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The Emerging Strategy of Innovative Service

The world of the customer has dramatically changed. The tough economy has made customers more value conscious, demonstrating far more caution in how they spend their hard-earned dollar. The proliferation of self-service (while a blessing when it works) has made customers more frustrated when they feel trapped in a process with no live person to help. And the Internet, with its social media reach, has empowered customers with strong influence over other customers and the reputation of companies.

Such a plethora of challenges has required all organizations to rethink their strategy. Since revenue from customers and the power of their advocacy dramatically impacts organizational growth and profits, assuming “we know what’s best for our customers” is akin to a death knell.

But, the largest challenge today is not the changing expectations of the new, normal picky, fickle, vocal and wired customer. It is their requirement for an experience that heightens their emotional connection and ramps up their affinity. Customers are bored and want their hearts to race and their spirits to soar. And, here is the backstory.


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About the Author

Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several national best-selling books. His last three books include The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service, Managers as Mentors (with Marshall Goldsmith) and Wired and Dangerous (with John Patterson). He can be reached at www.chipbell.com

Jeffrey Gitomer

What’s your proactive marketing approach to loyalty?

Dear Jeffrey, I am a huge fan. I recently had a WOW experience that completely coincides with your philosophy on customer loyalty versus satisfaction. Today, I received the following email from Amazon:

Hello, We noticed that you experienced poor video playback while watching the following rental on Amazon Video On Demand: The Hunger Games. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and have issued you a refund for the following amount: $3.99. While Amazon Video On Demand transactions are typically not refundable, we are happy to make an exception in this case. This refund should be processed within the next 2 to 3 business days and will appear on your next billing statement for the same credit card used to purchase this item.

This is amazing to me for a few reasons. Yes, I did notice that my movie was buffering more than usual and, yes, it was annoying. However, it was nothing more than a minor frustration. I didn’t complain. I didn’t complete a survey or give any feedback about this experience. Truthfully, until I received this email, I hadn’t given it a second thought.

When I got this email, it stopped me in my tracks. THEY NOTICED. They noticed that this particular experience was below their normal standards. But what’s more important, THEY NOTICED WITHOUT ME TELLING THEM.

Good companies would refund my money if I complained. Of course they would, that is expected. I never have had a company refund my money without being prompted. Never. And this, this was a surprise.

Would I have used them again even if they did not refund my money? Yes, often. So what’s the difference? I wouldn’t have REFERRED them. I received this email today at 2:18pm. Since then, I have told all my coworkers I came in contact with, posted this on my Facebook wall, and now am writing you.

Amazon lost four dollars today, but they gained a customer for life! It was so impressive, I had to share. Make it a great day, Candace

Brilliant, eh? Proactive, memorable service.

Amazon is monitoring the quality of their streaming bandwidth and can identify quality issues. Then, they DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. No waste of time and money “survey,” no phony empty apology, just a good, old fashioned admission of guilt, and a proactive refund for poor performance.

My bet is Amazon has given thousands of these, and the same customer response has happened with every one of them. What a strategy! Let’s make sure the customer experience was great, or let’s give them a refund.

Simple. Powerful. Profitable. Give up $4.00 to earn thousands. I wonder who thought that one up? Certainly not their advertising agency.

Look at the elements of business and sales as a result of Amazon’s action, and customer reaction: a huge wow, several social postings, more social proof, an amazing testimonial, customer loyalty, and pass along value that cannot be measured on any ROI scale. Amazon’s actions breed return on proactive, memorable service – the WOW factor, social response, and customer word of mouth. It’s WAY beyond ‘priceless’ – in the long term, it’s worth a fortune.

HERE’S YOUR LESSON: You can invest in some marketing program to reach new people – or you can invest in giving your existing customers the best service possible, and let THEM find new people for you.

PREDICTION: I’ll bet the investment in existing customer experience is one-tenth the cost of any marketing program. In fact, I doubt this type of outreach is even on a marketing team’s mindset. They’re still in the Stone Age measuring ‘ROI.’

Amazon has lead the Internet all the way with vision and tenacity. Quality and value. Ease of doing business, buy with one click. Suggestive buying and published reviews. Not just price, delivery.

And now add to that list: proactive WOW interaction. They dominate because they differentiate. They dominate because they innovate. They don’t study the market – they create it (like Apple). Most marketing studies are a CYA act of companies afraid to make mistakes, let alone be bold.

Take this lesson to heart – and take it to your customers. If you come up with something creatively compelling, you can also take it to the bank!

Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer.


About the Author

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website, www.gitomer.com, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at [email protected].

Micah Solomon

Seven Secrets of Driving Customer Loyalty – and Profits

In these rough and recessionary times, it’s important to escape the commodity pricing wars and to find ways to strengthen the marketing backbone of your company. The most reliable and affordable way to achieve both these goals is by building a strong personal bond with your customers. Loyal customers see you as more valuable than a mere commodity purveyor, and can serve you as a powerful marketing arm, going out of their way promote and defend your company online and off – for free. Here are seven ways to get process started of building customer loyalty.

  1. Did you shine that doorknob? Research shows that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly – and for much longer – than all the rest of it. Make sure that the first and final elements of your customer interactions are particularly well engineered, because they are going to stick in the customer’s memory.

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    About the Author

    Micah SolomonMicah Solomon is the co-author with Leonardo Inghilleri of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization (AMACOM Books) and President of Oasis Disc Manufacturing. His free online resource site for customer service advice is CollegeOfTheCustomer.com.

StrategyDriven Podcast Special Edition 21d – An Interview with Duane Sparks, author of Masters of Loyalty

StrategyDriven Podcasts focus on the tools and techniques executives and managers can use to improve their organization’s alignment and accountability to ultimately achieve superior results. These podcasts elaborate on the best practice and warning flag articles on the StrategyDriven website.

Special Edition 21d – An Interview with Duane Sparks, author of Masters of Loyalty explores how professional salespeople can move customers beyond being merely satisfied to true loyalty such that they have stopped shopping and are highly resistant to competitors’ appeals. During our discussion, Duane Sparks, author of Masters of Loyalty: How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force. and Chairman and Founder of The Sales Board, shares with us his insights and illustrative examples regarding:

  • what true customer loyalty is
  • why customer loyalty programs do not make customers loyal
  • the benefits of attaining real customer loyalty
  • how to earn customer loyalty using the Action Selling process

Additional Information

In addition to the invaluable selling skills insight Duane shares in Masters of Loyalty and this special edition podcast, please visit his company’s Sales Training or Sales Management site. To discover why this selling skill is so effective at maximizing sales productivity, purchase Duane’s book: Masters of Loyalty.

Complimenting Masters of Loyalty, are Duane’s four other books on the consultative sales process including:


Read a Summary of the above Sales Books.

Final Request…

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Thank you again for listening to the StrategyDriven Podcast!


About the Author

Duane Sparks, author of Masters of Loyalty, is Chairman and Founder of The Sales Board, a Minneapolis-based strategic sales training company that has trained and certified more than 350,000 salespeople in more than 3,000 groups in the system and skills of Action Selling. He has written five sales books, personally facilitated more than 300 Action Selling training sessions and continues to engage in the business and art of the strategic sales process. Read Duane’s full biography and the history of Action Selling Sales Management Training.