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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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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
Embed from Getty Images

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!

How a Frozen Yogurt Business Uses Marketing Promotion to Create Loyal Customers

8 Feb
Customer Experience

Free frozen yogurt AND your picture on the wall.

Brain Freeze Owner: “So how much does it weigh????”

Me: “How much does what weigh? Oh, you mean our two paper cups filled with three different kinds of frozen yogurt (cookies & cream, red velvet cake, and vanilla) and topped with caramel, capt crunch cereal (yes), crushed oreos, frosted animal crackers, smashed twix bars, sprinkles, and white chocolate chips???????”

Brain Freeze Owner: “Yeah! Tonight is ‘Guess the Weight Night.’ If you guess the correct weight, you get the frozen yogurt for free and get your picture on the wall! People show up rain or shine on Wednesday nights for the contest.” 

It’s a simple, yet effective, way to create customer engagement. Here are a few highlights from the promotion:

  1. Occurs on a Wednesday – typically one of the slowest day of the week for frozen yogurt. This contest ensures that a steady stream of customers will visit during a ‘slow day.’
  2. It’s fun for everyone – you should see the adults acting like kids when they guess the weight. The kids love it too. Fun for the whole family.
  3. Shareability – when people guess right (there were seven correct guesses the day we visited) they share the post on social media sites. This turns into free advertising/publicity for the yogurt shop.
  4. Awesome Customer Experience – Brain Freeze interacts with its customers, and features them on the wall. It’s a way to differentiate from its competition. The competition is probably too lazy to create a fun promotion for its customers.
  5. Loyalty – it’s the weekend and a customer wants frozen yogurt. Well, I want to take my family/friends to the place where my photograph is on the wall. I want to go to the place that makes things fun. That place is Brain Freeze.

Do you have a weekly/monthly promotion that is both fun for your customers AND creates customer loyalty? I bet you can come up with very creative ways to entertain your customers. Spend a week thinking about how you can implement a promotion that will create customer loyalty. Customer loyalty, money, and sustainability go to the businesses that differentiate and implement.

Good luck!

How Airbnb Created an Amazing Customer Acquisition Marketing Campaign

4 Feb

customer acquisition

This is an excellent new customer acquisition campaign from Airbnb.  Let’s take a look a few of the reasons this is such a great campaign:

A Clear Goal:

The goal of this campaign is obvious: entice new customers to try http://www.airbnb.com, to generate additional revenue for the company. One way to increase revenue is by adding new customers to your existing client database. It’s simple: new customers = additional revenue.  A secondary goal is to convert the new customers (promo/trial customers) to loyal customers  after the promotion ends.

 Defined Target Market

– Consumers who have never used Airbnb

– Consumers who use social media

Because the deal was announced via social media, it’s clear that the company is targeting consumers who frequent social media sites. I’m sure Airbnb has data that shows most customers discover the company via online search. social media, and word-of-mouth. It knows exactly where its target market is hanging out.

Also, because it’s such a great deal, Airbnb benefits from free advertising when people share the deal with family and friends – there is a viral element to the ad because it’s such a great offer. This reduces marketing expenses and increases the ROI for Airbnb.

Clear, Simple Offer

Does the offer make me stop what I’m doing to learn more? Is the offer worth my time?  Definitely.  If you’re going to make an offer, make sure it not only makes sense financially but also gets people excited and gets people talking. I suspect Airbnb allocated part of its marketing budget to pay for the free offers that would be redeemed. It avoided the high costs of advertising the deal via traditional channels (print & TV), and instead relied on its current customers to spread the deal via social media.  

Deadline to Redeem the Offer

You needed to book your trip between January 13th and 17th, travel by March 31st, AND book for at least two nights (first night is on Airbnb). I’m sure the winter months are a slow time for Airbnb. This offer was an attempt to generate revenue during the slow months, while also hoping that some of the new clients will stick around and try Airbnb next time they travel.

Is There a Way to Track Whether the Ad is Successful?

Yes. You must enter promo code: ONENIGHT to redeem the offer. This promo code allows Airbnb to easily track how many people redeemed the offer. Airbnb can also determine  how much revenue was created by not only this offer but also any future business from the customers acquired during this campaign. Armed with this data, Airbnb can adjust future marketing campaigns to maximize return-on-investment (ROI).

How Can You Apply Some of the Lessons from This Airbnb Marketing Campaign?

Before you create advertisements and marketing campaigns, you should always determine the goal of the marketing campaign. Is it to create brand awareness? Is it to acquire new customers? Is it to reward existing customers?

Also, take time to crystallize your target market. So many marketing campaigns fail because companies fail to clearly define the  target market. Who are the people we are targeting with this marketing campaign? Does our ad/message resonate with the target market? Are we marketing our product/service where the target market hangs out?

Is there a clear call-to-action? What do you want the target market to do after they view your advertisement? 

Is the offer irresistible? Is there a deadline to redeem the offer?

What happens AFTER they take advantage of your promotional offer? How do you follow up to ensure the new customer(s) become lifelong customers?

A successful customer acquisition campaign includes: a goal, a defined target market, an irresistible offer, a clear call-to-action, and systems to convert new customers to lifelong customers.

Good luck!

Why You Should Send Your Clients a Thank You Gift by January 31st, 2014

13 Jan
Your holiday card is in this pile

Your holiday card is in this pile

Let’s be honest: the holiday card and/or holiday email thank you to your prospects and clients ended up in either the trashcan or the spam folder.  As a business owner/marketing professional/human being, you understand that clients and prospects are inundated with advertisements. You have approximately three seconds to catch his or her attention. 

Imagine how many holiday cards your clients/prospects received during the holidays – cards and gifts from businesses, family members, friends, and former friends that forgot to updated the ol’ mailing list (always a bit awkward for about 5 minutes). 

Are you ready to stand out and get ahead of your competition?

Now is the time to send a sincere, handwritten ‘Thank You’ along with a unique, heartfelt gift to your most profitable clients. Give yourself a timeline of January 31st, 2014 to:

  • Segment your most influential/profitable clients/contacts/prospects
  • Write (handwritten) a sincere ‘thank you’ and personalize it if possible
  • Include gift (see bottom for an idea to get you started)
  • Place a ‘live stamp’ (no stamp machine)
  • Mail

Why now is the perfect time to nurture your clients and prospects?

A)     You will not be lost in the crowd.

As I mentioned: everybody and their mother sent a holiday card/gift/email during December.

B)      Least Expected/Most Appreciate

We just survived the most depressing day (Blue Monday) and week of the year (the first full week after New Year’s)

C)      Your Competition is Back to Taking Clients for Granted

  1. In this ultra-competitive landscape, you should be doing everything in your power to stand out from the competition.
  2. You are in a relationship with your client(s): Your competition sent a holiday card/email (you probably did too). They won’t follow up in January or February or March or April. You will. 

What Should I Send My Clients and Top Prospects?

Here are a few ideas for you:

1) ‘Spring is only X-days Away’ – Here’s a $10.00 gift card to the frozen yogurt shop (bonus points if you purchase gift card from local store) – close your eyes and imagine the warm weather that’s on the way.

2) A $10.00 coffee gift card to keep you warm in February letter. The ad copy could be something like: “Thank you for your business. I know you have a choice, and I’m thrilled you decided to do business with XYZ company. Here’s a $10.00 coffee gift card to show my small token of appreciation; hope it helps warm you up in February!”

Be authentic. Be Creative. Your clients and prospects will love you for it! They might even share it with their social circle; which is like free advertising for your company.

Good luck!

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