Archive for the ‘customer’ Tag

Customer Service Hall of Shame

I came across an interesting article today on MSN Money. Last April, MSN asked their readers to tell them about their worst customer service experience and within 24 hours, over 3000 responses came in. Seeing an opportunity in those kind of numbers, MSN has partnered with Zogby International to create conduct an online national survey that gathered feedback on the 20 companies most mentioned in the original response. The results of that survey have been published as “MSN Money’s Customer Experience Hall of Shame”.

Not surprisingly, Sprint Nextel came out on the bottom with a whopping 40% of respondents who had an opinion of Sprint’s customer service saying it was poor; and this was before Sprint made news last July for firing their customers. The remainder of the bottom 10 all had poor ratings of 20% or more.

The article goes on to point out that the bottom 10 all share one thing in common which is that their customers have very few alternatives. I discussed this same concept following the Sprint story last summer: Companies who have little competition in the marketplace aren’t compelled to differentiate on customer service. Interestingly, most of the “Dishonorable Mentions” in the Hall of Shame are retailers who’s markets are highly competitive with increasingly downward pricing pressure. In other words, a group focused on cost cutting.

As part of the Hall of Shame survey MSN invited CEOs from the companies to respond. Predictably, most of the responses listed in the article are defensive and tout the investments the companies are making to improve. Sprint touted their new billing system which arguably saves them a load of cash by reducing paper costs. But they also discussed the “Buzz About Wireless” community site which includes a customer-service-focused message board where customer can “rant” about their experiences. They also set up a mailbox in response to the MSN Hall of Shame for customers to share their experiences via e-mail.

So it appears that Sprint is finally listening. If you are a Sprint customer, I’d love to hear if you’ve seen any improvements since last July. After all, actually making real changes in the customer experience is what really matters. Listening is just the first step.

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People Don’t Want a Drill…

dpt_drill_center.jpg

Today, I have the honor of guest blogging over at Drew McLellan’s Marketing Minute. The post is titled “People Don’t Want A Drill…”

Here’s a sample…

“…people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.”

Check out the whole post here

Update: Here’s the complete text:

In his book “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth“, Clayton Christensen writes:

“How do you create products that customers want to buy–ones that become so successful they “disrupt” the market? It’s not easy.

Three in five new-product-development efforts are scuttled before they ever reach the market. Of the ones that do see the light of day, 40% never become profitable and simply disappear.

Most of these failures are predictable–and avoidable. Why? Because most managers trying to come up with new products don’t properly consider the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions. Or as marketing expert Theodore Levitt once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.””

Put another way, people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.

Given this, why do so many companies attempt to market their products and build their brands using an approach focused internally on the thing and not externally on the customer’s need? They conduct focus groups, assembling panels of customers to ask if adding this bell or that whistle to their thing would make it more appealing. They do extensive demographical analysis to determine those target customer segments that will find their thing appealing and then spend lots of resources convincing those customers to buy their new and improved thing. Sure, they get clear inputs on what customers want, but don’t typically take the time to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they use the company’s thing. And this approach isn’t isolated to just manufacturers. It carries over to retailers who are focused on the products they are selling and not what the customer is passionate about or the “hole” they are trying to make.

Consumer Electronics retailers (my background) are particularly guilty of this. They are constantly telling customers that they have “all the great technology you want (or need) at prices you can afford“.

The fact is, very few people “want (or need) technology”. Customers don’t just wake up one morning and decide they need to go down to Circuit City to pick up some great new technology.

They DO want to have an incredible theater experience in their home. They DO want to capture and share family memories. They DO want to be able to print documents from any computer in their home.

How do the marketers respond to these needs? They dish out specs like 1080p, HDMI2.3, megapixels, and 801.11B, G or N. Whatever the latest spec is, that’s what you want. For the customer, none of this hype guarantees a great experience. Marketers who choose to promote their things this way will have a hard time building a powerful brand.

Marketers who understand what customers are really looking for will succeed by focusing on the experience enabled by their brand. Apple is, of course, the often-cited poster child for this. The iPod has never been the best in class from a technical standpoint, but the way Apple enables the music listening experience is what has put their brand miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the term “iPod” is often used generically in place of “MP3 player”. Customers looking for a portable media player will almost always think of Apple and iPod first.

My friend Ryan Karpeles wrote a great post on what he calls Reverse Branding which echoes this idea:

“People rarely think of your actual brand first. They think about what they want. Then they decide who, specifically, can fulfill that desire. Being that “who” is the essence of Reverse Branding.”

Getting customers to drive your brand in this way is the holy grail of marketing. To get there, you first need to understand that it’s the hole they want, not the drill. Once you get that, focus your efforts on being the best damned hole maker in the business.

 

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