Monday, November 27, 2006

Making “Over Promise and Over Deliver” part of your Brand Strategy

I am a big fan of the book Over Promise AND Over Deliver by Rick Barrera. I had a great meeting with him earlier this year in Baltimore. If you are at all interested in understanding the “secrets of unshakable” customer loyalty, buy the book and read it at least twice.

Rick’s main point is that your promise is what matters to the customer. He demonstrates that this becomes your brand promise in the mind of the potential customer as they evaluate your business offer. Knowing that this directly affects how the customer views your product and service as your brand is exactly the same message we get from Ben Mack and the concept of brand essence.

One way to over deliver is to provide excellent after the sale support. One mistake many businesses make is that they believe their job is done after that first sale. Such a fallacy can not be tolerated if you are to master long term customer loyalty.

A quick email or phone call to check that everything is OK with a purchase is really appreciated by customers. It reinforces the positive feelings about your business and, by checking in with your customers, you can find out how they are using your product. Asking them what they like and dislike about it allows you to refine your product and marketing. This can also surface any problems before they become complaints.

Remember to say thank you to your customers. By sending them a letter or email thanking them for their business and telling them that you value them as customers they will know that you are serious about them and that you care about their use of your product or service. Showing that you care will stand out in their mind. It's worth spending a little extra to make sure your customers come back and tell their friends.

Make it personal by knowing and using their name. Think about how you feel when someone greets you by name and remembers you from a previous visit. My wife and I just had this experience at a deli counter and it reinforces why we shop there and not at another deli. Personalizing communications with customers is a proven marketing and customer service strategy.

In his book Rick writes about the experience of Lexus as a brand that over promised and over delivered. When they make a note of when your next car service is due and sends you a letter or calls you with a reminder that is a simple way to reinforce their brand promise. Personalization is one of the oldest customer service strategies and it works for every business.

Two things that define bad customer service are, not listening to your customers and; not acting on their complaints or concerns. Want a fast way to destroy your reputation? Try ignoring customers when they complain or raise a concern, and then not do anything to remedy the situation.

Most customers are reasonable and they know that things can sometimes go wrong. By letting them acknowledge that you've made a mistake and for you let them know that you'll do your best to keep it from happening again will help keep you in their mind as a company that listens and takes action from customer feedback.

Here are four things that every great customer service strategy should include:

  1. Make it easy for someone to contact you with a concern
  2. Be quick to acknowledge and apologize for any mistake
  3. Tell customers what you have done to fix the situation this time and what you have done to make sure it won't happen again
  4. Have a policy in place to offer a refund or other compensation

These four elements are critical in your own efforts to over promise and over deliver. Rick sums it up for the three TouchPoints that he says every great company has mastered. The two of the three are Product TouchPoints and System TouchPoints and the four things above are all part of the System TouchPoints that make upyour customer service application and process.

What about that last TouchPoint? Can you guess what it is? Are you using it effectively? Let me know.

All the best for your success,

Irwin Glenn

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Know More to Earn More

I am always glad to find other people that share my passion for great customer loyalty. Since I know that it is one of the key factors of success for any company, the topic makes for good conversation when I attend or present at workshops and seminars. Over the last month I have been to a couple of workshops that focused on growing your business and using a clear focus on thinking from the customer’s point of view.

One of the workshops was Ben Mack’s “Think Two Sales Ahead.” Ben is a great researcher on the topic of growing your business by mastering the art and science of thinking two or more products and engagements into the future when you first approach a prospective new customer and even your existing clients. His background in brand management and defining the exact brand essence a company uses as their focal point for all communications is the equivalent of getting laser eye surgery to improve your near (short) sighted objectives. I encourage you to pre-order a copy of his forth coming book from Wiley titled, “Think Two Products Ahead.”

At this workshop I met Dave Navarro (not the rock star, the consultant see Dave Navarro ) who specializes in working with entrepreneurs in uncovering their strengths and managing their time efficiently. Dave shares a similar philosophy of understanding that people are tuned to WII-FM, what’s-in-it-for-me and he writes a blog on this approach ( Navarro WII-FM ) that I know you will enjoy. Dave asks his clients to spend 5 to 15 minutes per day writing down their exact strengths. This exercise is extremely valuable in getting to know yourself and to operate from what you do naturally well.

I encourage everyone to capture this list of strengths and to know your natural roles as a method of finding passion and purpose in what you do. For a company this is important to know that the people you have engaging with your prospects, customers and clients, should know your core brand essence and be able to deliver your message while listening from the prospect and client’s point of view. This level of matching and dialogue is not taught in many communication classes or in sales training, with few exceptions.

As I have said before, “every person wants to feel like you only care about them and their success.” Knowing that your people, communications and messaging understand this point will build the foundation for great customer interactions and when followed through with finely executed customer processes, will lead to long term customer loyalty. Clients that experience success with your products and services will come back for more if you continue the conversation and appreciate their current and past business dealings with you.

Great customer loyalty is all about continuing the relationship with communication and rewards. A reward is something that your client values. What do they value? Ask them, really ask them and listen intently. Your client will tell you if you ask them in a context of relationship and long term loyalty that you give them.

If you stop listening, or make it difficult to talk to you, the relationship will sour faster than milk left out on a hot day. One way to know you are listening is to note what they tell you. Keep a record and refer back to it often.

By knowing more about your clients you will earn their respect and confidence. “Know more to earn more” is a maxim that will both build relationship and increase your profits.

Here’s to the combined success for you and your clients!

All the best,

Irwin Glenn

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What makes great customer loyalty?

Great customer loyalty is a passion of mine. It’s one of the secrets to success for any size company. While many people focus attention on getting new customers, a good thing, they often miss the fact that their highest profits come from their current customers, if and only if, they know how to maintain an ongoing conversation with the individual customer.

On a recent conference call a very successful marketing person summed it up this way: “You have a flow of people coming into your sales process and they move from one stage to the next, starting as a suspect becoming a prospect until they buy and become a customer. The real secret in generating profits is to continue selling to that new customer as soon as they complete the first purchase. If they continue to buy and I continue to interact with them by following up, we develop a trust relationship and they are now my client. As my client, I know that I have their trust, I will not violate that trust and, I know I can trust the client to buy my products at higher margins since they no longer think about who they should buy from. I take this to another level when I can present the client with an opportunity to become part of my success by making them a partner with rewards as they recommend my product to others.”

That flow and the increase of value at every stage is what makes a great company. Take the time to add extra details in educating and compensating the loyal customer. As every business should know, trust must be established to make a second sale. The first sale can be a fluke, but getting a second sale establishes your customer’s pattern of buying.

Taking this one step further and looking from the client’s view, every person wants to feel like you only care about them and their success. The interesting part of this is that you as the merchant also care about their success but only as it impacts your success. This is known as a symbiotic relationship. This happens when two living beings need each other for some part of their survival. No business survives without customers. The way to get and keep customers is by establishing a trust relationship that you must continue to nourish for a much longer time than completing one sale.

Great customer loyalty is only attained when you can continue the relationship with communication and rewards as you develop and present more products and services that your client tells you they need. Your client will tell you, because they understand the relationship that you supply them with what they need and they count on you to deliver that in a timely manner.

Where great customer loyalty is hindered and sometimes destroyed is when you, the merchant and supplier of the needs, either stop listening, make it difficult to talk to you, or start treating the client as a part of your business rather than the reason your business exists.

Your assignment is to take a tour of your sales process and look at it from the point of view of a first time buyer. Answer these question your self and post them here:

What does that look like at each step?

Are you getting to know that person as a future client and partner or are you just taking the order?

Are you asking for a second order?

If yes, when?

What is the experience like for them?

Here’s to the combined success for you and your customer!

All the best,

Irwin Glenn