Is Your Customer King?

Probably not. There’s a lot of folderol in management circles about making sure that you put the customer first, that the customer is always right, that the customer relationship is the most critical relationship of all.


Image: Tomasz Steifer, Gdansk

Then, of course, big business (let’s not lay all the blame at their feet; small business can suck at this, too) comes along and undermines anything the “boots on the ground” are actually doing on the ground.

From the latest New Thinking by Gerry McGovern:

In many organizations, the current customer is so disrespected that support is outsourced. You outsource the things that matter least to you. You outsource to save money. You outsource because you don’t care. You outsource because you don’t think something is a core competence.

It doesn’t get any truer than that, babies. It’s all about grabbing the most that you can and the devil take the hindmost.

Why do you hate dealing with Comcast/Time Warner/Verizon/fill-in-the-blank-with-other-hated-company-of-your-choice? Because their customer service stinks.

Two weeks ago, my local electricity provider (recently purchased by a mega-conglomerate) sent me a letter telling me to URGENTLY get in touch as someone needed to come over RIGHT AWAY to change my electric meter.

I called. I got the now-ubiquitous automated operator. I tried several different options (“Press 2 for Residential Customers”) and finally I just started yelling “Represenative!” and it finally connected me. To someone who didn’t know what in the hell was going on. Who lived states away from me. *sigh* Well, at least he didn’t live in a foreign country.

I’m still waiting on the promised technician to come out to fix something that THEY wanted fixed. I don’t care if they replace the dumb meter or not. I just called because I thought it would be helpful. I won’t make that mistake again.

“You outsource because you don’t think something is a core competence.” Gerry’s been right a lot, but he’s never been more right than right here.

Good Experience: The Key to Consumer Interaction

Excellent report here from Marketing Charts which shares the results of a global survey of the ideal customer experience. I find the results more than a little intriguing. Also, before you run out and change your customer engagement strategy, I would caution you to note the worldwide nature of the study: only 8% of respondents were from the U.S.

EIU-Elements-Ideal-Customer-Experience-Apr2015Still, that doesn’t mean it’s bad data. What it means is that the numbers might skew a bit differently if these were U.S.-only numbers.

I find this interesting:

Overall, 71% of respondents said their typical response to a bad experience is to stop doing business with the company. A slight majority (55%) typically tell friends and family about it in person or by email, while 42% said they complain to the company and 26% post a comment on social media.

Now, that should tell you something. The impact of bad experiences with your business or organization is a game changer. Or at least it should be. If just under three-quarters of the people who have a bad experience with you leave and don’t come back — and tell a friend about it — you soon won’t have any customers left.

The curious thing is that the numbers for outstanding experiences show that slightly less people will share if they are happy. In other words, you’ll know when someone is pissed!

Last year, I had two online retail experiences of note. I had never dealt with either company before. The first was for a big ticket item. The second was for a very minor purchase. The first experience was the worst experience I have ever had and I will never, ever use this company again. The second was the polar opposite: they sent me a new product, on their dime, with expedited shipping. And then called me to make sure it was okay. I am quite sure that they lost money on that transaction.

But here’s the thing, they had no idea that I would ever be able to share those feelings or encourage others to purchase from them (LampsUSA).

As for the other (Cymax), one can’t say enough bad words. Stay away.

For the survey, H/T Gerry McGovern.

Gerry McGovern: On the Web, Helping Instead of Selling

McCambley stresses that the Web is about doing things, and that the mobile Web is even more task-focused. He quotes Googles Eric Schmidt, then with Sun Microsystems, who said way back in 1998 that “Customer service is the killer app of the Web.” So true. According to McCambley, “Brands such as Google, Zappos, Amazon, eBay, and others win because they ask “How can I help you?” instead of “What can I sell you?”

via gerrymcgovern – NEW THINKING: Busy people need help, not interruptions.

Oh, Good Lord, yes. A thousand times, yes.

Every time a New Thinking comes out, I’m reinvigorated. It’s like a little bit of validation from a far-off Irishman who does not know me, but who reads my mind and tells me that I’m not crazy!!

KISS Off — Beginning to Make Your Website Work for Your Clients

“Simplicity should be to self-service as chocolate is to joy or sadness is to taxes.”

That’s how Gerry McGovern begins his latest New Thinking missive.

And here’s how he ends it: “Organizations are making life easy for themselves and miserable for their customers.”

Gerry McGovern. Image:

Gerry McGovern. Image:

Think about that statement when you look at your own website. Think about that when you visit a competitor’s website or your healthcare provider’s website or your cell or internet provider’s site. Think about that the next time you have cause to visit a college or university website or a big box retailer’s site. Or, and this is a big one: think about that the next time you have to apply for a job online.

Organizations big and small are making their websites work for THEM and not for YOU, the user. It’s maddening and frustrating and ultimately, I fear, most of us have given up. “This is just the way it is,” we’ll sigh and go on to the next thing.

But here’s my thought: it doesn’t have to be that way. A few simple fixes — simple for the user, not so simple for the implementer, especially if they have to convince senior management first — and you can make your site stand out from the crowd because your site visitors can actually get something done. And that’s a real step forward.

Six Online Reservation Services Worth a Look

6 Online Reservation Services to Bookmark Now.|Mashable

Much to some people’s dismay, it’s still necessary to interact with the real world to get certain things done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the web to facilitate finding said chores. Many great sites can help find restaurants and businesses, though some are better and more reliable than others.

I haven’t used many of these, but I throw them out there to see what you think. Leave a comment if any of these strike you as horrible, bad, evil or plain terrific!

Customer Loyalty: If You Can’t Buy It, How Do You Get It?

Secret. Panera. Patagonia. Schwab. Krispy Kreme. Method. Louisville Slugger. Zappos. There are many a shining example of purpose-driven companies. But how does one isolate that brand purpose— the idea that inspires what you do and informs every action you take by getting to the core of why you do it?

This is not achieved via sensitivity training or New Age crystals or a séance; its more like making vanilla extract: distillation to the point of essence. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the process is very simple, and very hard. The process begins with assembling the team and posing one central question: Why does the brand exist?

via You Cant Buy Customer Loyalty: New Book.| CNBC

Great book excerpt tweeted about by Web super-guru Gerry McGovern. This is very important stuff for people trying to understand their organization and its place in the world. Not just for marketers. Actually, not for marketers at all. The rest of your management team needs to get on board with this type of purpose-built thinking.


The Case Against Content Management Systems

Decentralized web teams rarely reflect a professional approach to web management. They tend to be a cost reduction tactic.


Content creators are continually juggling their own work along with technology that is often non-intuitive for them thanks to decentralized Web structures that have become the industry standard.
(Photo of Erik Klocker trying for the world record in axe juggling in 2012 by Whoisdavemstaine/ Wikimedia Commons.)

That’s how Web guru Gerry McGovern started his Feb. 17, 2013 “New Thinking” missive. It gave me pause. Why was this how he was framing the debate? I read on.

Once bought, employees throughout the organization were given a couple of training sessions on this [content management] software. According to this distributed / decentralized model, there was no need for a central team or any dedicated, professional resources. It was publishing on the cheap and it sounded great in theory.

I thought about that. What a genius observation. McGovern contends that most organizations without content management systems are better off than those with them because it forces people to do the things they are good at, not the things that management may want them to do.

Think about this. I know it runs counter to prevailing wisdom about managing an effective modern website, but it’s a very, very important insight.

Have you ever had to post a piece of your own content — or an asset — that did not behave the way you wanted it to? How much of your time did you unnecessarily spend doing that because you were trying to figure out the tech end because there were no tech people to do it for you?

Content creators are just that. No one should be asking them — us — to fiddle with the tech. The tech folks should do that. If we had them, we could get back to creating new, better, more innovative and, most importantly, more relevant copy for our audiences.

McGovern’s contention that a centralized Web team should be paired with the people who have the most customer interaction is simply bang on. And what’s stopping this from happening? McGovern and I are of one brain on this: it’s senior management throwing up the roadblock. It’s ALWAYS senior management.

Read McGovern’s full piece HERE.

New Thinking in Patient Care: Hotels


Many service-oriented industries can learn a great deal from the hospitality industry.

I had a moment of clarity last night. A colleague was helping her mother with some content development work. Her mom is a consultant who specializes in Alzheimers/dementia care and working with nursing homes to develop new models for caring for patients.

Tangental to this dementia work has come, in recent years, an onslaught of new patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) from our horrible unwinnable wars. Nursing facilities have found themselves caught with a clientele of patients younger than they are used to and who have needs for long term care that they are often unfamiliar with.

A long intro for this, sent to me by my colleague:

“What is the connection between Person Centered Care and health care? Person Centered Care becomes an experience that enhances the delivery of health care services. Health care is becoming a consumer driven industry. It may be helpful to peruse the basic service standards for the hospitality industry.”

It is, I think, a terrific recommendation. When I was working to develop new paradigms for service in the arts, time and time again I went back to the well of concierge service, white glove total service, ease of use and ease of payment. It is absolutely what we hope hoteliers are trained to understand and implement.

Let’s put it another way: you may not be able to articulate what makes service good, but you damn sure know when it’s bad.

Comments encouraged.

How to be Insanely Service Centric – Lessons From Zappos

How to be Insanely Service Centric – Lessons From Zappos | Business 2 Community.

This is good stuff. It’s kinda sad that we have to single out someone who is doing it right because they are rare, but, well, there ya go.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to provide exceptional experiences for your customers.

When I was in college, I worked at a busy convenience store. I was always bitching about the customers and my dad, who was a barber and ran his own business for many years, said to me, “I know it sounds trite but the customer is always right.” I, of course, replied that sometimes I was right. I knew this because, well, I was 20 and when you are 20 you think you are always right.

Dad said, “No, it just doesn’t matter. The best lesson you can learn is to make the customer feel important. Don’t screw around with him. And learn to say you’re sorry. And give him a little something for nothing every now and then just for the hell of it. What does it really matter?”

It took me a while to grasp all of that information. Around the time I was putting together what we now call UX — user experiences — for customers did it finally click. Dad was right all along.

Make it easy on the customer. I’m telling ya, it will set you free.