Wednesday Jul 22, 2015

(De)Constructing Customer Success for Consumer Brands – Is it More Than a Buzzword and does it Really Apply to Us?

Customer Success…is this just another buzzword, the new must have, a simple checkbox, or does it actually mean something?   I think we all know that big buzzwords (big data anyone?) can lose their impact and meaning but I am here to tell you that when you strip everything away, ‘customer success’ is really at the cornerstone of creating successful consumer businesses. 

Let’s look at the two words separately. Customers—every business wants to maximize the number of customers they have to grow revenues and spread out revenue risk. Success—achieving or exceeding ones goals, can be measured in revenues and metrics around growth, retention and adoption.

It’s interesting that when we put the words together, they take on a variety of meanings:

Customer Success = Superior Customer Experience = Part Process / Part Relationship = Doing whatever it takes to make the customer successful/happy. A few well-known examples: Zappos, Nordstroms, Chick-fil-A.

Customer Success = Helping the Customer Achieve their Goals = Driving their Success = Pro-active Engagement. A few examples: free nutrition classes at Whole Foods, the Genius Bar inside Apple Stores, pool maintenance courses at my local pool store, coffee shops offering lessons on coffee and brewing techniques, outdoor retailers such as Rock Creek utilizing ambassadors to introduce people to particular sports.

These two definitions are very distinct and have varying levels of adoption. The interesting part is that when one combines them, something really magical starts to occur. From the eyes of the business, they clearly want their customers to have a great experience and feel like they receive superior service, be it when they walk into a store, order something online or when they call. The reality is that, unless you are a monopoly, if your customer is not happy because of how they are treated, at some point they will leave you (about 68% of customers leave for this reason). On top of that, Forrester Research has conducted studies across 13 different industries and has shown that perceptions of customer experience are highly correlated to considerations of future purchases, willingness to recommend to a friend and defection rates to competitors (“The Business Impact Of Customer Experience, 2014, Forrester Research, March 2014”). For some businesses, shifts in customer perception equates to multiple, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, gained or lost.

But rather than just delighting them with great experiences, what if all businesses also started to say to their customers—we recognize that the experience doesn’t stop when you buy our product, we want to help you achieve your goals, help you succeed. The reality is, up until recently, few and far between would ever say such a thing to a consumer. At a very high level, telling someone is much easier than showing and helping someone. As an example, a health food store might say that eating xyz food will make you feel healthier but not everyone would show their customers how to make a food plan to actually make you healthier.

When one thinks about it, superior customer experiences + engagement is really a double whammy, a value proposition that is nearly impossible to beat. Let me put it this way—how many consumer businesses can you think of that focus both on delivering superior customer experiences and proactively help the customer achieve their goals? Those that do clearly know that underneath this catchall phrase of customer success is the pathway to creating successful businesses. Going back to the individual definition of each word, businesses obtain and keep servicing their customers to ensure their own long-term success.

So, where does this leave all of us? Great question. As you can guess, I am a big believer in customer success, from both an experience and engagement perspective. I also recognize that saying you have a consumer focused customer success program and actually implementing one (hint: sometimes simple actions go a long way) are two very different things. A first step forward is the recognition that customer success is not just a checklist item but also a way to grow your business, perhaps even developing into a viable competitive differentiator.

I plan to write more about the topic, using my professional and personal experiences to highlight ways to bring the various components of customer success to consumer businesses. Next up: A Tale of Two Interactions, Enabling the Customer Experience.

Friday Feb 22, 2013

Tough Customer

As one who is willing to pay more for a great experience, I may be a tough customer, but I am one of millions placing significant demands on companies to serve me better. What was surprising to me about the outcome of Oracle’s recent Customer Experience (CX) survey was the gap in perspective between how companies think they are doing relative their customers’ perspectives.[Read More]
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