Helping not selling

apple1I think most people who read Angela’s quote will nod their head in agreement with the statement. From a brand’s point of view it is common sense; you need to establish a rapport with a customer before they are really going to be listening to what you are saying. But I wish more people would get that this thinking applies just as much to email interactions as well.

I don’t want to be sold to when opening my email either, I want to be helped.  If you have an email address for your customer you probably have some kind of a relationship with them but this does not mean that they spend their day waiting around to buy more from you. I tell my clients to think about email as bait that leaves customers wanting to know more, gets them clicking on links to find out more and ultimately predisposes them towards your brand so that when they are in the market – they will think of you. Email is perfect for enabling your customers to unlock more of what your brand has to offer. Whether it be reminding them about your after sales service, handy tips on getting the most from your new phone or invitations to exclusive customer events.  You’ll stand out from the crowd if your emails are not about selling, but about helping.

BTW – I found this quote in Fast Company – if you have not liked it on Facebook, you should!

PS – Angela starts at Apple in early 2014 so expect her to shake things up!  🙂

Show me you know me

The simple act of recognition can be a powerful loyalty driver. Using your customer’s name, remembering what they bought last time, enquiring about their last purchase.  These are all things that make a customer feel like you know them.  And in this “always on” world we live in today, successful brands will be the ones that make you feel like it is easier to do business with them. A real life example of this was my experience recently when I logged onto my Kiwibank internet banking and I received this message below:

kiwiwbankI thought it was a sweet customer recognition idea.   I love it as it doesn’t cost anything to recognise customers and really makes customers feel that their bank is looking after them – as an individual.  And happy customers buy more from you.  You don’t need a business case to tell you that.

Hold the line caller

When I worked for a start-up back in the UK, one of the things that I thought was inspired was that the Marketing team sat right in the heart of the action – in the middle of the call centre. Being located here meant that we always knew what was going on with customers. And talk about understanding the impact of marketing. We knew instantly when customers starting calling in as the result of a campaign and we knew even more instantly when there was an issue. No hiding behind voicemail, this was about being faced with the realities of the good and the bad of customers everyday.

In this recent blog post from the brilliant Seth Godin there are lots more ideas for treating your inbound calls with the respect they deserve.

P.S: my personal favourite is forwarding all calls to your CEO’s spouse….I reckon that is a pretty quick way to get a result!

Friend or thief?

farmersOne of my pet hates when I shop at Farmers is when they put that big piece of sticky tape over your bag to prove that you haven’t stolen the thing you’ve bought or to stop you stealing more. It really erks me but I try to keep it to myself. But the other day, it all went out the window, I just couldn’t help myself.

It was one of those 50% off childrenswear days so the place was packed and it was 10pm at night. I got to the front of the queue, handed over my ClubCard when asked, paid and then they put the tape over my bag. And then I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.

I asked the lady on the till if I could make an observation. (At which point all the people in the queue looked at me like I was a crackpot). This was my observation.

“In one breath you are asking me for my ClubCard which is rewarding me for my loyalty and thanking me for being a friend of Farmers. And then in the other breath you are accusing me of stealing something. Does that not strike you as being odd?”

At which point all the other ladies on the tills turned around and started nodding their heads in agreement. And the customers in the queue still thought I was a nutbag.

My beef wasn’t with the ladies on the till as I know they were just doing what they were told to do. My point was that I am sure in splendid isolation both these things make sense. Marketing are right to think that a loyalty programme is a good idea. And Risk is also right to think that tape can limit their stock losses.

However – when they come together at the customer – they just don’t feel right. Who looks after the experience the customer has? Who is in charge of that? If you don’t have anyone – you need to change that.

How are you making your customers feel?

What have you done for me lately?

Janet JacksonI always find it interesting when a client comes to me with a customer retention issue and the first question they want to know is – “why are customers leaving us?”. Because I’m not sure that is always the best question to ask. In the famous words (well almost) of Janet Jackson maybe you should be asking yourself “what have we done for them lately?”.

Obsessing on why customers left you is futile as 9 times out of 10 they will always say they left because of price. And using price as a retention tool is not sustainable long term. But if you put the spotlight on what your brand has done to show loyalty to the customer since they have been with you I think you will get to an entirely different place.

Challenge yourself – what have you done for your customers recently to earn their loyalty?

Stories for every journey

Qantas - Story Books for Every JourneyQantas have recently come up with another way to reward their frequent flyers – specially curated books that flyers are able to finish just as the plane touches down. It’s called “Stories for Every Journey,” and is a collection of bespoke books, each of which promises to last only for the duration of one of the airline’s routes.

I thought this was a novel (pardon the pun) way of rising to the challenge of engaging with frequent flyers who, at the top end are probably not as driven by points accumulation as your average flyer. I love it from a customer point of view as it simply excites me about travel again. When you are a frequent flyer, you are probably doing it for work and subsequently it turns into a bit of a chore and just a way of getting from A to B. But with these books I’d be chomping at the bit to get on board and have some “me” time rather than work time. Which is a nice association for the brand to have and also the book gives you a very tactile experience. You’d probably pass the book onto colleagues as well so would have a decent life span.

They have skewed the books to a male audience – so think crime, adventure and sci-fi but would be great to see this evolved to be driven by a customer’s preference. It would also be interesting to think about whether a digital experience would be more appealing to some customers. In terms of appealing to a more female skew, this idea reminds me on an initiative at Heathrow Terminal 1 some years ago where frequent flyers where given the opportunity to customise their own magazine before they boarded a flight.

But in general I thought it was another great demonstration of a brand being loyal to a customer and really getting the experience they have.

Big business could learn a lot from small business

Sometimes I ponder on the fact that small businesses are actually a lot smarter than big ones.  Big ones could learn a lot from small ones.

They truly are closer to their customers as they are the ones talking to them everyday.  Helping them, testing out things with them and solving problems for them.  They don’t have to do endless focus groups to find out what customers are thinking.  Focus groups are hilarious.  Picture this – a small windowlesss room, 9pm on a Tuesday night,  with people who have nothing better to do eating free sandwiches and critically evaluating a doordrop that in real life would barely have 30 seconds dedicated to it.  Quality way to get insights to feed your marketing strategy. Not.

Successful small businesses focus everything around their customers.  And they don’t need any internal change programme to do this or a snappy project name.  They just do the right thing.  My favourite small business at the moment is my dentist.  Two very cool reasons.  First up – everytime you refer someone to his practice – he sends you a handwritten thankyou card with a $50 credit voucher to use on your next visit.  Nice. The first time it happened, it was a complete surprise and now I actively recommend whenever I get an opportunity.  Secondly – because helping his customers out is the first thing on his mind, he never takes any appointments in the week before Christmas.  He does this because he wants to keep his schedule free in case any of his customers have a toothache or a problem that needs addressing before the long break.  Put simply – he gives up revenue in that week before Christmas so that none of his customers are in pain over the holidays.  Wow – that is clever.  And that is going to earn you lifetime loyalty.



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