation generated on social media channels and in person of BAD EXPERIENCES than there are of WOW EXPERIENCES.

On average, when people are asked to share their experiences, we find they share 20 NEGATIVE experiences vs. 5 AWESOME experiences…the 20/5 rule. It is much easier for people to remember bad experiences they have had than it is to recall really incredible experiences.

Here is a simple test you can give your own leadership teams sometime in a meeting…it will be enlightening to prove my point. I have given this this test to many groups and here’s how it works and why I find interesting…

  • Give everyone two sheets of paper…with the numbers 1 through 20 listed down the left side
  • Ask them to take the first sheet and label it “Awful and Ugly Experiences”
  • Take the second sheet of paper and label it “Incredibly Awesome and Memorable Experiences”
  • Now ask them to start writing about their experiences on both sheets…without lots of detail but some highlights they remember about them
  • Give them 20 minutes total time…asking them to complete as much as they can on both sheets
  • Collect all the papers and total up the numbers in both columns for the group…the ratio will be very close to 20/5

When you discuss this with the group you find some very interesting comments…primarily focused around two primary areas…

  1. It was very easy to recall the awful experiences…they jumped to the front of their mind and were usually some of the most recent ones they have had
  2. They had to really think about the awesome experiences and usually say this was actually quite difficult to recall some that were really incredible and memorable

Let’s go back to the blood pressure discussion for a minute. After this exercise, I can guarantee you that when they were thinking about the negative experiences their blood pressure went up a bit…and not for a good reason. They were tense, stressed, and anxious as they recalled these painful experiences. If you are doing this in a room you can watch their faces grimace a bit and feel the tenseness in the room. But when they are writing about their positive experiences, their blood pressure went up a bit as well…for good reasons. They were happy…you could even see some smiles on their faces when they were writing about their awesome experiences. Both caused it to rise…but only one caused them to smile at the same time.

But the reason you get so few awesome experiences is because they don’t write down or remember their great experiences…it only happens when the experience is awesome, incredible, remarkable, and WOW! Most customers are almost comatose when they interact with businesses because it’s the same old thing over and over again with no reason to perk up and say WOW this is incredible! They might be great…but they aren’t incredible and they aren’t memorable.

The best companies change that…they get WOW from their customers. Today, if you get WOW consistently and deeply you create ADVOCATES… The Holy Grail in today’s commoditized world. Because now these advocates can spread massive WORD OF MOUTH about how awesome you are to thousands thanks to the power of social media. No longer do you need a massive amount of marketing…you just need more ADVOCATES/CUSTOMERS singing your praises and doing it for you!!

Here’s the “64 thousand dollar question”… HOW MUCH WOULD YOUR BUSINESS CHANGE IF YOU WERE ONE OF THESE ELITE 5 COMPANIES THAT GOT A “WOW” FROM YOUR CUSTOMERS…GOT TALKED ABOUT…AND CREATED MORE ADVOCATES?

This is a game changer…stop worrying about tweaking all your efficiency plans. Build a strategy to be one of the top 5 companies your customer can’t wait to tell others about. Let your competition worry about these and they will be in the 20 companies that either deliver bad experiences or they might deliver great experiences but they still don’t get talked about.

If you are in the TOP 5 you have established a solid BRAND and true DIFFERENTIATION. Now you have not only raised your customer’s blood pressure a bit but you have probably raised you’re own as well…in a positive way and for the right reasons! What side of the 20/5 Rule are you on today? Give the test to your leadership team and then create a strategy to be one of the 5 that get their customers to do their marketing for them…CREATE MORE ADVOCATES!

There’s NOTHING you can’t get…EXCEPT ME

Information is free today but your insights and perspectives are what make it valuable to the customer experience
Information is free today but your insights and perspectives are what make it valuable to the customer experience

Information is FREE…it’s available everywhere…there is a massive amount of it on every topic in the world available at your fingertips. So why do you need me…or why do I need you?

Much of the business world today still doesn’t really believe the above statements…even though they say they do…they don’t. If they truly believed it, why would they continue to produce more of it? Eric Schmidt of Google did a study several years ago where he showed the amount of information we now produced in 48 hours is equal to all the information produced (written, video, etc.) from the beginning time up to the year 2003…every 48 hours this amount of information is created!! With this amount of “content” flooding the markets, why do companies (and individuals) still think we need to produce more than this incredible amount of information we already have? We don’t…but there is something we need more of…YOU!

In reality, we do need new information created because there are new technologies and new innovations coming out every day…this is not the information I am talking about. I am talking about the “re-packaging” of existing information and publishing it again, and again, and again. Do we really need to see more information about the same products and services…they haven’t changed, only the marketers have dressed up the information to make it look like it is new information…it’s not. The product is the product as the service is the service. We get it…and we don’t need it repeated 50 times.

But what we do need more of is YOU…your INSIGHTS…your PERSPECTIVE…your PERSONALITY…your EXPERIENCE with the products and services that will help us make better use of these and help all of us SAVE MORE TIME. This is what we need more of…but for some reason it is hard to get…it’s just easier for marketing to “spin the information” in different ways and tell us it’s different.

I am an active blogger…averaging 5 days per week…plus posting on places like LinkedIn, Medium, and other sources…including writing articles and of course giving lots of speeches. With that volume of content going out, do you think for a minute I could take basic information and spin it 30 different ways every month…365 days of the year? Not a chance…everyone would not only stop reading but they would disconnect from everything I ever published if I trashed them this frequently with the same information over and over and over again. This is NOT what your audience wants from you…

What they get from me are my INSIGHTS…my PERSPECTIVES…my EXPERIENCES…my VIEWPOINTS on the information. It’s what they constantly tell me they APPRECIATE hearing…different ways to look at something that they can identify and connect with.

THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE…ARE YOU WILLING TO SHARE IT?

When I help build a “content and communication strategy” for a CEO, it is never about how can we get more information to dump on their trusted audience. If we did, they would all call up the CEO and ask them what the heck they were wasting their time with all this information. But when we take this information and the CEO puts their experiences and insights behind it…IT BECOMES INCREDIBLY VALUABLE. Now everyone wants to read it and learn from it and use it…this is the gold.

And this works the same way for your company as well as the CEO…your company is full of amazing insights and perspectives on a plethora of information available in the market today. You have more information than your audience could ever absorb. You have built your company on this kind of information and you know it better than anyone…but how do we know that? How do we know how incredibly bright and awesome you and your people are unless you share it with us? If you don’t, you’re just another commodity with the same information all your competitors have as well.

WE DON’T NEED MORE INFORMATION…WE NEED MORE INSIGHTS THAT CAN HELP US BE BETTER AT WHAT WE DO AND IMPROVE OUR LIVES!

This is something not everyone can get or has…only you! This is why we don’t need more of the same information spun around 50 different ways…WE NEED YOU! You are the “secret sauce” that gives us value and helps change the way we do business or how we can improve our lives. YOU are the one that can bridge the gap between the mass of information. YOU are the one that can help us get on a straight path instead of wandering around trying to figure it out.

YOU ARE THE ONE THAT CAN SAVE ME TIME AND GIVE ME SOME TIME BACK TO DO WHAT I DO BEST!!

Are YOU up for the challenge? Your customers and potential customers are begging companies for this every day…but they keep spinning the same old marketing hype in 50 different ways and shoving it out to them and calling it good. But for those that see how powerful this is…you will stand apart…stand above all the noise being put out from your competitors. This is your OPPORTUNITY at DIFFERENTIATION. This is your chance to show your CUSTOMERS how much you OBSESS over them. Are you up for the challenge? The market is wide open for you if you are…because most others won’t ever take the chance and capture the opportunity. Will you???