Setting up a mechanism for consistent feedback from your customers is a critical element of sustainable success.
It’s definitely the time of year to be reflective and contemplate what you could have done differently, should be doing better, and would like to be doing hereafter. In the spirit of such soul-searching times, I thought I would relate a recent experience I had with a prospective client whose success relies on repeat and referral business.
During the course of our conversation about how to increase sales, I suggested that Bob (not his real name) could build his business by implementing a follow-up survey of no more than 5 questions delivered electronically to customers shortly after their experience in his shop. Bob thought that would be a huge imposition to his customers. I suggested he ask his customers at the point of sale if they would be willing to participate, assuring them that the survey was very short. Again, he rebuffed my suggestion, believing his customers would never go for it.
Finally, I asked Bob if he felt it was an imposition whenever he was asked for feedback as a customer. He thought about this and said, “If I don’t care about the company, then yeah, I guess, I don’t really want to be bothered filling out a survey.” “So,” I said, “is this how you think your customers feel about you and your business?” I knew the wheels were turning then, and why Bob was so resistant to the idea of asking customers for feedback wasn’t about his customers’ feelings, but his own fear. And, I think he realized it, too.
What if the worst thing happened and none of his customers was willing to participate? Or, what if he got negative comments back? Either way, his customers would be telling him something he really needs to know, and that’s the key—knowledge. If you don’t know what’s preventing your customers from doing more business with you, how can you overcome it? Like any one will tell you, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one and this is no different in business.
Setting up a mechanism for consistent feedback from your customers is a critical element of sustainable success. The trick is in asking the right questions in the right way via the best system for your customers and your business.
For more information or to determine the feedback mechanisms and processes that are right for you and your customers, contact me today.
Is Pinterest worth your time and attention? The short answer—it depends.
A client recently asked me about Pinterest; someone had suggested she should use it to build her business and she didn't know anything about it. Now, if you're in technology, consulting, marketing or something related, you may be shocked she'd never heard of the latest online success story. But, if like me, you're used to dealing with small business owners, or professionals who exist almost entirely outside of these fields or who don't have a lot of free time to surf the web, then hopefully this won't surprise you in the least.
As for my client, she's got her hands full servicing her own clients and managing her existing business development and marketing avenues. So I don't blame her one bit for not keeping current with the latest "greatest" whiz-bang online I'm-not-sure-what-it's-for-but-everybody-should-be-using-it tool in the hopes that maybe it'll pull eyeballs to her website or blog or Facebook page or motivate enough of the right kinds of people to engage with her in some form of social media so that, fingers crossed, at some point, when they trust her, they'll feel safe enough to want to meet her in person and then, perhaps, buy something from her.
Hey, I barely had the patience to write that paragraph, so, no, I don't blame my client at all—it's why I skipped Pinterest myself, and a whole host of other "fad" media channels, when it first began to register all those many months ago. But, my client's business is lifestyle-related and one that could actually benefit from putting her design aesthetic, personal style and personality on display in a social media forum; so Pinterest is a good option for her.
Because of my client's interest I set up an account so that I could understand how Pinterest works and evaluate how well it suits different types of business needs.
I started by selecting a pre-set category--Books Worth Reading—for which I figured it would be fairly easy for me to add a few pins. It wasn't hard to accumulate a handful of covers of books from my favorite poets and all time favorite novels I'd read and would recommend to just about anyone. Okay, but that's an easy category for someone with an MFA in Writing. And truth be told, I'd already spent more time on Pinterest than I'd planned and only had one board with a handful of pins—this is something I like to call "the rabbit hole effect," which you may know better as "the time suck" of many social sites.
The next thing I did was create my own category, one related to my business, which I called Customer Experience. Here I must confess I ran into what I consider a bigger dark side of Pinterest from a business perspective. I entered a series of search terms, including "customer experience," "customer strategy," and "customer education." What I felt in response to what appeared on my laptop screen each time, well, I'm not sure there's a word for it—or, more precisely, one word for it. I was left glassy-eyed, dizzy and with a kind of gnawing sense of despair. One thing was for sure; I wasn't going to put any of those search terms into Pinterest again. Now, of course, I can add wonderful visuals that I find online to my board to represent any and all of those terms and to augment the dearth that exists currently on Pinterest, but I don't usually find a lot of those, which is probably why there aren't any (or many) on Pinterest either.
And there’s the rub. The stuff that I would love to find on Pinterest isn’t there, like great visuals expressing or explaining the customer experience, which I know exist because I’ve seen them.
So, is Pinterest worth your time and attention? The short answer—it depends. If, like my client, your business or career is highly dependent on your sense of style or design, or it's easy to transmit your message through pictures, then, yes, check it out and start showcasing who you are. If, like me, it's kind of tough to represent your value in visuals, then you may want to pass it by in favor of more useful communication tools.
If you're using Pinterest as a business development tool and experiencing success, I'd love to hear about it—feel free to contact me.
Carol is a consummate customer service professional and she delivers the best customer experience I have ever received from just about any company when I have been at the point of giving up all hope.
So I had a very unique experience last month. Way back in January I discovered that I could earn additional cash back points for automatically paying my Sprint cell phone bill with my Discover card. Setting up my automatic bill pay, I thought was relatively easy. Sprint sent me an email explaining that bill pay would take a month to kick-in, so it wouldn't be until February that I would have the convenience of the service.
Well, sure enough when I got my February e-bill from Sprint they informed me that my automatic payment would take place the day before my bill was due. Now, I happen to be one of those people who pay all of their bills on time, and I regularly check my bank account to make sure things are set to be paid. In this case I trusted Sprint had it all under control. However, a few days before my bill's due date I received a bill reminder email from Sprint, and this one didn't mention the fact that automatic bill pay was set up to pay my bill the day before it was due. So, the trust I had in Sprint began to fade.
At the end of the day when the first automatic bill payment was to be made I monitored my online Sprint bill to see if my payment status would change. I also monitored my Discover card transactions to see if my Sprint payment would post. Nothing. The next day, the day my Sprint bill was due, I did the same thing. Again nothing. A few minutes before midnight I made a manual payment using my Discover card to avoid any late fees (according to the language on my bill), which overrode my automatic payment setup.
When I received my March Sprint bill I once again set up automatic bill pay using my Discover card, thinking that perhaps I’d done something wrong back in January. Once again I waited one month for the service to kick in, received my first bill with auto payment the day before the due date, and went through the whole ridiculous process just like before only to wind up paying manually to avoid those late fees.
In May I decide to call Discover’s customer service and see if they can help me successfully sign up for the service. While it does take transferring me twice, each time after confirming my personal and card information and then explaining my situation, which makes three times in total, I am at least directed to the appropriate person. She explains that the automatic payment process is initiated through Sprint and not Discover, so it’s not something that Discover can fix for me.
Now, I'm exasperated, frustrated, and pretty darn angry, but this woman, we’ll call her Carol, is a consummate customer service professional and she delivers the best customer experience I have ever received from just about any company when I have been at the point of giving up all hope. Here’s what she does:
Now, on the other end of the experience there is Sprint, where the initial agent that Carol speaks with hangs up on her—not on purpose, but still. The agent that we eventually deal with, let’s call him Fred, is an okay guy, but he is no Carol. He's knowledgeable and does impart two very interesting pieces of information, namely:
I am a customer who has gone to considerable lengths to sign up for a service that guarantees his employer on-time monthly payment of my bills. As an agent of this company, I would expect Fred to be more motivated to both help me and make up for the inconvenience I have suffered through no fault of my own by offering to assist me in reactivating my automatic bill pay or forwarding my feedback and experience with this service to the appropriate areas of the company. Fred does neither. Now, I understand that he may not be able to reactivate my automatic bill pay, but he can collect my feedback and he can also offer to compensate me for my troubles in some way. Even more importantly, throughout our time together, I expect Fred to treat me with respect, which I think is the very least he can do.
So, I guess I’m disappointed Fred isn’t smart enough to understand all this and take appropriate action. Because, let’s face it, even if Fred himself couldn’t care less about my Sprint automatic payment experience or me, his job should be to make me think there isn’t anything more important to him in the world, at least while we're on the phone together. After all, that's exactly what happened with Carol, and in the process she earned my undying personal gratitude and boatloads of corporate loyalty for her employer, Discover—and, that’s the point of delivering great customer service, even when, or rather, especially when you can’t solve your customers’ problems.
Is your customer experience in line with your communications strategy? Are you building loyalty with every interaction? If you’re not sure, let's discuss how I can help you find out.