Archive for category customer retention
Part of any business owners dream is to have rapid growth and an influx of business. But increased demand puts pressure on your systems, people and cashflow.
So, how do you handle an influx of business? Have you been able to maintain the same level of customer experience? Have you made any changes in how you service your customers? Do you have a strategy for growth?
This was the topic discussed by members of the Business Exposure Group at our recent meeting.
Some of the barriers to growth are – lack of business plans / muddled marketing / running the business in the same old way / meddling and misspent time / wrong objectives based on just sales / no financial strategy and poor controls.
Check your systems, processes and procedures are up to date and adopt a proactive management approach with a quality control system where everyone uses the ‘same scripts’. The ability to grow must be influenced by your willingness to devolve certain decisions to staff. You must have a strategic plan for the short, medium and long term growth of the business.
To achieve growth – invest in ‘safe bets’ / identify strategies with a good probability of success / start with core business and eliminate secondary products on a regular basis.
Good information equals good decisions. Can you deal with a sudden influx of orders with no way to fulfil them?
First of all spend time finding out what is causing growth and understand why your company is suddenly getting more business, as this is could be important to many of your future decisions. It is also important to understand the reasons why business is slowing down.
One way to overcome barriers to growth is to invest in staff development. Try to plug the skills gap in your business to move your business up a level. Identify staff responsibilities and make sure you employ and retain the right people.
Be careful not to expand too quickly, look at whether you are growing to be more profitable or is it growth for growths sake.
Many fast growing companies change their goals too often; they never quite complete a plan before starting the next one, and because of this will get into all sorts of difficulties when business growth stalls. It’s important to retain the culture of your business when taking on new staff. Be careful not to let them dilute the personality of your business.
Ask yourself when looking at growth:
- Do I have the qualities and diversity of people
- Do I have systems in place
- Do I have the ability to delegate
- Do I have enough cash
And finally, ensure that it is not your mind set that is holding your business back.
E-Commerce is the name for any kind of commercial transaction that takes place through the internet. It gives customers the ability to buy from you without having any limitations imposed by time or distance. Its not restricted to a B2C business using a “shopping cart” and credit card.
The question is – are B2B customers ready for this?
This was the topic discussed by members of the Business Exposure Group at a recent meeting and some interesting observations were put forward by members, many of whom had implemented E-Commerce functionality into their businesses.
B2B suppliers know far more about their customers than B2C, so there is no excuse not to deliver relevant experiences to your customer.- a website should no longer be general but nowadays it needs to be specific to the customer browsing your site.
41% of manufacturers are now selling directly to your business customers, so your business needs to be prepared to sell against the same companies you consider as valuable supply chain partners.
Entering into the world of E-Commerce is a major decision and setting up your website is challenging. Consider the following points raised by our members during the meeting:
- Website needs to be user friendly with as few clicks as necessary to enable your customer to order as easily as possible. It should load within 5 seconds.
- Do you require multiple “shop fronts”, different languages, to only provide relevant products and services to the specific visitor?
- Does your website need a reminder email facility to remind your customer to re-order?
- Does your website need an email facility to notify your customer about new products or when products are back in stock?
- When logged into the website, does it recognise your customer and automatically bring up their previous order history? – It is important to segment customers and give them a different experience based on their industry requirements.
- If you have a complex catalogue, direct customers to the relevant products in as few clicks as possible?
- Should you put all your goods or services for sale on the website or leave the high end items for your sales team to sell?
- FAQ’s section is extremely important as it reduces the need to have an extensive customer relations team.
- With one click specific industry users can fill their ‘carts’ with everything they need for their particular requirements.
- It engenders customer loyalties. An order can be authenticated with a click of a button, instead of the process taking several days to be confirmed.
- It streamlines your ordering system. It reduces the bottle necks of tedious work.
Consider who is your real competition, your competitors or your customer expectations?
The buying experience is now more important than ever.
It was felt by the Group that B2B E-Commerce was certainly another route forward for most businesses and a great way to find a new customer base.
To create distinctive customer experiences, businesses need to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation thinking in six key areas.
Some companies are moving fast to adapt, applying a range of approaches to improve customer experiences. A great experience that delights customers and earns their loyalty is needed. Improving a customer experience from merely average to something that wows the customer can lead to a 30/50% increase in measures such as likelihood to renew or to buy another product.
Here are six areas discussed at a recent Business Exposure Group meeting.
- Measure customer behaviour and spend time with customers to understand them
Companies need to empathize with customers when they experience difficulties and obstacles.
This means embracing new techniques for understanding customer journeys. Such approaches allow companies to uncover new insights that allow them to design and deliver truly great customer experiences.
One of our Business Exposure Group members is an insurance broker specialising in the farming community. He was developing a new product and took time out to observe the daily activities of farmers.
He learnt that farmers are pressed for time but also very tech savvy, relying heavily on PCs and mobile devices in their daily activities. He had originally planned to market his new product through traditional channels, but lessons learned from an observation trip led him to create a digital solution, which allowed farmers to gather information and buy policies online at night and at weekends.
- Designing the complete customer experience
Design is not about making devices and screens look pretty. True customer-experience design involves each interaction customers have with your company. Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
To design a customer journey, companies must enlist everyone who has an impact on any part of a customer’s journey, not just people with the word “design” in their title—in particular operations and IT.
A Business Exposure Group member has a marketing agency whose client specialises in visitor attractions. After a 12 month effort to root out pain points in the experience of visitors to theme parks, their clients introduced wrist bands. These brightly coloured wristbands allow visitors to board rides, pay for meals and gifts. More important, the bands and the technology behind them—which is in every part of the attraction—allow visitors to select exactly what they want to see and do in advance. That has helped turn a day out from a series of highlight attractions interrupted by waiting in line to a smooth end-to-end experience.
- Completely rethink the customer experience
The focus is addressing customer needs, not improving a process. Many of our members bring in people who are not normally involved in the business to encourage fresh thinking. Looking at the best experiences employed in other industries can be extremely enlightening.
- Become an agile organisation
Managers responsible for developing new offerings need the authority to make decisions quickly and to hold staff accountable.
One of the Business Exposure Group members who has an IT software company shifted entirely to cloud technologies, which allowed new software developed by their team to go live on the clients websites in a matter of seconds. By making the whole organisation agile, the IT company dramatically reduced time to market for their clients products and services.
- From delivering a product to constant tweaking
Many businesses figure out what new product or service offering they want to create for customers and then launch pilots.
It’s impossible to know in advance how an experience will be embraced by customers. It’s better to launch sooner with fewer features and a simpler interface and learn what works, based on real customer input.
Using this approach, one of the Business Exposure Group members was able to build a new tablet-based app in just 6 weeks. It then tweaked new versions based on user feedback, improving the process. After these tweaks, the app was scaled across new markets and more products within the company’s range.
- Working together spontaneously
Companies need to push their people to move beyond traditional roles and work together to reinvent customer journeys. Improvements come from having motivated, empowered frontline employees driven by clear purpose.
Many of our members are working hard to reinvent their customers’ journeys. The ones that win will be those that push the boundaries and adopt new practices.
Handling complaints well and resolving conflict situations caused by equipment failure, broken promises, inaccurate information or poor communication or service is vital in business. Resolve a complaint in the customers favour and they will do business with you again 70% of the time. Up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner.
Logging complaints is helpful to see if there is a pattern of complaints relating to the same issue. Research shows that companies that are customer focussed get more complaints because they ask for them, and with this information they can turn a negative situation into a loyal customer. Interestingly if you have no complaints, it doesn’t mean your customers are happy, they just can’t be bothered to complain and the first you know of it is when they defect. This can have a significant impact on B2B companies who may have become complacent as a result of long term business relationships.
With the impact of social media and the threat of everyone being well connected it is important to get complaints ‘offline’ as quickly as possible. The use of a dedicated email address is important so that you can quickly resolve the complaint without the complaint building an online following which leads to significant brand damage.
Some of the messages used by members of the Business Exposure Group in their complaint departments were expressed at the last meeting of our members. They included:
‘Just say sorry, and ask how you might resolve the issue’
‘Transfer the customer quickly and explain why the transfer is to their benefit, say you will be transferred to XX our specialist who can better answer your questions’
‘Drop formalities and refer to ‘our chat’ not ‘our correspondence’ and all communication should be in the first person ‘I am sorry not we’.
Businesses that resolve matters when things go wrong can charge 5-10% more than businesses that don’t appear to care. If your business operates in a market with small margins, an effective complaints handling process can be the all-important differentiator when attracting new customers.
Customer service is so important. It takes 12 positive incidents to make up for one negative incident, which is why businesses nowadays need to positively delight customers to earn their loyalty.
During a recent Business Exposure Group meeting we collected the following comments.
It’s a way of managing your business interaction with current and future customers. But most companies fail to use it on the premise that too much time is spent entering the information so that it is comprehensive, at the expense of engaging with customers.
However, any CRM system only needs 1) the prospect information 2) when and what was talked about 3) the follow up date 4) who is assigned to it 5) the value of the opportunity.
With this information you can establish whether your existing client relationships have the potential to grow. Because retained customers are more profitable. Firstly, customer acquisition costs are high, so they do not become profitable unless they are retained. Secondly, customers buy more over time, thirdly, satisfied customers make referrals and fourthly, retained customers tend to be less price sensitive. So just on the current client relationships an engaging touch point campaign which is hands on will increase sales by up to 30%.
CRM is a combination of people, process and technology which seeks to understand your company’s customers. Because the more you know your customers and build a strong relationship, the greater your odds of winning the minds and wallets of your customers in this competitive market.
Some of our members were content to use Outlook and Excel to record their contacts and activities. But it is not very efficient and cannot be seen by everyone at a glance. More worrying it can be downloaded and pinched by a member of staff moving on, leaving your business vulnerable.
Using an integrated CRM system will have one database with all customers in a single place. Which, if used properly will be the perfect vehicle for identifying groups of like-minded customers to target, allowing you to sell more to existing customers and prospects, creating the process to manage leads from receipt to getting an order, arranging numerous touch points with potential customers and monitoring that your staff are on top of the job.
The majority of the group confirmed that their sales people spent too much time on admin and not enough time selling. With CRM, the sales team can easily see the relationship history. So they are well armed to overcome objections and have no excuse to not following up sales opportunities which are tracked and reminders raised via the CRM system.
So, it all seems straight forward, however, because we have amassed so much data over recent years we don’t know how to effectively manage information. Don’t try and back date, first start from now and implement a simple robust system, otherwise CRM will have lost its focus and worth and will become taken over by the IT function within your business. The customer experience is core to client relationship management. It is now becoming mainstream and I suggest that in a couple of years’ time we won’t even be having this conversation.
A contemporary well run business must have a CRM system to be able to sort out opportunities and be competitive. Consider the following when deciding on the type of system. It could be a cheap off the shelf cloud based system or a bespoke built arrangement, nevertheless it does need to address. 1) Are we B2B or B2C 2) How do we access, from home, on the road or in the office? 3) What are the main objectives eg is it for sales lead management, or marketing campaigns? 4) Which teams need to use the system – sales, marketing, customer service, operations? 5) Does it need to link to other systems? 6) How will emails link? 7) Do you need the phones to link and do you need to record telephone calls straight to your CRM system?
All are well worth considering to get it right, but we all agreed around the table that no amount of technology can help manage your customers if you don’t have it in you in the first place to implement and record the information.
In modern business there’s increased competition, crowded markets, lesser product differentiation and flatter sales.
So measuring customer satisfaction is key. It reportedly costs five to eight times as much to get a new customer than to hold onto new ones.
So why not operate a measurement system for customer satisfaction and find out what your customers expect from you?
Firstly, don’t just watch sales volumes or rely on a sales rep determining your customer’s state of mind. Also, don’t just track the frequency of complaints or look at ageing debt.
Implement a survey via mail, e-mail, or over the phone and rate experiences on a weighted scale (1 out of 5 etc.). Ensure to repeat this process to see how your customers experience changes over time.
Consider these factors:
- Who is responsible for implementing a system – sales and marketing.
- Management must champion the initiative.
- Compare your own customer satisfaction with your competitors.
- Engage all employees.
- Inform your customers about the changes made due to the survey. Its important to communicate.
Satisfaction can be based on:-
- Business relationship
- The Service and Product meeting or exceeding customer expectations
Did you know? A 5% increase in loyalty can increase profit by more than 25%.
A very satisfied customer is six times more likely to be loyal than a satisfied customer.
Only 4% of dissatisfied customers actually bother to complain, and on average that same dissatisfied customer is likely to tell nine other people about it.
In comparison, satisfied customers will tell five other people on average about the good treatment they received.
You also need to consider the following:
- Are your products less than advertised?
- Are employees making promises they can’t keep?
- Do you know why customers prefer another brand over yours?
- Do you get customers to compare and contrast?
- What is the technology expectation? – E.G. Mobile phones are constantly evolving.
- Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey on a regular basis and look for:
- Overall satisfaction: How satisfied are you with ……
- Loyalty Measure: Would you recommend us to…
- Intention to repurchase: Do you intend to repurchase…
Here are 6 thoughts for putting together a customer satisfaction programme:
- Who should be interviewed? The end user, the manager or the directors or all?
- What should be measured? Put yourself in the customers mind-set – what do they consider important?
- How should the interview be carried out?
- How should satisfaction be measured?
- What should the measurement mean?
- How to use the survey to the greatest effect?
It’s debatable whether these should be anonymous or not.
Another strategy is to identify the best company in your sector and set your benchmark against them.
There are links between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction as happy employee’s work harder, providing greater customer satisfaction.
If a survey is right for your business, then your customer will in-turn expect positive changes to come from it. Most surveys just sit gathering dust. Be sure to communicate quick wins. The newsletter can be a good starting point and turn your customers into very satisfied customers.
This article was taken from a discussion of the Business Exposure Group.
If you are a Director or business owner and would like to attend one of their informative round-table discussions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org