Recognize and Make the Most of Linchpin Roles

Not all roles are created equal. Many companies don’t take the trouble to understand which are their linchpin roles—as distinct from high-performing or high-potential people. These are roles that have a big influence on the customer experience or that provide critical support or coaching to employees who shape the customer’s response. Given scarce resources, targeting these roles can be an efficient way to raise employee … [ Read more ]

The Aggravation Index

Leading companies like FedEx and others have found that a daily metric that tracks occurrence of errors that frustrate customers can be a simple and easy way of measuring and predicting when a customer might leave and never come back. By holding focus groups with customers from a variety of industries and locations, FedEx gathered a long list of things the company had done to … [ Read more ]

1 to say Yes, 2 to say No

If all you do is “empower the front line” — grant your employees more freedom to wow customers — they will almost certainly strike the wrong balance between customer delight and shareholder returns. The key to success in empowering frontline employees lies in giving them a framework within which to operate — and feedback about how they are performing within that framework. Take TD Bank, … [ Read more ]

3 Ways to Understand Your Customers

One method is to observe customers first-hand in typical situations and encounters, known as ethnographic research. Corel does this with a program it calls “Follow Me Home” (an idea it got from Intuit); the company watches customers use its products in the comfort of their own homes. Corel’s global chief of product marketing, Jacqueline Martense, explains, “The dialogue you inspire with customers and employees is … [ Read more ]

I Caught You Caring

In one organization, managers give an “I caught you caring” pin to employees who demonstrate outstanding service or performance. Only a few stellar employees receive this coveted award. Below the words “I caught you caring” is the invitation “Ask me what I did!” This encourages the award-winning employees to share stories about their outstanding performance with their coworkers.

The pins have an ongoing impact on … [ Read more ]

Listening to and Using Customer Feedback

Global manufacturer 3M has collected thousands of reviews and comments from more than a dozen retail sites and mobile apps, as well as Facebook postings, using them to improve marketing campaigns or create new ones. In one case, the company’s Precision Ultra Edge nonstick scissors were selling below expectations. 3M changed its product copy, quoting the language consumers used online (“they’re great for cutting fabric … [ Read more ]

Surprise Your Best Customers When They Least Expect It

Surprise your best customers when they least expect it. A guerrilla marketer mails lottery tickets to her best customer every time the jackpot hits $5 million. This unusual gesture generates a lot of goodwill and keeps customers talking about her.

Have Every New Employee Do Customer Support for Two Weeks

Have every new employee do customer support for two weeks. The first week is a typical “first week at a new company” which includes a formal day of orientation on the first day. The next four days are structured around on-boarding the person and getting them involved in their role and their team, but not too deeply. This allows there to be a “break in … [ Read more ]

A Frequency Opt-Out

Consider adding a frequency opt-out option to the standard “fine print” at the bottom of every electronic mailing. Instead of just seeing an unsubscribe link, recipients can take their choice between that and an option to reduce frequency, which reads: “If you would like us to decrease the frequency of the emails sent to you, click here. This will reduce the number of mailings by … [ Read more ]

Personalized Customer Satisfaction Surveys

When you do [customer satisfaction] surveys, it usually screams out that you know nothing about that customer or their purchase history, and you’re giving them a mixed message on whether you listen to them. Although you’re asking them to take time to fill out the survey, they never hear back from you about what you’re going to do in response to the results. So in … [ Read more ]

Soliciting Customer Complaints

Retailers need to find ways to get customers to share complaints with management, not friends and family. One way is for retailers to ask customers to check a box on their credit card slip indicating they had a problem at the store. Retailers could then attempt to follow up, or give the customer a phone number or web address to make their complaints directly. If … [ Read more ]

Using Your Customers to Improve Your Company

Superquinn awards shoppers “goof points” for pointing out problems such as an out-of-stock item, a dirty floor or a checkout line longer than three people. The goof points, which provide discounts off future purchases, have proved a good way to get customers talking about their experience.

SAS Institute, the North Carolina–based software company, creates a “SASware Ballot” every year, giving customers a chance to vote … [ Read more ]

Change the People or Change the Job

If the service you’re delivering is disappointing—if it’s average or spotty in a model you assumed would produce reliable excellence—a common explanation is a mismatch between your employees and the jobs you’ve tasked them to do. Sound at all familiar? If so, we advise companies to first try to get a sense of the size of the employee-job gap.

First: Go undercover. Get out of the … [ Read more ]

Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes to Foster Innovation and Creativity

Would-be innovators need to break free of preexisting views. Unfortunately, the human mind is surprisingly adroit at supporting its deep-seated ways of viewing the world while sifting out evidence to the contrary. Indeed, academic research suggests that even when presented with overwhelming facts, many people (including well-educated ones) simply won’t abandon their deeply held opinions. The antidote is personal experience: seeing and experiencing something firsthand … [ Read more ]

Create an Owner’s Manual for Your Product or Service

Every business, product, or service can and should create their version of an operating manual that contains various forms of higher education delivered in a variety of available formats and mediums.

Here are some specific ideas that might get you started producing your manual:

  • Create a getting-started guide for your product, company, or service
  • Create a series of how-to videos and promote the

[ Read more ]

The entire business should be the ‘customer service department.’

Obviously, a customer service department is needed, but the traditional customer service mentality needs to be replaced by a tribal mentality.

Employees from all levels of the business should actively be making connections with customers. Not just when a customer is having trouble, but through every phase of business. Here’s a great idea: Each day, allow one randomly selected customer service phone call or email to … [ Read more ]

Think Counter-cyclically with Customer Accounts

Keep competitors off guard by avoiding the obvious. For instance, the usual reaction in a downturn is to tighten customer payment terms and increase collection efforts in order to boost cash flow. Instead, consider giving your most profitable customers or target accounts more lenient payment terms in order to capture more of their business. Make terms stricter for less attractive accounts. You’ll likely find that … [ Read more ]