Saturday, July 14, 2012

Making the best choice

The famous Jam experiment is frequently used to prove that too much choice makes customers unhappy. But maybe, the problem is not about having too much choice, but rather having too little chance to learn about the options.

In a big variety of choice, the thing you mostly need is an expert able to “help” you make the right choice. The expert may be anybody, whose opinion is trustworthy in a certain area: strategic consultant, account manager, sales person in a fashion store, or the gardener you buy flowers from. A customer may need an expert opinion in most unusual situations. For example: Do you know how to buy chocolate?  

Preparing for the visit home, of course I wanted to bring some Belgian chocolates. My path led to one of the chocolatiers… Faced with all the variety, I looked at the sales person… and met an understanding smile.
She took time to explain me: all the terms related to the ingredients and types of pralines, also shared which chocolates are traditional for Belgium and which are house speciality.
Additionally, asking what occasion I needed the chocolates for, she could “help me choose” the present (in fact she just told me what would be best to take) … And I left the shop so joyful; being sure that I will bring home the "best chocolate I could choose" J

…. In another case my friend and I have just visited a store selling chocolate with “strange” flavours: vinegar, chilli, beer, ham, cheese etc.  We were extremely excited…. and lost  J So, we asked for advice and received, as my friend described it later: “a reflection of the unwillingness of the seller to make any compromises... because then, we would judge her opinion and taste:
“They are all good or depending on your taste.”  To be honest, no idea if we prefer chocolate with beer or cheese taste. We felt like the person was neither interested in helping us nor in selling. Quite a disappointment!

Realising that we did not buy the best possible product makes the customer feel unhappy. They lost the chance of trying something special. I wish all the professionals facing customers (consultant, account manager, sales assistant) are indeed experts in their area. In that case, please, do express your opinion and preferences. Your customers will feel you really take care of them, willing to recommend them the best you may offer.

Experiencing the top product/service, the customers will probably come back eager to try your “special offers”. That is the moment you have a chance not to scare, but to delight them with a lot of choice.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Customer-Centric Journey

Customer centricity… Almost every business claims to be customer centric. This is one of the terms which almost everybody uses, but very few can tell what does it really mean.

A very good explanation and a tip to find out, how customer centric your company is, has designed Bob Thompson, Founder/Editor-in-Chief of CustomerThink.com. He presents in his article the following pyramid:

Bob Thompson compares the customer centric journey with a mountain, which very few manage to climb till the top.  Here are 4 of the stager of the jorney:

1.      Customer-Focused: "We know our customers and what they buy, and can optimize marketing, sales and customer service activities to generate more revenue and profit for the company."

2.      Customer-Driven: "We regularly get customer feedback, prioritize key issues and work to improve customer satisfaction with the products and services we sell, to minimize customer attrition."
3.      Customer-Engaged: "We focus on a long-term relationship and strive to make an emotional connection with customers, by providing delightful experiences that create advocates."
4.      Customer-Inspired: "We think deeply about what customers are trying to accomplish in their business and personal lives, and create new ways to add value before they ask!"
According to his research 70% of businesses are at the first 2 stages.
Wish more companies recognize the need to go further than just responding to feedback, and succeed to transform interactions with customers into valuable long-term relationships.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Transfer service... and a bit more

Madeira is a wonderful place to visit and spend holidays. And what absolutely adds to the experience there are the local people. For many years the main income source on the island is tourism. As a result it has an amazing service culture!

It started with the transfer from airport to the hotel. The professionalism of taxi drivers is impressive. 

One may say that a job of a driver is to safely bring you from point A to point B. And if this service is provided well- you will be fairly satisfied. But who is in charge of deciding on the Job description, roles and responsibilities of a taxi driver? Who creates the standards? Of course the driver may stick to the basic offer, but if will never result in a “Wow reaction”. Why limit yourself to the minimum service if you may go a small but very valuable step for your customer?

There are a huge number of taxi companies in Madeira: most are small/family businesses of 2-5 cars. This means a big competition and a great service!  “Many of them even attended tourism driver and mountain guide courses to better suit your needs!”   If you want to learn about the islands' people, economy, real estate, education, traditions - take a taxi J! A drive may always transform in a learning experience.

Their care and level of foresight is impressive till the last moments spent on Madeira.  On the way to airport the driver asks if we want to stop at a view point to make some last pictures during this visit and say “Good bye” to the island….

Thank you!

What are our roles and responsibilities is up to us. We may either stick to basics or make a difference 

P.S. Just to feel the difference: today I arrived to the Brussels International airport (which is normally full of travellers who visit for the first time) and asked at the Information point how to get to the Microsoft office located in the neighbourhood. The answer was fantastic: “We are not tourist information!!!”    No comments

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Interview: Helping customers to avoid wrong choices

A photographer (http://fotto.be/), an artist, a traveller, a dreamer….  and a sales person in a travel shop
-Taking in considerations everything you do, what brought you to a travel shop?
-Well, I understood for me that I need time to develop as an artist. If I would work as a photographer then I would go from one job to another and there would be no space for my own creativity anymore.
For me it was quite obvious that when I would work in a shop it would be The shop I am in. I travelled a lot in the previous 2 years with my back pack, and before it was by bicycle. So, when I started in the shop I could tell more about the products than guys who had to teach me. You know, when you are dreaming since you are a little boy, 12 years old, about long trips you read the entire internet and this way you learn a lot. Travelling was always my passion.
And you can see it when I am selling. When I am talking I always say “I used this for this reason”. And when I say “I have it on my own, I’ve been testing it and I am really happy with it” it builds trust. And the first thing you need is to build trust in order to be able to sell.
Did you get a lot of training in the shop?
We are quite service oriented in the shop. We have some training and there are quite some rules, but in the shop I always follow my intuition.
 It is very interesting, because sometimes I tell customers that they will be better off if they buy the needed product somewhere else. It seems crazy, but on the other hand the client will think “He sends me to the other shop but I will get back again because here I get helped” And you can see it works, when you look at the numbers. You see many clients coming especially to us.
I think this is part of my own style.
Yes, I noticed it. When I visited the shop, it was also  a very interesting experience: I am coming, asking for a specific product I want, and then you say me “No, you don’t need it!”
Yes, the thing I always start with, is asking what you will be using the product for. And I knew that the solution to your problem is not the product you asked for. This often happens: clients come having a product in mind, but maybe there is somebody who knows better what is on the market and what can help them better. This way you make a step further, and your clients are much happier, because suddenly they have a better solution. 
Sometimes a person comes asking for a sleeping bag for 100 Euros, and I tell them they just need a sheet when going to Thailand. So, I sell them a travel sheet of half of the price, but they are much happier. Then I can also advise them not to buy cotton clothes when travelling in tropics because they attract water and it it’s very wet there, so it’s not a good choice. This way instead of offering one expensive and not useful product, you can sell more, cheaper products but which will be really helpful.
How do clients usually react when you tell them they don’t need the product they are asking for?
Well, you have people who tell you “No, I need this” and then I just help them. But usually they listen. You know, when the clients come inside, I just want them to buy the best possible for them. And sometimes you need to play some little tricks to get them what they need.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cut services to “punish” customers

During the session of Interactive Marketing Steven Van Belleghem  shared a small story:
“Talking about a simple example: car wash. I must admit that once in a while, after I go out of the wash tube, I take a towel to keep the car clean and dry. I make it maybe once out of ten times.
So, one day I had to visit my mother in law, and I had to be prepared… :) To my surprise I go out of the tube and see a message on the wall: “We noticed that some of the clients steal the towels, so we decided to cancel the service ” My first idea was: “Who could ever think of stealing that dirty towels- I even cannot imagine something like this. But apparently it happened sometime.
So the question is why the company focuses on the negative experience with clients in some extremely rare cases and decides to cancel the service for everybody. I use this specific service only 1 out of 10 times, but now I always go to a different car wash.”
It is amazing how companies react, and what steps they take to “save costs” which are caused by unusual clients' behavior (which may be even called rare accidents). But does the “saving” make them win? Somehow, I believe that Steven was not the only customer who moved to other service providers...