Customer Experience

Let Your Customers Decide: The Importance of Web Testing

Let Your Customers Decide: The Importance of Web Testing

Have you ever relied on your professional judgment (or the personal preferences of an executive or designer) to make decisions about website design or content? I know I have. I attended a really cool webinar about web testing. I learned something very powerful: You will NEVER know what will spur your customers to take action–unless you test. What may seem intuitive to a marketer, might not be intuitive to your customers. Here are some of the variables that were reviewed: Simplicity vs. complexity More text vs. less text Color choices Headlines Images Moving “stuff” around Button text and colors One page forms vs. multi-page forms When we were shown two versions of a page and were asked to guess which was more successful, I usually felt that I knew the answer, without any doubt whatsoever. The result? I was wrong–not every time, but enough to make a significant impression on me. Check out the gallery of winners from the webinar to see for yourself. For each test, go straight to “Click for Case Study” to see what I saw. If you’re looking for a great book on this subject, read my favorite: Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. His site is fascinating. Here’s another interesting post that could apply to color choice testing: The Emotional Use of Colors on Your...

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Two Burger Joints That Get Customer Service Right

Two Burger Joints That Get Customer Service Right

I read Consumer Reports. Faithfully. I have for at least 10 years. I also pay an additional annual subscription fee for full access to the review on their website. I’ve taken copies of the magazine with me to many stores, and I’ve never had a problem with a product recommended by Consumer Reports. Most recently, I had to buy a new laptop, which can be an onerous task. But it turned out to be a fairly painless process—thanks to Consumer Reports. Bottom line: I trust their recommendations, unequivocally. About 6 months ago, Consumer Reports published an article that caught my eye, “Our readers reveal: Best burgers.” I try not to east fast food too often, but I’ll admit, I do enjoy a tasty burger now and then. Here in California, we have a chain known for its simple menu, quality food, and excellent treatment of its employees: In-N-Out Burger. You can also find In-N-Out in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. So if you’re ever in Vegas, be sure to check it out. According to the Consumer Reports survey, as I expected, In-N-Out topped the list. No, wait a minute. Another chain actually tied for the #1 slot: Five Guys Burgers, which has locations in 42 states. Interesting. I wanted to know how Five Guys compared to In-N-Out, but alas, they had no restaurants in San Diego at the time. A few weeks ago, I discovered that a Five Guys Burgers had opened about 5 miles from my house (only 1 mile farther than In-N-Out). I remembered the Consumer Reports article and told my sister we needed to give it a try. That’s where we had lunch today. And yes, it was a very tasty burger indeed. I noticed several differences between the two immediately: Five Guys is dine-in or take-out, while In-N-Out also has a drive-through. A Five Guys burger is about $5, including great toppings that you would find at a sit-down restaurant, while an In-N-Out burger is about $2.50 with limited topping choices. But it’s the similarities of the two chains that really stood out: A simple, limited menu: burgers, fries, and drinks. That’s it. Atypical fast food marketing: no funny commercials and no coupons. Neither offers any discounts. A focus on high-quality ingredients and a delicious product. Superior customer service delivered by a cohesive team that treats every customer like gold. I was curious to learn more about their marketing strategies. I wanted to know if they were using social media as a major part of those strategies. I expected strong social media presences from the corporate brands, but I was wrong. Both have adopted customer-centric marketing strategies. They offer good food and top-notch service at fair prices. In exchange, their customers have become the marketers. Delighted customers blog and tweet and like. They create fan pages. They proudly purchase and wear branded apparel. They tell the people they know (and don’t know) about their experiences, like I’m doing now. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to mediocre treatment. As a result, we want to tell people about it when we receive exceptional treatment. With their #1 ratings in Consumer Reports, Five Guys and In-N-Out have proven that you can be extremely successful simply by delivering an extraordinary customer experience....

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How to Lose a Customer in a Single Phone Call

How to Lose a Customer in a Single Phone Call

As a customer, I’m pretty loyal–if I’m treated right. If not, I’m the type of customer who will take immediate and sometimes drastic action. If pushed, I will move to the competition, even if it takes a fair amount of work on my part. Cox has provided my cable, phone, and internet service for more than 5 years. Recently, I checked my monthly bill online and was shocked to see that it was $20 higher than usual. It only took me a second to find the source of the additional cost: one 20-minute call to Canada. One of my clients is located in Canada. So, I need to be able to call her without being subject to an exorbitant charge. I readily admit that I didn’t know Canada wasn’t included in my unlimited calling plan, so I don’t dispute that I need to pay the extra $20. My mistake, my loss. But I still wanted to do something about it. I checked AT&T Uverse pricing online. Canada IS included in their plan. Then, I called Cox–not to demand a $20 refund–but to ensure that my future calls to Canada would be affordable. I did mention Uverse, but not in an aggressive or threatening way. What happened? They said they can’t offer a Canada plan to customers in San Diego. There was nothing they could do to help me. What I heard: Even though you subscribe to one of our most expensive packages and you’ve been with us for a long time, we don’t value you as a customer. Go ahead and switch to Uverse. We really don’t care. Thanks for the suggestion, Cox. I’ll schedule the installation right away. Smart companies delight their customers instead of pushing them to the competition. Now Cox will have to spend even more marketing dollars to replace me than they did to acquire me. Not smart. Check out Seth Godin’s blog post: How should you treat your best...

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Are You Treating Ex-Customers Better Than Current Customers?

Are You Treating Ex-Customers Better Than Current Customers?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my negative experience with Cox–and my intent to switch to AT&T Uverse. Well, I’ve been an ex-Cox customer for about a week now, and so far so good. I get about a thousand channels, tons of cool phone features, and lightening-speed internet. I no longer have to start an audiobook download before I go to bed and hope for the best. And calls to my client in Canada no longer cost an additional $1 per minute. I did lose my access to San Diego Padres games (Cox still has exclusive television rights), but I can live with that. I should be pretty happy, right? Actually, I’m incensed. Why? Cox is now treating me–GASP–better than ever!  The proof: 1. When I was a long-term customer I and told them I was considering switching providers, I was told that I would have to return my Cox DVR to one of their local stores within 10 days–or else. Now that I’m an ex-customer, they called to tell me that they’d be delighted to come to my house to pick up the DVR. Their rep arrived within 15 minutes. 2. When I was a customer, Cox demanded that I pay an additional monthly fee plus a per minute charge to call Canada. Now, Cox would be happy to give me a monthly rebate to cover this fee–and more. 3. When I was a customer, my monthly bill slowly crept up. But now that I’m an ex-customer, they are willing to give me a 50% discount for 6 months! That does it. It ticks me off when companies treat ex-customers better than current customers. It’s a financial blunder of epic proportions. I am certain that if Cox had calculated my lifetime value, they would have made me a reasonable offer during that first phone call. And they wouldn’t have to promise me the world to re-acquire my business. This experience simply reinforced an imperative marketing truth: If you treat your current customers right, they’ll never be your...

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Are You Speaking the Same Language as Your Customers?

Are You Speaking the Same Language as Your Customers?

My 4-year-old nephew is a real character. He has developed a quirky sense of humor and he enjoys entertaining the family with his funny quips. On Friday night, we had a little sleepover at Grammy’s house with my sister, our nephew, and me. When we were trying to figure out what we should have for dinner, we started with a simple question: “What would you like to eat?” His response: “two-tees.” To us, this sounded like “turkey,” and we kept saying “turkey?” while he kept saying “two-tees,” while laughing hysterically. We knew we didn’t understand what he wanted, so we decided on pizza. Every kid likes pizza, right? (Clever kid—he did manage to clearly tell us that he did NOT want pepperoni.” After he ate his pizza without pepperoni, he again started talking about “two-tees.” And again, we were perplexed. Finally, he went to the refrigerator and found exactly what he was looking for: cookies. He wanted to make cookies! This same kind of communication problem troubles many organizations. In their marketing campaigns, they assume that every target prospect “speaks the same language” and a single, blanket promotion is created. But this strategy no longer works. Your potential customers now expect customized communications, not the standard form letter from 20 years ago. In the high-tech industry, for example, the same product may be purchased by a C-level executive such as a CIO, an IT professional, or a business line manager. These 3 groups will respond to different types of messages. You wouldn’t necessarily send a highly technical white paper to a business line manager or even a CIO. They don’t speak the same language. You must be prepared to segment your audience and deliver targeted messaging. The same rule applies when you communicate with your current customers. You can’t respond to a business line question with an answer that only an IT expert will understand. To start and maintain conversations with your prospects and customers, you need to speak their language. You won’t be able to build the kind of relationships that generate ongoing business if they’re saying they want “two-tees” and you’re giving them “turkey.”...

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The Art of Customer Engagement

The Art of Customer Engagement

Social media gives organizations unprecedented access to their customers. Some companies have seized the opportunity to engage, while others continue to languish in tactics that have long since proven outdated and ineffective. Customers are eager to share their experiences—good and bad—to help others receive the same positive service or avoid poor service. Personal recommendations have always been the gold standard of marketing. A recent study by Accenture found that when respondents were deciding whether to do business with a service provider, 76% relied primarily on word of mouth, and 56% considered it the most important factor. Social media makes sharing these recommendations faster and easier than ever. But it also enables companies to “listen in” and respond to them. A quick response to a negative incident can “save” a customer who may have defected to the competition. When problems occur, customers want consideration, communication, and resolution. Unfortunately, I seem to receive an inordinate amount of mediocre service. I’m not sure if this is the norm for everyone, but it definitely is for me. When I unexpectedly receive superior service or encounter a product that goes beyond my expectations, I tend to share that information. Last week, I decided to be more budget-conscious with my lunch choices, opting to eat at home instead of running out for fast food. Since I don’t cook, eating at home usually means heating up a frozen meal in the microwave. I don’t have high expectations for frozen food, but it’s usually OK, and sometimes, when I splurge and buy the organic meals, it’s pretty good. Convenience and affordability are my top priorities, while taste is secondary. As I perused the frozen food aisle at the grocery store, I noticed that some of the Stouffers items were on sale for less than $2 each. So I added 3 or 4 to my cart, pleased with the great deal. I was completely surprised when I tried my first meal and discovered that it was indeed quite good. Immediately, I decided to send out a tweet to announce my good fortune and recommend the product to others. I included @Stouffers in the tweet and went on with my day. In less than 30 minutes, Stouffers responded. Here’s the exchange: As you can see, Stouffers (owned by Nestlé) is listening on Twitter, engaging with customers in a conversational way that enforces their brand. I was impressed and hopeful that others will adopt the same model. Simply by opening the channels of communication, any organization can deliver a superior customer experience. It just takes a commitment to a more effective—and very straightforward—customer retention practice: listen and respond....

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