Customer Experience: It’s Okay to Nurture Family Members Too!

23 Mar

Early last week I received a request from my sister: Could you please send Abby a postcard from California? Abby is my five-year-old niece who lives in Charlottesville, VA. Here are a few pictures of her:

Abby_beach

Abby_shark

 

Abby’s kindergarten class is studying maps. She’s hoping to show her class that she knows someone from California. It will not only help her learn maps but also imagine her surprise when she receives a handwritten piece of mail. I’m in my mid-30s and I still love receiving personalized mail – even if it’s from my dentist! 

I was more than happy to send Abby a postcard. I would do almost anything for her. While her request seemed simple enough, it got me thinking: Why don’t I spend more time nurturing my friends and family? While Facebook and other social media sites keep us connected 24 hours/day, there is still nothing like receiving a handwritten card from someone you love…….or from a product or service you frequently do business. Here’s the postcard I mailed Abby:

Abby Postcard

 

I can’t wait to hear her reaction to receiving the postcard. I might be more excited than her! When’s the last time you sent a handwritten postcard/card/letter/flowers to someone you love? 

When is the last time you sent a “just checking in” or “read this article and thought about you” or “thank you for your business” to your top clients? It’s an easy way to stand out from the competition and ensure your clients think of you when it’s time to make their next purchase. 

And a few more photos of Abby…just because:

abby_lipstick

abby_nails

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Taking your yoga practice off the mat

23 Mar

Excellent blog post about how yoga helped Brianna handle adversity when her car window was smashed in this morning.

The best things in life

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Monday morning in San Francisco, can be a bit grueling. Most people seem to be rushing and there is little time for an exchange of smiles. Before I had to go move my vehicle for street sweeping purposes, I decided to grab a delicious latte from the coffee shop, to add a bit of sweetness to my day. With my beverage in hand I crossed the street and headed towards my car. As I got a bit closer I noticed that someone had smashed in my rear window, and glass was shattered everywhere! A bit of a damper for Monday. As I  examined my car closer, I noticed that not much was missing, if anything at all. I began to feel a wave of gratitude and compassion wash over me. My brain then thought of the tormented soul that committed this act. May they find guidance and peace in their…

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A $5.00 Gift Card & An Apology – Is This a Memorable Customer Experience?

26 Nov

I arrived at the bus stop at 7:20 a.m. – just like I do almost every weekday morning. It’s not a public bus stop. I pay a fixed amount every month to ride a private shuttle from San Francisco to Palo Alto. The shuttle normally arrives between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. – but not on this particular morning. As the clock on my phone hit 8:15 a.m., I wondered whether I needed to find an alternative mode of transportation to work.

The shuttle finally arrived at 8:30 a.m. – a full hour later than its scheduled arrival.

Customer Experience Journey 

The private shuttle service is responsible for getting its clients to their destinations on time. This is of paramount importance. It’s the entire premise around its value proposition: Our shuttle service is reliable and it’s better than driving your car or taking other modes of transportation. An hour late arrival is a big deal. One it cannot afford to repeat without losing regular clients (like me).

I understand the unexpected arises from time-to-time, no matter the business. However, it’s how a company responds during the inconvenience.

The Apology

A few days after the mishap, I received the following letter and gift card in the mail:

Ridepal

I truly appreciate the company going out of its way to not only apologize but also include a $5.00 Starbucks gift card. There are many companies that would have simply continued with business as usual – not taking the time to offer a simple apology. While the letter and gift card were appreciated, I wondered whether the company should have done more to apologize?

Is An Apology & $5.00 Gift Card Sufficient?

What’s the lifetime value of a client worth to the company? Let’s say I plan to commute to Palo Alto for the next 12 months. And let’s say the monthly expense for the shuttle is $200.00. My lifetime value to the company is $2400. There are other factors when calculating the LTV, but for simplicity let’s use the above numbers.  If I decide the service is not reliable, I will definitely find an alternative mode of transportation. If I decide to find an alternative mode of transportation during the 3rd month out of 12 months, the company loses $1800 (9 months X $200). That’s a significant amount of lost revenue.

Here are my thoughts bout the Customer Experience 

– Its clients’ time is worth more than a $5.00 gift card. What would happen if the company gave each rider a $25.00 gift card for his or her troubles? Most people understand delays happen, especially in the transportation industry. The company could separate itself from other modes of transportation by increasing its customer experience and recovery efforts.

– Perhaps an apology and $5.00 gift card will suffice if the problem is truly resolved and it does not happen in the future.

– Should the company ask for gift card preferences when onboarding new clients? A checkbox with: Amazon, Itunes, Peets Coffee, Starbucks, or Other gift card options – so that if/when a problem occurs, it can customized its solution. What if I don’t drink coffee? Or it could simply reward its best riders with a gift card every quarter.

– Lastly, it should leverage its database and segment its clients. I ride almost every weekday, while others ride once a week. We all got the same apology and gift card. We are not all worth the same to the company.

I commend the company for taking the time to write an apology and send me a gift card. It’s already way ahead of most other transportation companies in-regards to how it treats clients. I don’t want to criticize the effort. However, it has an opportunity to be even better. To truly separate itself from competitors, it should use data to identify its most profitable clients, and nurture them throughout the year. It has an opportunity to make the customer experience the DNA of its company. 

What do you think? Is an apology and $5.00 gift card sufficient this time, or should the company do more? Should it plan its recovery for the next unexpected delay? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Bake Shop’s Customer Experience Leads to Repeat Customers and Tons of Referrals

7 May
The wildly successful Crisp Bakery in Sonoma County

The wildly successful Crisp Bake Shop in Sonoma County

  • Owners completely understand the importance of the customer experience – from design to execution
  • Combination of world class baked goods and well-designed customer experience = big competitive advantage
  • Details: “I envisioned the customer parking, walking in the door, ordering, eating, and getting up to leave.”

As I entered Crisp Bake Shop, my senses were so happy they joined together to start a conga line.

customer experience conga line

Eyes – the interior of the store was extremely clean, with modern art on the walls, fresh pastries in the display case, and a large window where customers could watch the chefs prepare everything from croissants to wedding cakes.

Ears – hip music played at just the right volume – Bob Marley and Jack Johnson were a few of the artists I remember.  The sound of the coffee machine and the friendly, smiling staff members that greeted each guest.

Smell – a combination of freshly brewed coffee and Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins; Strawberry Toaster Pastries; Dried Fig and Walnut Scones

Taste – if you have the opportunity to visit Crisp Bake Shop, you will not be disappointed.  My bacon, egg, and cheese hand pie was perfect, and the portion was just right – obviously management understands a little goes a long way with baked goods.

I was sold before I stepped to the counter to order.  

The Owner and Staff Members Educate and Interact with Customers

“Did you know our iced coffee has double the caffeine of our regular coffee? The iced coffee process does not strip away any caffeine from the beans.  The iced coffee will give you quite a jolt if you’re not used to it.”

Despite the long line behind the customer, the owner took the time to educate and interact with the customer.  He treated the customer as if she was the only person in his shop. The staff did the same, making several recommendations and greeting people by first name. It’s funny: the customers in line had smiles on their faces. It was almost has if they enjoyed standing in line, patiently waiting for their turn at the counter.

Ownership Understands Its Target Market

“Okay, it’s Friday. That means we will get a rush of people from 9:30 to 10:45.  Everyone wants a cup of coffee and a quick bit to eat before heading to the farmers market that’s down the road.  We will get a much needed break from 10:45 to 11:45 to restock and catch our breath for the lunch rush.”

During the morning rush, the chefs brought out freshly baked goods like clockwork.  The customers waiting in line were able to see the goods as they were placed in the display case.  The chef even interacted with the customers and made recommendations.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Customer Experience?

If you want to turn regular customers into raving, repeat, shout-from-the-mountaintops, walking referral customers, then focus on creating a memorable experience.  While price and product/service is a factor in the buying process, customers ultimately buy from the people and places that make them FEEL a certain way.

  • Identify your target market – create buyer personas
  • Map the entire customer experience, including all the touchpoints a customer has with your company. (i.e. what happens when a customer drives past my place of business? Is it clean? Are the lights working on the sign? What happens when a lead or customer lands on my website? Is it updated? Is it easy to navigate? What happens when a lead or customer calls my business?
  • Design a memorable experience at each of the touchpoints.

    Anticipate, create, delight. 

I overheard the owner explain that he’s already sold out of his custom wedding cakes….FOR THE YEAR! It’s nice to have customers knocking down your door. Crisp’s dedication to customer experience is paying huge dividends.  What will you do to improve your customer experience?

Good luck!

Want to Decrease Marketing Expenses and Increase Sales? Stop Neglecting Your Current Customers

23 Apr
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Problem: Neglected Customers

You spent lots of time, effort, and money to craft a marketing strategy and implement marketing campaigns to attract new clients.  The hard work paid off: several new customers decided to purchase your products and/or services. Your initial customer experience convinced the lead/prospect to pay for your products and/or services.  However, you continue to flush money down the toilet because you made the same mistake as other companies: you neglected the customer after the sale.

After the exchange of the customers’ money for your products and/or services, that customer is viewed as old news to you and people within your company.  You shift your focus back to hunting for the sexy new customers. This is a colossal mistake that is both increasing your marketing expenses and decreasing your sales.  It’s infinitely more expensive to secure a new customer than sell to someone who is familiar with your products and services.

What happens to the old news customer?  You paid so much attention to him or her during the new customer acquisition campaign. Will he or she ever hear from you again?  The majority of companies assume the new customer will continue to purchase their products and services.  The customer bought once from me, he or she will be back.  You know the old saying, assume makes an ass out of you and me.

Think about it for a minute: How do you treat customers after the initial sale? Do you have a process and strategy to consistently stay in front of the customer after the first sale?

Create a systematic retention marketing campaign that nurtures your current customers.

Instead of always chasing the sexy new customer, why not focus efforts on creating exceptional experiences and nurturing campaigns for current customers?

Benefits of Nurturing Current & Past Customers

1)      Less expensive – it costs about 4-5 times more money to acquire a new customer vs. retaining a current customer.  A new customer taxes your resources: advertising and marketing expenses for digital and print ads, consumes your social media content, asks your sales team lots of questions, waits several months to make decisions…on and on..

A current customer is already familiar with you and your business.  Your advertising, marketing, and sales team already earned the current customers trust.

2)      Happy Customers Tell Others – when a customer is happy and feels special, he or she will defend and recommend your company.  It’s essentially free advertising for you.  The current customer is not only likely to purchase from you again but also act as a source of new business for you, because he or she will tell friends and family about your wonderful company. You should have a referral campaign to recognize and reward referrers.

3)      Free Feedback – leverage current customers to gain feedback about new products or services you plan to offer.  Use current customers to help improve the customer experience.

How Do You Get Started?

1)      Create systems to collect, segment, and store new customers contact information.  It’s up to you what contact information is important to keep.  You can do a lot with a home address, email address, and phone number.  If you want to personalize (I would): gather anniversary date of first purchase, birthday, or any other piece of information that will help future campaigns.

2)      Brainstorm Ideas to Nurture Customers 

  1. Educational Content
  2. Exclusive Deals
  3. Appreciation Nights
  4. Workshops

Reach out to them with valuable information without asking for anything in return. If you consistently provide content and promotions to current clients, making them feel special, he or she is much more likely to listen when you want to sell.

3)      Add ideas to Content Calendar – create at least three months of information to send to your current clients.  Use various methods to reach the customer – email, direct mail, social media, etc. Add these to a content calendar so its easy for you and your staff to prepare and distribute.

If you are serious about creating a world-class company, you need to decide how you retain customers.  What can you do to offer a consistent, valuable experience for your current customers?  The company that retains customers gains a tremendous competitive advantage over its competition.

Good luck!

Do You Offer a Unique Customer Experience to Your Clients and Prospects?

10 Apr
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While companies continue to spend millions (billions?) of dollars to acquire engineering talent and patents to gain a competitive advantage, one asset proves to be extremely difficult to either acquire or emulate: Customer Experience.

Today, it’s easier than ever for competitors to quickly replicate your products and/or services.  If there is little difference between your products/services and your competitors’ products/services, how will you gain a competitive advantage and secure loyal clients? Please don’t say because you have a cheaper price and a better product. Competing exclusively on price only works  for Amazon and Wal-Mart. 

Let’s use Starbucks as an example. The customer experience at Starbucks is a major reason why people routinely bypass local coffee shops and/or fast food restaurants serving similar quality coffee for a cheaper price, to pay an additional $3.00 at Starbucks.  The founding team at Starbucks realized that people will pay a premium price for an outstanding experience.  Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, it sells experience. It sells a lifestyle. It’s not by accident – it’s all part of the customer experience strategy.  The great companies, including Amazon and Starbucks START with the customer experience and work backwards.

Do you have a customer experience strategy?  I highly recommend you begin thinking about what your customers and prospects experience at each of the touchpoints at your company.  For example:

1)      What happens when a customer or prospect:

– Lands on your website for the first time?

– Uses the ‘Contact Us’ email address to inquire about your product/service

Does he or she receive a thank you and told how long it will take to receive a response?  Do you have systems and training in place to provide an outstanding experience?

– Calls the phone number listed on the website

Human answer? Is your team trained how to interact with clients and prospects on the phone Who do you trust with the first impression of your business?

Voicemail? What’s the message

– Views your social media channels (Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc…)

Asks a question/leaves a comment on your social media site?

  1. Drives to your store and parks his or her car – is the parking lot clean? Are there missing lights in your sign?  What’s the appearance at the store?  How is the person greeted?  What happens at checkout? Is there special packaging?  What can you do to enhance the experience?
  2. Purchases your product or service?  How is it delivered?  How do you follow up? How do you nurture him or her for future business?

There are several things to think about when developing a customer experience strategy.  It’s hard work, but if you want to create a competitive advantage and increase your company’s chances of success in the long run, it’s imperative that you start to think about the overall customer experience at your company.

 

Good Luck!

An Important Survival Lesson During My First Week in Shanghai

8 Mar

shanghai-traffic-marketing

The taxi driver held the horn for 10 seconds and loudly yelled at me in Chinese.  I had no idea what he said, but assumed he was having a bad day.  As I turned my head away from the crazy taxi driver, I almost got hit by a motorbike on my right side.

TWICE, in less than 7 seconds, I came closer to being run over by a vehicle than I had in my previous 34 years on earth. Welcome to Shanghai.  Where I quickly learned that the green signal for pedestrians to cross the street, simply means you have permission to risk your life.  No joke: crossing the street in Shanghai is a real life game of Frogger.

In the United States, I/we often dare vehicles to hit us. We assume vehicles will stop if we are in the crosswalk. Here’s a tip: don’t do that in Shanghai. In Shanghai, your head should be on a swivel. You will need to dodge bicyclists carrying 50+ pounds of produce, buses, cars, motorcycles, motorbikes, and your fellow pedestrians attempting to cross the street.

shanghai-traffic-marketing

The first two weeks in Shanghai have been an eye opening experience for me. I am located in the Yangpu District of Shanghai.  Judging by the looks on the locals faces when they see me, there are not many westerners in this part of Yangpu.  There’s the five year old child who stopped in his tracks when he saw me, his eyes popped out of his head.  He’s not alone. There’s the elderly lady who stopped talking, pointed and starred at me, craning her neck as I walked past her and her group of friends.  The two teenagers who laughed at me as I attempted to order food from their street food stand.

There is very little English – spoken or written – (why should there be? I’m in China) so communication, which I took for granted in the US, is a challenge.  But I’ve adapted, and I’m thankful that the ability to adapt is a strength I posses.  Things won’t always be easy.  This trip has reaffirmed, for me, the importance of being able to adapt – both in business and in life.

I’m really good at Charades – I successfully acted out that I need to find a place to do my laundry.  I successfully ordered eggs after I pretended to crack an egg.

Also, a smile is universal.  People are willing to help when they are greeted by a smile. 

The business lessons have been plentiful as well.  Hopefully, I will improve at crossing the street so I can write about my business insights.

Shanghai is electric. I highly recommend a visit if you ever get a chance – just be sure to look both ways, multiple times, when you cross the street. 

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