Automakers Focusing More Attention to “Retention/loyalty”…But Can Dealers Deliver at the Customer Facing Level?

There’s a change going on with automakers! For the first time, automotive OEMs are creating and implementing proprietary customer loyalty programs for their dealer network.

Those programs are anchored by redeemable rewards points and aimed at keeping customers in the dealership “loyalty loop.” And car makers are even funding entire programs…one has even deposited $210 worth of points for each new car buyer so that new sold customers can use their points immediately.

It’s a first for the automakers, who, until recently, have ridden the wave of robust car sales following the great recession of 2008. The past hot market for sales placed retention on the back burner. But that wave is now ending, prompting dealers to search for other means of profits…mainly from used cars and the service center.

Loyalty programs, driven by redeemable points, are not new. Those programs offered by vendors have been around for decades. What makes them more attractive today is the new awareness on the part of retail auto leaders of the true value of a retained customer.

Loyalty programs can send a clear message to the customer that “we care about a relationship with the customer for the future”.

In addition to creating loyalty rewards program, car makers are also focusing more and more on retention rate benchmarks of their dealers…even rewarding them with bonus cash for meeting manufacturer preset goals.

And there is an increasingly strong feeling among retail auto leaders that “retention” will eventually replace “CSI” as the key measurement for the customer’s experience at the dealership.

In one case, a major automaker has already replaced the traditional service CSI score with an expected retention number.

These changes are also prompting a subtle but significant shift in dealership strategy. Traditionally, dealer leadership has always focused on the showroom, but now, with the plateauing of sales, that same leadership is now gaining a more intimate awareness of how the service center is the key to retaining customers for service revenue and repeat sales.

Dealer Service Centers are Ground Zero for Customer Retention

There is little doubt that what happens in the dealer service center has the most profound effect on customer retention. I spoke about this in two previous posts in the Maritz CXCafe Your Other Showroom, The Service Center and Client Loyalty Is Not Dead…But Client Follow-Up is!…but some of that information bears repeating in this latest post.

Success with ramping up acts of retention will require a dramatic cultural change that dealers will not adapt to easily.

Ever since the dawn of auto retailing, budgets for bringing traffic to the showroom have far exceeded those allocated for the service center. That will have to change with the new focus on loyalty.

Consider these NADA stats from 2017:

  • Dealers spent an average of $7.00 on retaining their already sold customers (2017)
  • Luxury dealers spent an average of $762.00 on each vehicle sold, non-luxury spent $670.00 (2017)
  • Average gross on referral vehicle sales was $1,200.00 vs $817.00 for fresh “ups”
  • Referrals have a 51% service usage vs 29% for fresh ups
  • Referrals have a 96% CSI score vs 73% for fresh ups

Clearly, increasing budgets for the service center have had a hard time gaining traction with store General Managers, a group dominated by those whose pedigree was developed in the showroom. That will have to change.

Greatest Deterrent to Focusing on Retention is the Existing “Transactional” Culture

Dealer service advisers don’t instinctively view the value of customer retention. I know this after observing it for 3 years as customer experience manager/retention (the service center exclusively) for one of the largest Buick dealers in the country.

As I stated in a past MaritzCX Cafe post, the number one enemy of customer retention is what I call transactionalism…the preoccupation with an all-consuming focus by dealers on the sales “deal” or the service “RO”, to the detriment of creating a “memorable” experience for the customer with follow up to match.

That proverbial focus on the transaction pushes a “memorable experience” and “customer follow up” to the back burner.

Customer Rewards Programs: A Platform for Delivering a Memorable Experience

We already have established that the service center is ground zero for retention success/failure for dealerships. We also know that service advisers are the primary brand ambassadors for that retention.

Sure, the CX delivered by the sales unit is important, but not as critical to retaining customers as the service lane experience and customer follow up. And while the customer experience during their visit to service is important to retaining them for future loyalty, the follow up of that same customer is even more critical.

That’s why loyalty programs, featuring redeemable points for future service discounts are so critical to repeat visits to service…and eventually to that next vehicle purchase.

Those programs not only offer the customer future discounts on products and services; they also convey a perception that the dealership cares about a future relationship with the customer.

Customer Experience Enablement: What it is and How it Can Help Your Business Bottom Line

Since you’re here on the Wootric blog, you probably already know that providing a high-quality experience to your customers is vital to your business.

You’ve heard people talk about CX becoming the key differentiator for brands in the coming years.

Stats on how customers values CX

(Source)

You’ve watched brands in a variety of industries revamp their customer-facing operations to improve the consumer’s experience.

You may have even begun investing in improving your brand’s customer experience in a variety of different ways.

But, when it comes down to it, you still aren’t exactly sure if your efforts are paying off for the customer—or for your business.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone: According to a 2018 report from CustomerThink, only 30% of brands report experiencing enhanced differentiation or any other tangible benefit from their CX-related initiatives. Moreover, Oracle reports that only 43% of CX executives are highly confident in their organization’s preparedness and ability to provide an enhanced CX as time goes on.

While there are a number of reasons this is (which we’ll get to), the overarching takeaway is that improving the overall customer experience requires much more from an organization than most realize. In order for a company to make sustainable improvements to its CX—improvements that lead to tangible benefits for the business—a fundamental shift within the organization must occur.

This is where customer experience enablement comes in.

What is Customer Experience Enablement?

Customer experience enablement is an holistic approach to improving CX by making foundational changes to both customer-facing and internal processes within a company. It is worth noting that approach is sometimes known as customer experience management (CXM or CEM). So many acronyms!

Breaking that down a bit more, customer experience enablement (CXE) is all about:

  1. Providing a branded experience that aligns with both the customer’s expectations and the experience the company intended the customer to have
  2. Enabling teams and individual employees within an organization to provide this experience to the customer effectively and efficiently—so that the customer’s experience is equally as efficient throughout their buyer’s journey

As we mentioned above, it’s the second part of our breakdown that organizations often overlook. Unfortunately, this leads said companies into a situation in which they have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done to improve their CX—but are unable to actually put these initiatives into action in ways that benefit both the customer and the business.

That being said, let’s now dig into the key components of customer experience enablement—and why becoming more aligned with these components is essential to the growth of your business.

3 Key Components of Customer Experience Enablement

In the previous section, we broke down customer experience enablement into the customer-facing and internal sides of the same coin.

As you’ll see as you read through the rest of this article, the key components of CXE can touch on either side of this coin—and can sometimes touch on both at the same time, as well.

(If this is a bit confusing, don’t worry: It will start to make sense right away. We promise.)

Without further ado, let’s dig into the three key components of customer experience enablement.

1. Organizational Alignment

In order for an organization to become truly able to enhance the experience they provide their customers, everyone within the organization needs to be on board with the initiative.

Instill Ownership of CX Throughout Your Organization

In some cases, this is pretty obvious. Of course your marketing, sales, and support staff will be involved in CX-related initiatives; they do engage directly with the customer, after all.

In other cases, though, it can be a bit difficult to get certain team members on board. That is, it’s not exactly uncommon for teams that don’t interact with the customer (e.g., accounting, logistics, etc.) to overlook the role they play in the customer experience.

The thing is:

Your team needs to be willing to put in the effort required to improve your CX before they are able to do so. Or, more accurately, if your various teams aren’t willing to work toward improving your brand’s CX, it won’t matter if they’re able to or not: it’s just not going to happen.

Unfortunately, data collected by Adobe shows that a “lack of clear ownership of the customer…holds companies back from a true customer focus,” with nearly half of responding organizations denoting this as a problem.

Furthermore, Kapost’s 2016 B2B Benchmark report found that only 12% of B2B marketers believe that they’re “very effective at delivering a consistent customer experience.”

Only 12% of B2B marketers say they are delivering consistent CX

(Source)

The silver lining of all this is that, if you can instill ownership of the customer throughout your organization, you’ll be a step ahead of half of your competitors.

Communicate the Benefits of CX Ownership

Another area in which generating buy-in is vital to your CX-related initiatives is in proving the value of doing so to your company’s various stakeholders.

At this point, it’s important to frame the benefits of CXE in ways that matter to a specific team or individual. For example, marketing managers will likely care more about engagement metrics, while executives will be focused on revenues and profit margins of the potential initiative. For teams responsible for internal processes, this value likely comes in an ability to be more efficient in their duties, overall.

(Keep this all in mind, as we’ll talk a bit more about it toward the end of this post.)

Enabling Your Teams and Facilitating Ownership

Once you’ve generated buy-in throughout your organization, the next step is enabling all of your teams to actually play a more active role in creating a top-notch experience for your customers.

As CXE specialist Melissa Madian explains in an interview with Vision Critical, CXE is about enabling “revenue-generating and customer-facing teams with the processes, tools and training they need to help close business faster and deliver a superior customer experience.”

While “playing a more active role” can mean different things to different team members (and different organizations), the key to being able to do so is active, intentional, cross-team communication throughout a given organization.

For one thing, this means building avenues of communication between all teams—and breaking down any barriers to communication that may exist within your organization. In a literal sense, this may mean making it easier for your various teams to interact with each other (whether physically or via technology). More symbolically, this means breaking down silos and cutting through any red tape that may hinder communication between certain teams.

Secondly, you’ll need to actively facilitate and systematize internal communication processes (as opposed to just hoping it occurs organically simply because you’ve “enabled it”).

This may mean restructuring processes to include more of your team members as needed—with the focus remaining on the customer experience at all times. Again, even if a certain internal process doesn’t seem to impact CX all that much, your marketing, sales, and support teams might discover otherwise when an internal decision ends up causing chaos for your customers.

Going along with this, another way to facilitate and enhance internal communications is via knowledge management, specifically by making use of knowledge sharing and knowledge transferring systems. Doing so will allow various teams to stay apprised of the goings-on throughout your organization, and can also easily communicate vital information from their department to other teams as necessary.

To reiterate, the goal of this initial step toward customer experience enablement is to get your team members on board with your initiative—and to begin putting structures in place that allow all of your team members to pursue this initiative both individually and as a company.

Bluntly speaking, without this piece of the puzzle in place, it’s nearly impossible to accomplish what we’ll be discussing next.

2. Focus on Customer Intelligence and Other Valuable Data

The second key component of customer experience enablement revolves around the collection, assessment, and analysis of audience-related data.

To be sure, most modern organizations already know that big data plays a huge role in their CX-related initiatives and efforts. According to data collected by MarketingProfs, 40% of marketers say data is “critical to improved decision making,” while 36% say data “drives the ability to provide personalized experiences.”

importance of big data to executing customer centric programs

(Source)

The problem, though, is that most organizations don’t feel fully equipped to actually put the data they collect to good use. Case in point, 61% of CMOs admit to shortcomings when it comes to using big data to make improvements to CX.

While Adobe’s data shows companies are adept at data hygiene-related processes (i.e., ensuring data is accurate and reliable), this is only a part of the equation. It’s in understanding the contextual meaning behind the data that causes issues for most companies. And, when it comes to data relating to the customer experience, context is key.

Collecting Customer Data that Matters

With the above in mind, your first order of business is to focus on uncovering the data that provides the most valuable and accurate insight into your customers’ expectations. This is where Voice of the Customer is huge: it’s all about digging into the specifics of what your customers want from your brand—and minimizing the potential for your customer-facing data to be taken completely out of context in the future.

It’s important to note, here, that customer experience—and, by extension, CXE—refers to all engagements that occur between your organization and your customers, whether pre-, post-, or during a given purchase.

By looking at a specific data point, metric, or piece of customer feedback with the customer’s journey in mind, you’ll add an extra layer of context to the data you collect and analyze. In turn, you’ll be able to tailor their experience with your company even further—making them more likely to stay loyal to your brand for some time to come.

(Again, we’ll get to that momentarily.)

Collecting Internal Data that Matters

Another data-related part of CXE is prioritizing customer-facing info that provides the most value to your company.

Essentially, this means focusing on data that refers to your most valuable and loyal customers, as well as your highest potential prospects. This will enable your team to start making CX-related improvements to get your high-value customers even more engaged with your brand. Needless to say, this will lead to nothing but good things for your business moving forward.

Speaking of making improvements to your customer experience…

3. Improvements to CX that Matter—and Last

Before we get too far into this last section, let’s quickly go over the aspects of CXE we’ve discussed thus far:

Now, to be clear, all of these initiatives are done for one main reason:

To be able to make impactful and lasting improvements to your brand’s processes—in turn enhancing your brand’s overall customer experience.

As we said earlier, these improvements can manifest in any number of ways, such as:

  • Streamlining transactional processes, making it easier for customers to receive the product or service they require quicker and with less downtime
  • Improving onboarding processes, allowing customers to “hit the ground running” with your product or service—and maximizing the value they get out of it, as well
  • Making iterative changes to your product or service based on customer feedback, ensuring your customers continue to receive more and more value from your brand over time

Notice that each hypothetical improvement listed above is tied to a specific target outcome focusing directly on the customer’s experience. At the risk of being redundant, that’s literally the point of customer experience enablement: to enable your team to provide a better experience to your customers.

CXE is also about making sustainable and long-lasting improvements to your processes, ensuring that you’ll be able to provide an enhanced experience to your customers not just once or twice, but from here on out.

This is why it’s essential for CXE to start at the foundational and systemic level of your organization: Skipping this crucial step could cause your team to revert back to the “old way” of doing things—rendering any gains you may have experienced in the meantime moot.

But, with a deep-seeded, evidence-backed understanding of all that goes into enhancing CX, your organization will understand the importance of adopting and integrating new CX-related processes into their daily operations.

While any temporary or superficial improvements made will likely not lead to any long-lasting benefits for your organization, those more systemic and strategic improvements can only lead to great things for your business.

First of all, the more enjoyable and valuable your CX in the eyes of your customer, the higher your customer satisfaction rate will climb. Of course, with this increase in customer satisfaction, you’ll also likely experience a boost in retention, advocacy, and acquisition, as well.

Additionally, as your organization becomes more acclimated with your CXE-related initiatives, your teams will become more proficient and efficient in completing their individual duties. More efficiency means less wasted resources—which, in turn, means more resources on-hand to reinvest into improving your CX even further.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we ignored the fact that effective customer experience enablement leads to massive profits for companies of all sizes.

The more value your customers receive from your brand, and the easier it is for your company to provide this value to them, the more money your company will make as time goes on.

It’s that simple.

Josh BrownAbout the Author: Josh Brown is a Customer Success Engineer and part of the marketing team at Helpjuice. Helpjuice provides easy-to-use knowledge base software that guarantees less support emails and more happy customers.

Learn how Wootric can help you measure and improve customer experience. Book a consultative demo today.

CX Professionals Talk About 3 Strategies to Drive Action

At a recent MaritzCX event, we held an interactive power hour  facilitated peer-to-peer discussion about creating a strategic action plan to generate the expectations and actionability of insights. The room was all a buzz with CX professionals, who were sharing ideas and discussing the methods that work best when it comes to driving action throughout their organizations.

We all know that gathering insight from customers doesn’t help “you” or “them” if you don’t use that information to make an impactful change. In the CX profession, we like to measure and look at metrics—but influencing people, teams and organizations to act differently is one of the most important and difficult things we need to do.

This interactive discussion pinpointed 3 strategic ways to drive action throughout your organization:

1. Drive Ownership at All Levels of Your Business

  • Empower the lines of business with data, so that action can be taken by the owners who can make changes for customers.
  • Engage the business lines in your CX work from day one. If there is a certain customer pain that a business line would like to learn about, bring them into the process from the beginning to develop a research learning plan, so that they have accountability with you. When the insight is brought to the forefront, action can be taken immediately, because the business lines have been involved from the beginning.
  • Provide a Playbook or repository of best practices with peer review to share with your front line employees. If you know what works well for the customer, share it and give your teams the ability to rate the information on an interactive platform. This enables peers to know when something is working well, or when it needs to be revised.

2. Don’t Forget the Importance of Data Integration

  • Use both Voice of Customer (VoC) and operational data metrics. Do not report them separately. Your data should be reported as one, as this will help you and your organization develop a better understanding of customers.
  • Leverage, test, and learn. When insights come in, they are telling us something. Use that information, get into market, measure the gaps and make sure to drive the right business outcomes (from what customers are asking for). Listen, test and learn is the key to success.
  • It is important to try and solve the right business problems. You now have all your data integrated into a comprehensive story of what your customers are saying, as well as what the business outcome is. At this point, you can rally around what problem you want to solve and then use the right metrics to carry that forward.
  • Use the data. You need to make the data immediately available and transparent to all employees throughout your organization.

3. Collaboration that Goes Beyond Your Team’s Cubicle Walls

  • A hub and spoke cross-functional model can be an effective way to help with accountability and actionability throughout your organization.
    • The hub is the CX team
    • The spokes are all other organizations/teams that own and drive CX/EX action within their part of the organization. They are the ones that are truly accountable for driving change.
  • Develop a thorough communication strategy. A communication plan that conveys the required actions and the business value of the change should leverage the customer feedback, put it into effect, and inform the organization about it, and the changes that have taken place.

I’d like to thank Amy Jo Fisher, American Family Insurance for facilitating the event discussion.

 

 

3 Best Practices to Engage Your Frontline Employees

Identifying the Problems Your Customers Encounter, Is Only Half the Battle

Knowing how to resolve them, however, is what really matters. Many companies, while committed to improving the customer experience, are not where they want to be with their Voice of the Customer (VoC) initiative. In particular, the frontline managers and employees who directly shape customer experience lack the information and resources they need to take effective action and fully engage with their CX programs.

MaritzCX has conducted extensive research and interviewed employees at a variety of levels and companies who are responsible for translating survey results into action. Our research revealed several common issues for frontline employees:

  • Feeling left out of the design;
  • Not fully understanding the story; and
  • Not knowing what to do even when they do understand

When CX programs fall short in critical areas like these, the front line employees disengage—and that’s a problem. After all, these programs don’t just exist to feed corporate dashboards; they also support and drive actions to improve the customer experience.

So, what’s to be done? It starts with acknowledging the front line as stakeholders in the process.

1. Give Front line Employees Their Own Voice

Front line employees can develop customer loyalty, attract new customers, build your company’s reputation, and drive your company’s profit. It’s important, then, to make the front line an equal partner in the design process and tailor the reporting engines to their needs. Here are some recommendations:

  • Involve Them in Program Design: Include front line managers as active members of the design team to learn their perspectives firsthand—after all, these are the people creating and delivering much of what the customers experience.
  • Give Them What They Crave—the “Real” Voice of the Customer: Verbatim customer comments provide a rich source of information and value to the front line. Sophisticated text analysis tools allow survey designers to shift the balance from 100% close-ended questionnaires to those that actively seek open-ended feedback.
  • Offer Them Questionnaire Real Estate and Flexibility: Mass customization techniques are making it possible for organizations to tailor their customer experience surveys for individual operating units or groups. Smart organizations will also include a “flex” section in their surveys to accommodate topical or time-sensitive issues of interest.
  • Give Them Easy-to-Use Feedback Mechanisms: Consider developing a system that encourages the front line to provide regular feedback on the survey process, e.g. one that is built directly into the reporting system for added convenience.

2. Use the Right Tool for the Right Job

Collecting the right information is only the beginning; you must also make the information easy to access, use, and understand. Today’s customer experience reporting portals can be difficult to use, non-intuitively organized, and full of distracting elements that obscure the message for the end user.

Employees with different responsibilities require fundamentally different information. A retail manager for a bank, for example, does not use the same information as someone in headquarters. Focusing on the front line and their specific needs helps the organization design a more effective reporting system and user interface. Most industries with a retail operation have at least three user roles with different needs:

  • Headquarters/Corporate Users
  • Regional or Area Managers
  • Frontline (Unit) Managers

It is important to design your reporting system with the end users in mind and equip employees with tools that cater to their individual needs.

3. Remember, It’s All About Action

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of sampling and questionnaire design and forget what equally matters: inspiring and motivating people to do something with the information. To do this, you need to deploy a consistent VoC process that aligns the right people and processes to enact meaningful change.

The ideal reporting system will include a “cafeteria plan” of pre-configured tools that support actions at the unit level:

  • Performance Metrics Tools help managers identify and prioritize the areas they need to focus on to improve the customer experience. These tools can be aligned with organizational goals or used to analyze the relationship between customer experience and business outcomes such as loyalty. In either implementation, it encourages unit managers to understand the potential outcomes of their efforts.
  • Employee Coaching Tools, when built directly into customer experience management (CEM) systems, allow front line managers to collaborate with their employees and address areas of concern or opportunity. Alternatively, when linked to the organization’s learning management system (LMS), they can redirect employees who are struggling in a certain area to applicable training courses.
  • Service Recovery Tools, such as unit-level case management systems, allow front line managers to identify at-risk customers and reach out to resolve the problem. Additionally, managers can assign specific tasks to employees, close out concerns, and monitor case aging and incidence rates.
  • Diagnostic Processing Improvement Tools, when implemented at the unit level, allow front line managers to use a gated action planning process to resolve their specific problem areas. A well-designed reporting system should include a section to develop and track unit-level action plans.

Conclusion: Ringing the Cash Register

The investment return on VoC programs has never been in the measurement—it’s what companies do with the information that has the potential to ring the cash register. Getting the right information into the hands of unit managers and other front line employees is critical to improving the customer experience. The best systems:

  • Offer tools that support effective service recovery, employee coaching, and action planning;
  • Link to learning systems; and
  • Contain monitoring tools that drive action-ability and collaboration across all levels of the organization.

Anything less and you risk disengaging your employees and selling your VoC initiative short.

The VMware Culture Journey to Inspire Customer Centricity

VMware Inspires a Customer-Centric Culture

Customer centricity is a hot topic in business these days, as more and more companies challenge themselves to foster a “customer-centric culture.” But that’s a tall order – not to mention an ambiguous one – and it raises a number of questions, such as:

  • What is a customer-centric culture anyway?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who is responsible?
  • How do you inspire a customer-centric culture?

We are actively leading a customer centricity transformation at VMware, and while every organization is unique, our answers to these questions may prove useful as you embark on your own journey. And the word “journey,” when it comes to a customer-centric culture, is key.

For us, it all started with an unwavering passion to do the right thing for our customers, and over time it became clear that we needed to develop a deliberate strategy around it. We’ll talk more about our strategy later, but for now let’s break down the basics.

What is a Customer-Centric Culture, Anyway?

Customer centricity is more than a concept – it’s a mission. At VMware, we believe that customer centricity goes beyond creating great customer experiences – we put the customer at the center of everything we do. Customer centricity is a core company value, a way of thinking, and an approach to doing business.

To achieve that state of being, I can’t overstate the importance of humanizing the customer for your employees. Real culture shift happens when your employees walk in your customer’s shoes and genuinely understand how their individual roles impact the customer experience (even if they aren’t customer-facing!). With understanding comes empathy, and with empathy comes motivation to make a difference.

Why is it Important?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Starting at the top with our CEO Pat Gelsinger, we firmly believe it is our responsibility to provide the best possible experience for our customers. After all, VMware wouldn’t exist without them. In short, it’s the right thing to do.

We also know that consumers and businesses today have more options than ever before, and if we don’t deliver the kind of experience our customers expect, they won’t continue doing business with us. VMware thrives when our customers successfully harness our solutions to meet their business needs – so it makes sense business-wise for us to listen and act on our customers’ needs.

Who is Responsible?

Every employee plays a role in the customer experience. Whether front-of-house or back-office, we all contribute to our customers’ perception of our company.

At VMware, our Customer Advocacy team drives the customer centricity strategy which helps every team, from Leadership on down, understand their role in creating an exceptional customer experience.

In my view, an effective culture strategy has two main components:

  1. Active participation from the entire Leadership team. Employees will prioritize what their leaders are focused on. We work with all functional leaders to ensure their customer obsession talk tracks are woven into every major communication, from all-hands meetings to newsletters; and that they convey a sense of importance and urgency, focusing directly on the customer experience elements that are in the wheelhouse of their audience.
  2. Individual employee customer-centric decision making. We strive to empower every employee with the insights, resources, and independence necessary to operate in the best interests of both VMware and its customers. To facilitate customer-centric decision making, we also strive to ensure that customers are top of mind for all employees, day in and day out. This is where customer-centric culture comes in, and it is why we’ve fully dedicated a member of our team to lead culture programs that create customers for life.

How Do You Inspire a Customer-Centric Culture?

Inspiring a customer-centric culture doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey, and my team has learned plenty of lessons along the way. Some of our efforts have been more effective than others, but this is to be expected.

One of our notable successes to date has been VMware’s annual celebration of Customer Experience (CX) Day, an industry holiday. We think that CX Day is akin to a wedding anniversary! While you work hard at your customer relationships every day of the year, as you do your marriage, CX Day is a great opportunity to pause, celebrate, and show gratitude for the relationship you have with your customers.  Our worldwide celebrations have engaged employees via interactive journey mapping, tours of a customer story “museum,” and other activities to acquire feedback on how to improve the customer experience. See how we celebrated CX Day in 2018!

While CX Day is impactful, we obviously want our employees to think about customer experience more than once a year! To that end, we created a global ‘CX Leaders’ program to cultivate a network of customer enthusiasts across VMware. The inaugural set of leaders were prior recipients of an internal award recognizing individuals who went above and beyond to deliver a great customer experience. The Leaders conceptualized a program known as Customer Appreciation Week, which focused on the power of an unexpected thank you. Over the course of the week, our sales teams reached out to nearly 4,000 customers to thank them for their commitment to doing business with VMware – and that was it. That’s right – no sales pitch, no upsell, no renewal prompt. The customers were surprised and delighted by the display of appreciation with no strings attached – and for us it was a simple way to maintain relationships and reinforce our commitment to our customers.

Our Closed Loop program is another area where we invest to engage employees and strengthen customer relationships. The program connects dissatisfied customers with VMware employees to dive deeper into feedback provided through various listening posts. In these conversations, the VMware employee seeks to understand the root cause of dissatisfaction and build a relationship with the customer, then follows up with the appropriate internal business unit(s) to develop improvement plans. The program mutually benefits VMware’s customers and employees, and it’s one of the best opportunities for an employee to walk in our customer’s shoes.

Closing Thoughts

I’d like to leave you with a final thought, which is that customer centricity isn’t binary – it’s a journey that begins with customer focus and extends to customer obsession. For us at VMware, it represents a fundamental business transformation that will extend far into our future. The best is yet to come!

The No. 1 Enemy of Dealer Customer Retention!

I discovered a surprising truth after three years as Customer Retention Manager for a large volume dealer in Houston. There is a hidden enemy that must be addressed before any customer retention initiatives can be achieved. It is the no. 1 enemy of client retention, and yet most practitioners fail to recognize it, let alone address it.

It’s the reason why many dealers are left with small, gradual changes in their retention efforts that pale in contrast to the huge budgets and time spent acquiring new customers. But by keeping an existing customer, who is apt to buy again, dealers could be spending many times less to obtain the same amount new vehicle sales.  As proof of this, the 2018 Cox Automotive Service Study found that buyers who returned to the selling dealer for service in the past 12 months were 74% more likely to return to that selling dealer for their next vehicle purchase. Returning service customers were 74% more likely to buy their next vehicle from that same selling store! Those who didn’t return for service in the past 12 months were only 35% more likely to return for their next purchase.  That should gain the attention of most dealer GM’s, who generally come from the sales side of the business.

And speaking of sold customers returning for their next vehicle purchase, that same Cox study revealed a negative by-product of today’s obsession with “conquesting” sales from other dealers.  “Not a convenience location” (no. 5 reason in the 2015 survey) moved up to the second most given reason for new vehicle purchasers not returning to the dealer where they purchased.  So, there is a very good chance that many of today’s conquest vehicle sales will not return to that original dealer for service because they live out of the area where the selling dealer is located.

So, what is the number 1 enemy of retail auto customer retention?

No, the number 1 enemy isn’t a limited budget. Although a sufficient budget is necessary, it’s not the real enemy of a successful retention strategy.

Lack of buy-in from the dealer and management? It’s important, but the reason store leadership doesn’t get solidly behind a retention push is directly tied to the no. 1 enemy.

Silos are a real problem. You must address them, and it is not simple to do so, but they are not the real problem.

Competing initiatives are often cited as a reason for lack of meaningful progress in addressing customer retention. But these agendas usually directly support the number 1 enemy of retention. And that focus distracts management from seriously directing resources in the support of retention.

The lack of a robust technical infrastructure? Yes, retention can be aided with better technology, but it is not the true obstacle to retention.

Lack of training? It certainly helps to have trained employees, but if the average auto retailer really believed in retaining existing customers as a primary strategy, they would find the budget and time to train their workers. HINT: All the training, technology and “knowledge” in the world is not going to thoroughly address the number 1 enemy of retaining customers!

Lack of support from the OEM? No, automakers are offering more and more mega cash incentives for customer retention, as I covered in this post for the MaritzCX Cafe blog.

It’s transactionalism, an all-consuming focus by dealers on the “deal” or the “RO” is the number 1 enemy of a successful customer retention program. And that obsession consumes both the larger part of store budgets as well as the time spent by the staff.So, what is the number 1 enemy of a successful customer retention transformation?

Transactionalism describes the decades old, deeply ingrained tradition of placing the transaction front and center as the primary strategy for most auto retailers. And while the transaction has always been the primary focus of showroom sales, it’s just as prevalent these days in the service lane. Customer facing employees are paid to maximize and close “deals/ROs”, and because of that, retaining customers takes a back seat.

I’ve heard it said time and time again that there is little customer loyalty these days in retail auto. But how would we know? If the industry is so intoxicated with the transaction, and much less so with retaining the customer, it’s no wonder customer loyalty is perceived as dead. I spoke directly to this reality in a past MaritzCX Cafe post titled Retail Auto: Client Loyalty is not Dead, But Client Follow-Up is!

But there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon.  Early last year, one of the largest automakers launched the first ever OEM customer rewards program and another major manufacturer followed soon thereafter.  And there is strong evidence that other OEMs are pivoting more and more towards implementing strategies that handsomely reward dealers and their associates for focusing on  retention.

That’s great, but the big question left is, how are the OEMs going to move the needle of retention forward, when most of the dealers are still consumed with “transaction?”  This is all about changing behavior at the dealership, which is the toughest challenge of all.

Behavioral Science Can Reveal Your Customers’ True Feelings

Insights Come Hand and Hand with Listening

There is no feedback more important for companies to utilize than the candid, true thoughts and feelings of employees and customers. In fact, having a detailed understanding of your brand’s emotional connection to consumers can produce positive financial results and retain valuable customers, while even attracting new ones.

Behavioral science is the study of human behaviors; the causes and the effects. There’s much we can learn from people’s actions and decisions that can help businesses to draw conclusions and make predictions that ultimately impact them financially. From product development to sales and services, every person in the journey and every step that’s taken by an organization will contribute overall to the emotional trust that consumers have for a brand.

According to an article published by The Harvard Business Review, on average “fully connected” customers are 52% more valuable to businesses than those who are just “highly satisfied” with the brand or service. Any company, from any industry can forge powerful connections to their customers by properly identifying and aligning themselves to the specific emotions that drive profitable behaviors. The first step is to identify how your customers feel and find the places to fill the gap between general satisfaction and full-on loyalty.

Be Aware of the Brain and How It Works

As humans, our brains are always working around the clock. Everyone has motivators, expectations, and experiences that influence how we feel and react. We will all bring to the table different elements and can’t change how our brains are wired. Constantly, our brains are taking in information and even making quick judgments or decisions on a moment’s notice. A huge number of daily decisions are made intuitively, and most decisions rely on feelings and emotions more than rationality. Especially when it comes to “gut feelings,” something we trust within ourselves more than any outside logic or mental analysis.

And unfortunately, although our brains are quite amazing, the constant stream of brain activity actually deteriorates the quality of our decisions over time, leading to an irrational trade-off in decision making. This is called decision fatigue.

For example, after a long day, do you want to go home and cook a meal, or just simply get takeout? Earlier in the day, before mental exhaustion kicks in, going home to cook a nice meal might sound healthy and cost effective. But by the end of the day, one might lean towards take-out instead because it’s easy and quick. Neither decision is necessarily good or bad, it’s just all about the condition of our minds prior to making decisions, that determine the amount of concentration delegated to certain choices over others.

Another factor that drives perception is the “peak-end” rule. This is whether an experience is remembered as pleasant or not, based only on the peak moment, or the end of the experience. Instead of a “general” overall recollection, it’s only what is remembered most, that drives the perception.

In order to manage and control perceptions, organizations need to pay equal attention to the emotional side of their customer experiences, as well as the operational processes. When customers don’t feel like their concerns are being heard or met, they will go where they will be addressed, and that doesn’t guarantee that you keep their business.

Learning to leverage behavioral science will give companies the ability to identify customer emotions with financial impact and provide them with a “neuro” road-map for maintaining loyalty. Because being aware of the brain, and how it works, can bridge the gaps in any customer and employee experience; if only you are willing to listen.

The Emotional Insight That Awaits You

Lots of emotional insight is waiting to be unlocked, but where to begin? In order to maximize opportunities from emotional connections, companies must examine every customer touch point and find opportunities where they can enhance the emotional motivators. It’s important to understand what you need to measure, and where.

The following questions can be helpful to begin with:

  • What promotes consumer behavior, and what emotions contribute to decisions?
  • What type of personas are being interacted with?
  • Who is interacting with who?
  • What is trying to be accomplished overall?
  • What are customers going through, and how do they feel along the way?

A great way to collect answers to these questions are through customer journey maps. Journey mapping helps to interpret what your customer will go through, and what they are actually feeling.

Throughout the customer journey, there are places to keep tabs on what consumers are thinking and feeling during certain moments. To find crucial touch and pain points, Quantitative surveys with open ended unstructured data, analyzed with text analytics, can detect in customer language a variety of topics that stand out. Creating and understanding a range of feelings and experiences from the collected data, especially the intense ones, closes the gap between customer expectations and the actual experience. These customer insights can determine where damage is being done and allow for prevention of future occurrences.

All the right experiences can be designed to reach the right touch points when you acknowledge the brain and determine the proper “feelings” for your employees and customers.

Set the Bar for Proactively Understanding Your Customers

A recent MaritzCX study revealed that 80% of the companies who proactively gather, analyze, manage and use insights into customers’ feelings have better financial performance, year-over-year.

Whether you have a pre-existing customer experience program for your business or are jump-starting a new one, first ask yourself, “Do you know how your customers feel about their experiences they are having with your brand?

Emotional connections are no longer a mystery and can be utilized by businesses in-tune with their customers, as a competitive advantage to growth. At MaritzCX we work with businesses to prioritize and focus on what elements have the biggest emotional impact.

Listen to, The ROI of Feelings webinar to learn more.

CX Experts We Love

Why do we love whom we love? It’s a question for the ages, unanswerable by poets, philosophers or songwriters. And yet, for some people, there are so many reasons why we love them. They make our lives better, share their expertise, uplift our spirits, and show profound generosity. This is a Valentine to those people, and more specifically those people who work in CX.

These authors, speakers, thought-leaders and dedicated customer experience professionals have all helped contribute to the widespread adoption of CX, not just as a strategy, but as a higher goal. They’re here, tirelessly working in every industry to make people’s lives just a bit easier, and a lot more joyful.

These are the CX experts we love, and we are happy to introduce you to them all.

If you’re on this list and you’d like for us to update your details, please send us a note.

Amy Etheridge

Why we love Amy: She’s head of Customer Advocacy at MindTouch. She was tapped to look after the customer experience as a whole as company growth accelerated. Her She is a customer journey expert whose analysis of customer feedback at key touchpoints has led to product and service enhancements that have delighted customers.

Angus Yang

Why we love Angus: He’s the Customer Experience Manager at Sendoso and prides himself in “helping people connect the old fashion way.” His responsibilities change on any given day but you’ll usually find him deep in conversation with a client, answering questions in the support queue, helping explain a new product feature they released, or onboarding clients for success. He’s a big believer in building relationships and is proud dad of Owen the corgi.

Annette Franz

Why we love Annette: She’s the Founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She has experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, they can design a better experience for all constituents. She co-hosts the weekly #CXChat on Twitter, serves as an executive officer on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), mentors other professionals in this field to help them advance their careers, and is a speaker and an avid writer.

Augie Ray

Why we love Augie: He’s the Sr. Director Analyst: Senior research analyst & executive advisor on Customer Experience at Gartner. He has had a rewarding career as both a thought and people leader. He has implemented successful CX, VoC, social media and marketing programs and led highly-engaged teams, both co-located and remote around the globe. People refer to him as an iconoclast, skeptic, and change agent for his desire to bypass hype, solve business issues, and exploit customer opportunities with speed, creativity, and collaboration. Plus, his Twitter feed!

Blake Morgan

Why we love Blake: She’s a self-described “customer experience futurist”, keynote speaker, author of More Is More: How the Best Companies Go Farther and Work Harder to Create Knock-Your-Socks-Off Customer Experiences, and host of The Modern Customer Podcast. She’s also a contributor to Forbes, the Harvard Business Review and Hemispheres Magazine.

Clare Muscutt

Why we love Clare: She’s a digital nomad, keynote speaker, Founder of CMXperience, and shares her personal thoughts and experiences on The CX Nomad. Having held a number of senior CX leadership roles in Marketing and Retail, across a number of sectors, working for and with some of the UK’s best known brands, Clare has finely tuned her expertise to educate and engage internal teams to design and deliver industry leading services, and create innovative solutions that deliver the desired results for her clients at pace.

Colin Shaw

Why we love Colin: He’s a keynote speaker, best-selling author of several books such as The Intuitive Customer: 7 Imperatives For Moving Your Customer Experience to the Next Level, the CEO of Beyond Philosophy, and Co-Host of The Intuitive Customer Podcast. Also, LinkedIn has recognized him as one of the world’s Top 150 Business Influencers.

David Yin

Why we love David:  He’s VP of Customer Insights at Ancestry.com. A seasoned CX pro, David was with the Global Consumer Insights team at Clorox and Head of Global Research and Brand Strategy at Fitbit before joining the venerable family history and genomics company. He took a crawl, walk, run approach to building out his function at Ancestry, delivering early wins that built momentum and respect for the Voice of the Customer across the company.

Ellie Wu

Why we love Ellie: She’s a speaker, writer, and Senior Director of Customer Success at SAP Concur. Through hyper-growth SaaS companies, Ellie developed a fascination with the customer. Realizing the impact and the translated value for an organization, she created PictureCS (CliffsNotes for Customer Success Best Practices). She counsels leaders and teams responsible for customer outcomes by designing stronger organizations and guide cross-functional teams to leverage mutually beneficial opportunities with an advanced understanding of the customer journey, sales, product marketing, and operations.

Guneet Singh

Why we love Guneet: He’s Director of Customer Experience & Advocacy at Docusign where he leads the company’s NPS, customer advocacy, customer labs & customer research.  He uses state-of-the-art technology to retrieve and analyze customer data to boost the likelihood of delivering meaningful improvement in customer experience. Sharing this data is key to garnering support for change, he says: “There are journey points that need to be addressed. But if you don’t have hard facts attached to them … then your management team will [ignore these points].”

Jeanne Bliss

 Why we love Jeanne: She’s a speaker, best-selling author, most notably for Would You Do That to Your Mother?: The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers, a coach for Chief Customer Officers, host of the podcast The Human Duct Tape Show, and frequently writes articles on her site, Customer Bliss. And we probably haven’t even got everything covered.

Jeannie Walters

Why we love Jeannie: She’s a TEDx speaker, CEO and Chief Customer Experience Investigator at 360 Connext, trainer, workshop leader, consultant, and podcaster. Her specialty is connecting with audiences to help them emotionally connect with those they serve. It’s not as easy as we think and our brains work against us! Using humor, stories and her experience as a customer experience consultant, she uncovers what’s stopping your organization or association from really delivering great experiences.

Jessica Pfeifer

Why we love Jessica: We might be biased because she was Chief Customer Officer at Wootric, but she’d make our list even if she wasn’t. At InMoment, Jessica works with our phenomenal team to build a modern approach to enterprise customer feedback management. She guides our mid-market and enterprise customers by helping to solve complex problems and execute Voice of Customer strategy using machine learning. Her expert, consultative approach to customer experience gives her customers a competitive edge in the CX space. 

Joey Coleman

Why we love Joey: As a keynote speaker, workshop leader, and consultant, Joey helps businesses design creative ways to engage customers – especially in the crucial first 100 days of the customer lifecycle. As a professional speaker who has given thousands of speeches all over the world, he also works with a small number of private coaching clients to develop and hone their speaking skills. His book Never Lose a Customer Again discusses the 8 phases your customer has the potential to travel through as part of their customer journey and the 6 tools you can use during that journey to create remarkable experiences for your customers.

Kia Puhm

Why we love Kia: She’s the Founder and CEO of K!A CX Consulting. She has held chief positions in customer success, services, account management and support at companies such as: Oracle, Eloqua, Day Software (Adobe), Intelex Technologies, and Blueprint Software Systems. Kia has pioneered the art of Customer Experience by leading businesses through the transition to customer-centric organizations. Her methodology provides clients with a disciplined and sustainable approach to increasing customer lifetime value and loyalty. She also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Engineering.

Maxie Schmidt

Why we love Maxie: She’s a keynote speaker, author, Principal Analyst at Forrester, and has a PhD in Business Management on Customer Care. She helps clients achieve smart profit growth through product and price optimization based on deep customer insights and has managed engagements and projects in a wide range of industries like telecommunication, retail, software, transportation, and high-tech.

Melinda Gonzalez

Why we love Melinda: She’s a Customer Experience Strategist with experience in Customer Success Management, Customer Experience Design, Voice of the Customer, and Customer Retention/Loyalty/Advocacy practices. She spent a decade at Salesforce and is now part of the incredible team at WeWork, bringing the Powered by We vision to life.

Rachel English

Why we love Rachel: She’s the Director of Customer Experience at Zuora. Rachel has built and led high-performing, thought-leading customer-focused teams. Through those experiences, and as a regular customer herself, she has developed a proven philosophy and methodology for creating Customer Success and honing an end-to-end Customer Experience. Rachel believes that companies and their customers are only truly successful together, and she understands the building blocks and the details needed to compound that effect.

Sandra Mathis

Why we love Sandra: She’s the Customer Experience Director and thought leader for Strong-Bridge Envision Consulting. She helps organizations and clients develop customer experience strategies, measurement programming, actioning of insights, and facilitate workshops focused on: customer journey mapping, employee engagement, to enable organizations to move the needle with customer experience adoption for higher customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Sarang Bhatt

Why we love Sarang: Sarang is an Account Executive at InMoment. His big heart, quick wit, and eye for process have made him besties with many a customer. “I learn a customer’s goals and what motivates them – why do they want implement a Voice of Customer Program? To reduce churn? Optimize their product or service? Knowing that enables me to anticipate their needs and present them with a plan that will give them success. The real transformative customer experience comes when you can answer the questions they don’t know they have. It’s in that moment that you win a customer for life.” His specialties are NPS, CES, CSAT and text analytics.

Shep Hyken

Why we love Shep: He’s the CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) of Shepard Presentations. He’s also a keynote speaker, Customer Service trainer, and the author of The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience that Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty, among other best-selling books. In 2008 Shep was inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame speaker for lifetime achievement in the professional speaking industry.

Steven Van Belleghem

 Why we love Steven: He’s a keynote speaker, entrepreneur, author of four best-selling books, one of his most popular being Customers the Day After Tomorrow: How to Attract Customers in a World of AIs, Bots, and Automation. He is also Co-Founder of consultancy firm Nexxworks and the Co-Founder of content creation company Snackbytes. He is an investor in the AI startup Hello Customer and the fast-growing digital agency Intracto.

Sue Duris

Why we love Sue: She’s a speaker, writer, mentor, Director of Marketing at M4 Communications, and co-host of #CXChat, a weekly Twitter chat on customer experience and employee experience. She’s passionate about helping organizations differentiate and grow by coaching them to be customer-centric, advising them on their digital transformation initiatives, and collaborating with them to design omnichannel experiences that engage employees and deliver customer value. She’s also a diversity and inclusion advocate.

Venk Chandran

 Why we love Venk: He’s a customer-obsessed Director, Product Management at Salesforce.com who is an evangelist for the use of Customer Effort Score metric at SFDC and in the broader SaaS technology space. Venk uses CES and other customer metrics to monitor and improve the self-service customer experience at Salesforce. Bottomline, customers are his playbook.

6 Tips to Make Your Customer Service Emails More Effective

When you work in customer service you deal with hundreds of emails in a day. So, it can be easy to lose sight of just how important each one is. A single negative interaction can be enough to turn a person off your business.

People like to feel as if their problem matters to the person on the other end. Giving your emails a personal feel can be very helpful in facilitating positive and effective interactions between customer support and clients.

Use their name

Start by greeting them with a friendly hello before you dive into solving their issue. Use their name. The way you greet the customer sets the tone for the rest of the interaction, so it’s important. Don’t be weird and address them as ‘customer,’ or goodness forbid, by their case number. People like to feel as if they’re having an interaction with an actual human and not a machine. There’s no quicker way to make a customer feel like they’re dealing with a soulless robot than to address as their case number.

Get everyone on the same page

“Summarize what is happening currently with their issue to ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer for confirmation if you think they might be misunderstanding,” advises Brian Sorensen, email marketer at BigAssignments. It’s much better to sort things out sooner than later. If you’re dealing with an ongoing situation or one that is complicated, then it’s never a bad idea to review what is happening. Rephrasing things back to the customer is a great way to make sure you are understanding each other.

Promise them a solution

Conduct your customer service interactions in a way that minimizes the number of customers checking in to see how things are progressing. Keep your customer updated on how things are going; this should happen at least once a day. Give them expectations. Let them know when you will be contacting them again with an update. You can’t guarantee them a solution in that timeframe, but you can guarantee them a check-in. You’ll find this makes your customers a lot less anxious, people like to know what to expect, especially when something isn’t working for them.

Be realistic about the situation

Be honest with your customers about what you’ll be able to help them with. When you overpromise you just create more headaches for both you and the customer. When you mess something up, own it, and apologize to the customer. If the product fails, apologize. Making excuses for failing or the product failing will only make the customer angrier. Focus on fixing the problem and being transparent. People appreciate honesty, and even if they are upset, they will still appreciate you owning the situation.

Canned replies work

Yes, you read that correctly. Used properly, canned replies can be very effective and save you a ton of time. The trick is to know when it is appropriate to send out a canned reply. In customer service you’ll find that a lot of interactions start repeating themselves, and for those common situations, a canned reply is fine. You can still write canned replies that feel personal and not as if they came from a robot. Automating the basic replies leaves you with more time to deal with more complicated situations that arise. Ensure your sending these  at the most suitable times for your customers by using an email scheduling tool.

Write better emails with these online resources

Writing is a skill that requires regular practice and fine-tuning. Punctuation, spelling, using the correct word — it all matters. If English is your second language, or you slept through English class, here are some resources to help you nail your text and avoid coming off as sloppy.

Grammarly and Grammar Guide – Check out these grammar resources. They are perfect for simplifying grammar and making it easy for you to understand and use English correctly.

WritingExplained – Is it “#001D30” or “gray”? This blog covers these common mistakes. Don’t let errors ruin your otherwise great emails.

Conclusion

An email will never be as personal as a face to face interaction, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it as personal and pleasant as possible for the customer. Small things make a huge difference when it comes to customer service emails. Each positive interaction counts and helps build a relationship between the brand and the customer. Use these six tips to make your customer service emails feel personal.

Grace Carter is a content manager at BoomEssays services. She creates business presentations, teaches interns and curates support communications.

Measure and improve customer experience. Sign up today for free Net Promoter Score, CSAT or Customer Effort Score feedback with InMoment.

Carmaker Mega-Bonus Incentive Programs Prompt Dealership Behavioral Changes

There’s a “cultural,” or if you will, “behavioral” change going on at car dealerships being driven by a source that might surprise many.  New, factory bonus incentive programs, such as GM’s EBE, ESE and PASE and Nissan’s Customer Experience Elements, are creating pressure on car dealers to bring “customer experience” to the same level of importance as the “transaction.

Third party consultants and suppliers have tried for decades to motivate dealers to focus more on the “experience.” Those efforts are being dramatically supported by escalating factory bonus programs aimed solely at creating a loyalty loop, where sold customers come back to service their vehicles at the selling store.  It is a proven fact that sold customers who return to that same dealer for service have much higher odds of buying their next vehicle from the dealer who sold them their previous one.

Genesis of Factory Incentives Begin With Dwindling New Car Margins

Car makers have always had incentive programs, but past payouts pale in comparison to today’s mega-programs, first launched 5 years ago.  It started with factory incentive programs dedicated to compensating dealers for dwindling showroom sales margins. Even today , about 40 percent of car dealers are not profitable in their new-car departments until they get factory spiffs, according to dealership consultancy NCM Associates. But the recent OEM incentives, commonly referred to as “stair-step” programs, are still heavily skewed towards solely boosting new car revenue profits, and not necessarily the showroom customer experience.

But as time has passed, and the era of the “connected customer” comes into play, the role of showroom sales is changing as well, with a greater emphasis on setting the stage for retaining customers for life. Sales personnel are now being asked to perform tasks beyond the transaction, such as completing the connected customer set-up (like OnStar), initiating the customer rewards sign-up and spending extra time in the delivery of the vehicle.  And factory incentive programs are even compensating the sales team directly for performing such tasks.

Two of the big three automakers have also introduced dealer wide “rewards programs” with the sole purpose of bringing the customer back again and again to boost service revenue and repeat sales.  The growth in targeted rewards, say dealers and consultants, increases manufacturers’ power to shape dealership operations in general, and staff behavior specifically.  At first, dealers balked at the prospect of corporate interference from incentive benefits, but over time, many have come to accept those bonuses as critical to the profitability of the store.

OEM incentives are changing store culture (behavior) by “fear of loss” rather than “benefit of gain”

For decades, automakers have tried to influence dealers to encourage their front line sales/service personnel to pay as much attention to creating a memorable customer experience, or as it is still referred to, CSI, as they do to the transaction…but to little or no avail.  Auto retailers have gotten more transparent, but mainly because the Internet has empowered customers to force change.  Transactional-ism is so ingrained in store personnel DNA, that training and technology, by itself, hasn’t forced the kind of behavioral changes needed to increase retention.  Dealer staff pay plans have always focused on “the deal” or “service RO”.  Employee pay plans are job descriptions… dictating the behavior of the sales/service personnel.  But OEMs discovered that pocketbook strategies are the only way to expand staff behaviors to focus on touch points that will directly affect customer experience and ongoing relationships…thus boosting “return revenue,” including their next vehicle purchase.  With factory bonus money on the line, those huge sums are beginning to strongly motivate the store leadership to formally implement management efforts focused directly on the tasks required to retain customers.  And OEM incentive payments directly to the staff for non-transactional, “experiential” practices are influencing staff behavior to place retention on the same level as “the deal”.  Another difference today is that, in addition to monetary payments, OEMs have dramatically increased the number of programs that specifically support the new factory standards accompanying the incentive bonuses.  Dealers aren’t left to their own devices to create and manage what the new programs require in the way of behavioral change.

Ground Zero For Retaining New Customers…The Service Experience

Dealer service centers have, not so affectionately, been referred to as “the back end” of the dealershipThe showroom has always been the primary focus of the dealer leadership, which is generally made up of store general managers groomed primarily in sales. While some of service directors saw this lack of attention as permission to “do their own thing”, the discontinuity between sales and service has had a negative impact on customer retention.  But those days are slowly diminishing.  In fact, the ever-increasing reliance on factory incentives is also changing how buyers assess a dealership purchase, buy-sell advisers say.  New-vehicle sales are no longer the predominant gauge of a dealership’s financial health. In fact, about three years ago, buyers started shifting their focus to fixed operations, specifically customer-pay service work, as the barometer for store profit potential, said buy-sell adviser Mark Johnson, president of MD Johnson Inc., near Seattle. The service center has clearly established itself as the primary profit center for the future of retail auto…at least until autonomous vehicles become a reality.  In fact, service has also become the  “second showroom”, as I spoke about in this MaritzCX Café post a year ago.  Vehicle exchange programs, stationed in service departments, have established themselves as a second point-of-sale for service customers who are in the market to move up or trade their old model in for a new one…thus facilitating dealers to turn a service visit into a new sale.

The service level customers experience is slowly becoming the great differentiator in retail auto today. The service department, in essence, provides a “loyalty loop” after the sale, where sold customers get a real taste of a dealership’s “customer care” level.

Bottom Line

Car manufacturers are mandating the right kind of cultural (behavioral) change at the dealership with huge factory incentives aimed primarily at “customer experience” and repeat business.  At first, auto retailers felt threatened by their diminishing entrepreneurial power, but many have come to accept, and more importantly, even depend on the programs as the major way to keep their stores profitable.  For decades OEMs and third-party consulting firms have attempted to expand the “transaction” minded dealership network to deliver a higher level of customer experience.  By incenting, closely monitoring and strongly supporting customer retention programs, OEM’s are forming closer relationships with their dealer partners in order to adapt to a fast-changing auto industry.

The Role of the Relationship Survey in CX Programs

Most comprehensive customer experience programs are made up of several different types of studies, the two most common of which are Transactional and Relationship studies. Here we will describe the differences between these two types of studies.

Transactional or trigger-based studies are the base of most customer experience programs. This type of study is conducted among current or recent customers and is used to ascertain the customer experience for a specific transaction or interaction. This type of research looks at near or short-term evaluations of the customer experience and often focuses on operational metrics. 

In contrast, the relational or relationship customer experience study is typically conducted among a random sample of the company’s customer base. Relational customer experience is used to understand the cumulative impressions customers form about their entire customer experience with the company. Importantly, this type of customer experience research is often the chassis for ascertaining specific aspects of the experience important to predicting loyalty and other customer behaviors. 

A. Transactional Customer Experience

In a transactional customer experience study, we focus on the details of a customer’s specific recent transaction. For example: 

  • The respondent’s most recent visit to Wendy’s 
  • The customer’s visit yesterday to her local Deutsche Bank branch 
  • Last week’s call to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield customer service center 
  • The respondent’s visit, 10 days ago, to Nielsen Nissan in Chesterton, Indiana, for routine auto maintenance. 

The overall rating we ask is the respondent’s overall evaluation of the specific transaction (visit, stay, purchase, and service). The attribute ratings are also specific to the specific transaction. 

B. Relational Customer Experience  

A relational customer experience study is broader in coverage. Here, we ask about the totality of the relationship with a company. In a relational customer experience study, the questions relate to the overall, accumulated experience the customer has had with the company. So rather than ask about the timeliness of an oil change at Nielsen Nissan and the quality of that service, the relational survey would ask for the respondent’s overall perceptions of Nielsen Nissan’s services across all the times the customer has interacted with that dealership. 

The overall ratings are often overall satisfaction with the relationship as a whole, willingness to recommend, and likelihood to return. Attributes are similarly broader in scope. We would not ask the customer about her satisfaction with the speed of service for her last oil change, instead we would ask about her satisfaction with the speed of service she usually gets when she visits Nielsen Nissan. 

C. Sampling Differences Between Transactional and Relationship Studies

In addition to the content of the surveys, a critical difference between these two studies is the sampling frame. In a transactional customer experience study, we sample customers who have interacted with the company recently. This is also sometimes called “trigger-based” customer experience since any type of interaction with the company can “trigger” the inclusion in a transactional customer experience study. 

In a relational customer experience study, we typically sample from the entire base of customers, including people who may not have interacted with the company recently. A relational customer experience study is projectable to the entire customer base, while a transactional customer experience study is a sub-set of customers – those who have interacted recently. 

When leveraging customer experience information with internal information, transactional customer experience information is often linked to operational metrics (such as wait time, hold time, staffing levels, etc.). In turn, through the use of bridge modeling, transactional research is often linked to relational customer experience, which is then linked to downstream business measures, such as revenue, profitability and shareholder value-add. 

D. Recommendations for Relationship Surveys 

Survey Content: As mentioned above, relationship surveys are meant to measure the totality of customers’ experiences with a given company. They are also meant to determine how customers are feeling about the company NOW. It is important to note that customers overall feelings about a company (as measured in relationship surveys) are often NOT the average of their transactional experience evaluations. This is because different transactions, especially if they are negative, can have a much larger effect on overall feelings toward a company than other transactions. 

Most relationship surveys contain questions addressing: 

  • Overall Metrics such as Likelihood to Recommend the Company, Overall Satisfaction with the Company, and Likelihood to Return or Repurchase 
  • High-level brand perceptions 
  • Company service channels usage and evaluations such as store/ dealership, finance company, call center/problem resolution teams, etc. 
  • Product usage and evaluations 
  • Share of Wallet measures 
  • Marketing/communication perceptions 

Survey Sampling: Who, how often and how many customers do you need to survey? There are no hard and fast rules but remember the idea is to obtain a representative sample of your customers. With that in mind: 

Who to Survey: All customers (whether they are recently active or not) should be available for sampling. You also might want to oversample small but important groups of customers (e.g., millennials, new owners, etc.) to ensure that you receive enough returns to analyze these groups separately. However, if you do oversample you will need to weight your data back to your customer demographics to ensure representative overall results. 

How Often to Survey: While transactional CX research is usually done on a continuous basis, relationship studies are usually conducted once or twice per year. How often companies conduct relationship studies is usually determined by the number of customers available (i.e., are there enough to conduct the study twice per year?) and when and how often decisions will be made based on the findings. 

How Many to Survey: This is often the most frequent question clients ask and the basic answer is that it depends on what organizational level you need the results to be representative of. The good news is that if you are only concerned about making decisions on the entire company level, only about 1000 well-sampled responses is sufficient. For most large companies that is a very small percentage of their customers. However, if you want the finding to be representative of lower levels of the organization for comparison purposes (e.g., zones, districts, stores) or want findings to be representative of certain customer groups (e.g., millennials, minorities, long-term customers, etc.) calculations need to be performed to determine the number of responses needed for these groups. Unfortunately, as demonstrated in the chart below, as the population size (e.g., company customers, zone customers, store customers) goes down, the percentage of customers needed to represent that population goes up. For instance, to obtain +/- 3 percentage point precision for a population of 3,000,000 people you only need 1067 randomly sampled returns. That is just 0.04% of the population. For a population of 30,000 people, you need 1030 returns which is 3.4% of the population. For a population of 3,000 the number of returns needed drops to 787, but that is 26.2% of a population of 3,000. For a very small population like 300, you need returns from 234 people (78.0%) of the population. 

population survey

E. Summary 

Both transactional and relationship surveys are key parts of any comprehensive customer experience program. Transactional surveys are great for assessing the quality of specific customer touch points and making improvements in those areas. Relationship surveys allow for the assessment of the entire customer experience across all touchpoints and therefore more closely relate to customer behaviors such as loyalty, customer spend, and customer advocacy.

How Sentiment Analysis Improves Employee Engagement in Healthcare

Employers know that hiring individuals who are a good fit is important to the company’s ultimate success, but not everyone recognizes that hiring is just the beginning. In the healthcare industry in particular, where burnout rates have been increasing at alarming rates, monitoring employee sentiment and getting feedback to improve their engagement is crucial to retaining staff and delivering superior patient experience.

Understanding employee sentiment is a critical responsibility of HR, especially in healthcare

Engaged employees feel internal motivation to go above and beyond the call of duty for patients. For example, an engaged food service worker in a hospital will feel motivated to make sure food is delivered hot. When employees feel more connected to their jobs, they will go the extra mile to provide great quality care and research backs that up.

Keeping health professionals engaged has been shown to have positive impact on:

  • Patient satisfaction
  • Employee Turnover and Absenteeism
  • Patient Loyalty and Advocacy
  • Revenue

Monitoring employee sentiment and making use of feedback

Employee engagement is a challenge no matter what size an organization is, but it is especially difficult and important when you’re a large healthcare company. With most large enterprise organizations, human resources has systems for gathering and monitoring employee feedback channels. But you miss out on an opportunity to improve their employee happiness and engagement if you sit on all the open-ended feedback you receive from employee surveys.

Qualitative feedback can be organized into themes using machine learning

A Fortune 100 healthcare company approached Wootric for help making their voice of employee survey program actionable. This company’s employees already respond to engagement surveys on a regular basis. This provides a score to track over time and rich open-ended feedback, ripe for analysis.

But with thousands of feedback comments waiting to be analyzed, understanding the “why” behind their employee engagement scores was difficult. In addition to that feedback, the company was seeing relevant feedback on review websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. They were interested in this data because it offered a perspective that might not be shared on their internal pulse surveys.

This is a lot of feedback to process.

The good news is, employee feedback typically clusters into topic areas. Wootric text analytics algorithms are trained to recognize, including these themes:

  • Benefits & Compensation
  • Training
  • Systems
  • Workload
  • Management (direct management and overall leadership)
  • Health/wellness

Sentiment & text analytics provide insight into survey comments

The healthcare company now receives themes and uncovered valuable insight in their Wootric dashboard. Each comment is tagging with relevant themes and each tag is assigned a sentiment (positive, negative, neutral). 

In this fictional example dashboard, the human resources team can dig into the bucket of comments associated with “systems”, which covers new technology and hardware.

The algorithms do all the tedious, normally time-consuming, work of reading qualitative feedback and organizing each comment into different buckets with tags. Our data scientists and customer success team then conduct a review of the newly structured data to ensure our client received quality, actionable insights out of the gate.  

Benefits of real-time sentiment analysis of employee feedback

We work with human resource professionals to accomplish these goals:

  • Understand what impacts employee morale

For example, sentiment analysis can help you understand the impact of a roll-out of a new software system or benefit plan. When you have the data, you can move beyond anecdotes and hunches and measure the overall impact.

  • Understand engagement issue by employee role, e.g. doctors, staff

Nurses and surgeons both care for patients, but their responsibilities and goals will be very different from a pharmacist or receptionist. Different roles all have different concerns and enabling employees is much easier when you know who needs what. Segmenting your data by roles helps human resources teams to identify role-specific problems and address different concerns.

  • Use data to guide strategic plans to improve employee satisfaction

You may be hearing feedback from people all the time about how you can improve processes, the working environment, etc, but until you’ve quantified all of that feedback, it’s just anecdotal. Human resources teams are able to prioritize projects to most effectively improve employee satisfaction. There are impactful, strategic wins that you can make hidden in the comments you receive. Be sure not to miss them!

  • Risk management & incident detection

One benefit of analyzing online reviews is that you’ll understand what influences your company’s reputation as an employer. You’ll know how you’re perceived as well as why you’re perceived that way. In addition, anonymity on these kinds of forums means that current employees may be more honest about something serious–including sexual harassment or discrimination.

For our customer, it’s not enough to be on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to medical equipment and methodology. To provide quality care, they have made employee engagement a priority. Taking a modern approach to employee feedback with text and sentiment analytics makes improving employee happiness less about sorting through a flood of data, and all about taking action.

Unlock insight about employee engagement.
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