Most companies say they are customer-focused or customer-centric, it’s a buzzword that is pretty easy to throw into marketing copy. A truly customer-centric company understands the direct correlation between listening to their customers and achieving better business outcomes, they strive to constantly improve their customer’s experience. How many companies do you think are really doing that? How many times have you been to an office where the C-suite thinks they know better than their customers?
A few years back, I worked at a large company and we had a real problem: the company had been raising prices every year for the past decade and our customers, mostly in multi-year contracts, were angry. Our Net Promoter Score, the metric by which we measured customer loyalty, was deeply negative. That is to say, many more of our customers rated us a 0 or 1 rather than a 9 or 10. We all knew that we were going to take a big hit to our subscriber retention if we didn’t change our ways.
The company needed to find out exactly what we could be done to win back the hearts of our largely disgruntled customers and I was tapped to lead the task force to solve the problem. Luckily, we had a robust customer feedback system already in place and we were quickly able to pull thousands of quantitative data points and verbatim comments from our customers. In addition, we conducted additional interviews with both current and former customers. The data was alarming and resoundingly negative with feedback falling into one of two major complaints:
- You charge too much for what we are getting in value
- You only talk to me when you want to sell me something
Using this data, a plan was devised and executed to address these complaints. We set up proactive calls to customers 6 to 12 months before their renewal dates to check in and offer ideas on what they could do to improve their profiles, including free product upgrades when appropriate. We also created a monthly mailing to customers on how to improve their business, and included a free item like a pens or magnets. Each of the items had our customer service number printed on it, encouraging easy engagement. Lastly, we engaged the company itself around the importance of customer experience; we conducted staff training sessions and made all the numbers public so we could focus on improving them.
Our turn towards customer-centricity worked: our Net Promoter Score moved from deeply negative to positive in only 9 months and our retention rate beat expectations leading to dramatic bottom line growth. The company began to understand the direct correlation between customer experience and bottom line performance.
Here are some valuable customer experience lessons and best practices I learned during that project and since:
- Establish regular feedback with customers at different points in their lifecycle
- Keep feedback questions simple, I’m a big fan of the standard Net Promoter Score question, ‘How likely is that you would recommend our product or service to a friend of colleague?’
- Include open ended comment boxes, they’re great for qualitative feedback
- Make sure that feedback is shared with the company, the key is to empower employees at all levels to improve customer experience.
Customer-centricity is the cornerstone of digital business, the digital winners are those able to provide the best customer experience in all scenarios. Push your company towards truly engaging with customer feedback and your organization is sure to improve its bottom line as well as be in a better vantage point to weather market disruption. So go forth, listen to your customers, treat them right, and profit!