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Turning Customer Dread into Delight
by Becky Clark, Marketing Manager
I'm not one to easily impress, but I was recently blown away with my experience purchasing tires. Exciting purchase, right? Buying new tires is always met with a sense of dread and necessity. No cutting corners on those four tires carrying you and your loved ones everywhere.
My preference has been to let my husband - and my Dad before that - handle any kind of car maintenance. In my house, that's how it usually works. However, on occasion, I end up handling car maintenance and it does not always go well. I'm sure everyone has their stories of bad experiences with bait and switch, pricing, service, etc.
My husband, Heath bought new tires for his car last year and raved about his experience while I just rolled my eyes and told him he simply had a super attentive employee. My car needed new tires so he got me an appointment online at Discount Tire. "All you have to do is show up with the car," he said. I arrived with my two kids in tow, one of which is in a stroller. As I approached the door, one of the employees ran over and opened the door for me. Good start. The inside of the store was super bright, open and clean with several windows so you can watch them work on your car. That alone gave me a feeling of trust and honesty. It told me that there are no secrets here; feel free to watch us work. And we won't take your iPod or other valuables you happen to leave in the car. All the employees were very polite and professional. No creepy car dudes (ladies, you know what I mean!)
I had a rebate on Michelin tires that was specific to another tire store and asked if they would honor it. I was told they do price matching and do whatever it takes to earn the business, so instead of doing a rebate, he took the $70 off the total price of my tires. I'm warming up. The employee then tells me it will be about an hour. As I'm leaving the store, I see an employee running, yes, running to my car. Heath told me they run everywhere. (Love that!)
I arrive back a few minutes early, just as they were finishing up my car. They pulled it around, opened the car doors for me and the kids, reviewed the work that was done, and helped me get the stroller in the trunk. I left an extremely happy customer.
It doesn't end there. Heath had his tires rotated and balanced this week. He made an appointment at 8:00 and arrived ten minutes early, so he planned on sitting in his car until eight. He maybe sat there one minute before an employee came out and knocked on his window and told him to come on in. Within 15 minutes, he was on his way to work. I love how they can take a dreaded experience and make it painless and happy.
I'm a very observant person, so I might notice more than the average customer. It's the little gestures that make an impression on me. In the case of Discount Tire, I have to say, hands down, they take the gold medal in overall customer experience for me...ever. The mixture of outstanding customer service, politeness, efficiency, and retail atmosphere are second to none. And nothing they do is rocket science! Simple actions that retailers can take to truly please the customer and make it a memorable experience equates to loyal, lifetime customers. It's retailers like Discount Tire that give me hope that genuine customer services still exists.
To Listen or not to Listen...that is the Question
by Becky Clark, Marketing Manager
I don’t know about you, but I find this whole Netflix situation absolutely unbelievable. Let’s file this case study away as “what not to do”. 1) A 60% price increase and change in the structure of their service – with no warning to the customers. 2) What was once the DVD mail and streaming together is now DVD mail AND/OR streaming – oh, and 3) we’re changing the DVD mail service to Qwikster and it will be on a separate account with different login, billing, etc. 800,000 customers leave and countless customers stay on board ready to abandon ship at the smallest mishap.
Mr. Hastings said in an interview last week that he had been guilty of overconfidence and of “moving too quickly,” and I quote:
“Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly” – Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO
How about companies who don’t effectively listen to their customers? How do they fare, Mr. Hastings?
While moving quickly and strategically is often heralded, Netflix underestimated the unquantifiable emotions of subscribers who still want those little red envelopes in their mailbox and are opposed to change. Moving from old media to new is exciting, but while it certainly isn’t high tech, Netflix built their business model on efficiently mailing out those red envelopes. The thoughts and emotions of your customer base cannot be discounted.
I wonder what would happen if Netflix had asked their customers how they felt about the changes and had them brainstorm potential business ideas. Mr. Hastings said he was not sure whether the plan to split the company had been presented to customer focus groups before it was made public, but he assumed it had been. However, he could not recall what those focus groups had said about the plan. I’m guessing there were no customer focus groups involved. Because if there had been, I don’t believe Netflix would be in this conundrum. It is always a wise move to take the pulse of customers before major business changes are implemented, especially if it involves price increases, name changes and account splitting. You can never go wrong with taking the time to ask your customers what they think or how they feel.
Customer Service Still Alive and Well, Finding it is the Hard Part
by Becky Clark, Marketing Manager
I love to share stories about my experience as a customer, whether good or bad. It’s always insightful to see a company’s reaction when thing go awry or when faced with an unsatisfied customer – the company’s true colors truly shine. This particular experience is good.
Recently, I’ve started incorporating more natural products in my life, whether it’s organic food, cleaning products or health and beauty products. We all know that attempts to be healthier are more expensive, so I always try to do my homework and choose the most value and highest quality for my money. I was in search of a body lotion that was natural and free of certain chemicals I did not want on my body. My first reaction was that I would never find one that I liked. I tried a few and they either felt weird or smelled strange, really strange. I stumbled upon a brand that not only carried lotions that had a bit of scent, but they had hair care products and even baby products! My fingers were crossed as I tried one of their products and sure enough, I loved it, just as others had expressed in their customer reviews. So being the bargain hunter that I am, I found the best price on line, and I stocked up.
As I started running out of certain items, I looked to re-order. That’s when I learned the company underwent a packaging change which included the logo, label, bottle, everything. The new stuff looked great. So I ordered more, and as I was using my lotion, I noticed that I was running low awfully quick, plus it’s summer. Who uses more lotion in the summer than in the winter? Not me. Upon further examination, I noticed that the bottle went from 12 ounces to 8 ounces, and the shampoo and conditioner went from 16 ounces to 12 ounces. WOW, that’s a big change, and the price remained the same. Nice “rebranding”!
I got on the company’s website and sent them an email nicely explaining my disappointment and desire for them to lower their price to reflect the decrease in quantity. I never thought I’d hear back from them; much less hear from them in two days. I received a four paragraph email from their Consumer Affairs and Product Specialist, explaining everything I needed to know and more. She started out by saying that customers are their top priority and that they take every compliment and concern seriously. WOW – how refreshing is that to hear? In a world of declining customer service, you just don’t hear that very often. According to Harris Interactive’s Customer Experience Impact Report, 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% four years ago. I have to say, I was about to start shopping around but thought I would voice my concern and see what happened. Companies make it so easy to voice a concern, the question is, does the concern go into a black hole, never to be read or listened to again? It’s nice to know that some companies still care and will take the time to respond to a customer complaint. After all, the White House Office of Consumer Affairs says that happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about four to six people about their experience…kinda like me.
Congratulations to B&H Publishing!
It’s always nice to see people win awards. It’s even nicer to see someone you know win an award. And what’s even nicer than that is to see one of your clients win an award for something you helped them create!
I am referring to our client, B&H Publishing. Their Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Study Bible was named the 2011 Christian Book Awards winner in the Bible category by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
The neat thing about the HCSB Study Bible is that is was designed by readers – for readers. That’s the beauty of research. Product development is such an expensive undertaking. Will the product ultimately sell? Will the product meet the needs and wants of the consumer? And will they find value in the product? Or is the product “Close, but no cigar?”
Research can help answer all these questions and more. B&H wanted to listen to the voice of the customer throughout the product development cycle in order to develop a new “must have” Study Bible. They went through a year-long, multi-phase research process, blending an online survey approach with in-person focus groups throughout the country.
Each step enabled the publisher to make confident decisions regarding design layout, important features, key messages, buying interests, feelings on product endorsements, names for the Bible, positioning possibilities, message testing, and front cover design. Taking all the feedback into account, the HCSB Study Bible was developed based on the wants and needs of the contemporary consumer – ultimately differentiating the Bible from its competitors.
So a big congrats to B&H for their award winning HCSB Study Bible!
Best of Both Worlds
By Becky Clark, Marketing Manager
This past week, we’ve had some unusually severe weather in middle Tennessee for this time of year. I usually enjoy listening to the rain, but the other night when it was thundering and almost time for my 3 year old to take a bath, I turned on the laptop and checked the weather. There was a pretty nasty line of thunderstorms with rotation nearby, and so I turned on the TV to one of our local channels.
Let the weather drama begin! I am always amazed at the level of meteorological excitement during severe weather. Actually, it was really bad.
Oh, I forgot to mention that it was Sunday night and NFL football was on this particular channel.
On most channels, when severe weather is a threat - especially the possibility of tornadoes - the meteorologist will cut in and override the scheduled program. Not in this case! This channel had split-screened the Sunday night football game and the weather coverage. Brilliant! This viewing arrangement was apparently new, because the meteorologist kept talking about how she understood that football was a vital part of Sunday night and they didn’t want to interrupt this tradition, but some important news about the weather should also get relayed to the audience. And one more programming note: if the weather went full screen, the viewers were only missing the commercials, none of the football game. No need to worry.
The meteorologist did seem a little disgusted with the split screen situation, as she clearly thought the severe weather trumped football. It was rather humorous, but the more I thought about it, it was quite accommodating and considerate to all viewers. This news channel went out of their way to please both the football fans and those concerned about the weather. I appreciated it, and I know my husband did, too. It was nice not to miss part of the game and stay in tune with the weather situation at the same time. The best of both worlds! It was an unusual, yet very memorable experience.
Have you had or helped create a memorable customer experience lately?
Customer Service in a Self-Serve World
I’m all about getting things done faster. If there’s a line at the grocery checkout, I’m one of the first to move to the self-serve lane, and I love self-serve gas and movie tickets. In fact, I find myself getting annoyed and frustrated in the rare instance I have to go inside to pay for things that I can usually get instantly. Even my favorite new yogurt shop is self-serve, allowing me to create a delicious treat – no waiting. But as much as I adore the movement toward self-service, in some cases, it’s gone too far!
Have you have dialed into a customer service call center lately? If you have, you know it’s beyond ridiculous. If the automated menu of self-serve options doesn’t get you, the 45 minute wait time for a live person will. And, if you get past those obstacles, you’ll probably struggle to understand the customer service rep (and I use that term loosely) named “Henry” who probably has no real authority to help you at all. Now, I realize there are some very solid customer service models out there, but in my humble opinion, they are the exception rather than the rule. Surely, this is not the type of experience companies want their customers to have! Shifting more and more of the customer service burden to the people who spent their hard-earned dollars for a product or service simply does not make good business sense.
I ran across a blog post this week that illustrates the importance of bridging the gap between live and automated service - http://tiny.cc/2at40 The author points out that customers often need emotional support, something an automated system will never be able to provide. She makes a strong case for creating customer experiences that have a positive impact on brand loyalty. The devil truly IS in the details as another blogger so adeptly writes- http://tiny.cc/3d4nx
With self-serve innovations like mobile shopping on the rise – a recent study indicates at least 15 percent of all consumers use their phones to shop: http://tiny.cc/mca7f , and self-serve kiosks expected to grow to more than 2 million worldwide by the end of 2011, companies really need to figure out how to offer a seamless level of service post-sale. Customers need the same positive experience from beginning to end to become brand evangelists. When their experience falls short, even the most even-tempered person can become emotional. They need a way to ventilate and feel vindicated. Complaining to a robotic voice just won’t cut it!
Outstanding is the New Good
By Becky Clark, Marketing Manager
I was brought up on Consumer Reports. The first question my father would ask when I made a major purchase was “Did you consult Consumer Reports?” Many conversations would go a lot like this: Dad, I just got a new vacuum cleaner – did you consult Consumer Reports? Dad, we’re looking at buying a Volvo – what did Consumer Reports say about it compared to a Honda? I sort of grew to resent the publication when I was younger, but now that I’m older and wiser, I fully appreciate it.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that my father is a mechanical engineer and is all about precision and quality, but we all can certainly appreciate a quality product...and the fact that you really do get what you pay for.
So how do we know when we’re getting a quality product or service? Like everything else, the quality indicators have changed over time. Looking at a single source is highly unusual. Social networking, product reviews, brand loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing all supplement sources like Consumer Reports. On the other hand, some strictly look at price for a quality indicator, thinking the highest priced item has to be the best. And some just don’t care.
Now-a-days, with the power of social media and word-of-mouth, quality really boils down to the customer and the experience he or she has with a product/service – as well as the experience with the company behind the product. Everyone has their own definition of quality, which at one time was: did it meet or exceed my expectations? But in this day and age, we must take quality a step further. According to 10 Tips for Building Customer Loyalty by Chintan Bharwada, “What is new is that the bar for what customers expect in the way of service is higher today. Being good isn’t good enough to get customers talking about you. Outstanding is the new good.”
We all know customer service is on the decline across all industries. Exceed expectations – make it really easy for your customers to rave about you.
by David Butler, Vice President
Grocery shopping has become an increasingly complicated task. Sure, we can scoop up things that look good on the shelf and fill our cart with items that sound great – but are these things good for us? And with new products hitting the shelves every day, there are so many choices. Choice is definitely good, but it can be very overwhelming.
It’s funny, but somehow shopping for obscure items on my grocery list inspires me to think. The other day, while contemplating the vast selection of groceries in my high-end neighborhood store, I suddenly wondered whether some of our clients have a similar experience when shopping for research. Much like we should be a bit wary of buying food that is “too far from the source” or contains too many ingredients we can’t pronounce and don’t understand, research buyers should be wary of buying solutions that are littered with jargon and take the data too far away from its original source.
Understanding where your food comes is analogous to understanding your sample in research. Where does it come from? It isn’t that your sample can come from a “right” place or a “wrong” place – it’s just a question of knowing how it was compiled and whether it is truly representative, because the quality of your sample has a direct impact on your ability to make a fully informed decision. With landline abandonment increasing every day, a random sample in the historical context that we all knew it may no longer exist. So understanding the ingredients in and source of your sample is critically important.
Knowing exactly what’s in your food is equally important and translates into research as understanding exactly what is in the product or solution you are buying. Do you understand their analysis enough that you can connect the dots and agree with their conclusions? Does your review and analysis result in findings similar to theirs? Imagine your research provider as the chef and you as the diner. You should be able to recognize the food you ordered, and it should smell and taste good to you. If not, you will no doubt be finding a new place to dine.
The moral of this story… order your food and your research wisely. Bon Appétit!
Coping with the Need for Speed
by Robyn Burns, Fieldwork Manager
“Give me what I want when I want it” has become a staple attitude in our society. But do we let this attitude of immediate gratification affect the quality of our work in the market research field?
Read my article in the latest issue of MRA’s Alert! Magazine to find out.
by Jennifer Ervin, Research Manager
I recently flew to Santa Fe, New Mexico and purchased a car. I know that sounds crazy, but I promise you it was a good buy. After visiting with friends, I set off on my 18+ hour journey across Interstate 40 through Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis, and finally home to Nashville.
Leaving New Mexico and crossing through Texas was my favorite part of the drive. While I love the hills of Tennessee, it was refreshing to literally see for miles and miles ahead, beside and behind me. And I must admit, it was quite exciting to speed down the very straight, very open lanes of the highway in my “new” used car.
The distance between cities is much greater out West than here in the South and there’s not much in between one city and the next. While I feel bombarded by billboards here in Nashville, I found myself eagerly awaiting that next billboard on my drive home. Being in unfamiliar territory, with no connection to the Internet, I became reliant on billboards to help guide me through my journey.
While I expected the vast distance between cities, I did not expect this distance between billboards. Being that this was my only source for food, gas, and a place to rest my head for the night, I was baffled as to why this information was shared so sparingly. It’s not like there was a shortage of gas stations, restaurants, and hotels in these cities. So why was no one communicating this to me?
Reflecting on my travels, I realized just how many missed opportunities there were for a company to entice me to try their product or service. If I would have known about Crazy Larry’s BBQ joint in Amarillo or The Peabody in Little Rock, I probably would have visited both. Or at least I would have been more inclined to do so than not knowing about them at all!
What missed opportunities exist in your business? Is there an audience you’re not trying to reach? Is there a market you’re overlooking? Is there a demand for a new product that you’re not listening to? As marketers and as researchers, we all owe it to ourselves - and to our organizations - to take a step back from time to time and look at the big picture with a fresh eye. You never know what missed opportunities may come to light.
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