Earn Back Loyalty One Customer at a Time

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” – Loa Tzu

One of the foundations of business will always be customer loyalty. Intuitively people know that it’s easier to keep the customers you’ve already got, than it is to find new ones. A quick online search even turns up a few handy rules of thumb, such as new customer acquisition being up to 7 times more costly than retention of an existing one.

Given the events of the past few years, one industry where this “back to basics” approach to business is resonating especially strongly is the world of banking. Banks have suffered hits to both consumer perception and loyalty. The recent Bank Transfer Day online movement as well as the research Empathica has done with our Consumer Insights Panel serve to reinforce this new reality.

For many firms this means earning back trust and loyalty one customer at a time.

One of the most interesting observations I’ve had helping customers with CEM programs over the years is how sometimes the most valuable customers can be the ones who are most unhappy.

These customers present two opportunities. First, they identify areas for improvement (presumably that’s why they are unhappy) and second those same customers are often in a position where a more personal touch at the time of a bad experience can make a huge impact.

If you think about your own experiences, there’s probably nothing more empowering than having a business reach out to you to find out more about your particular concerns. Think about it, how many times have you been somewhere and seen an irate customer demand to “talk to the manager”. What if a business could intercept that same customer before they reached that boiling point? From the consumer standpoint, this can kick off a very personal dialog that can be empowering. From the brand or branch perspective, the feedback gathered can be a valuable learning experience to drive positive changes.

Customer rescue programs can help you get to the heart of what’s making your customers dissatisfied – before they have the chance to destroy your brand. Through the use of surveys, banks can create “trigger responses” that will flag dissatisfied customers or those who have the potential to become one. When these people are identified, key stakeholders (e.g. customer service or branch managers) are notified. This gives you the opportunity to repair and deepen the relationship, as well as provide an incentive for the customer to return.

That’s one simple way where technology can help to win back trust, one customer at a time.

Harnessing the power of the wired guest through Customer Experience Management

Food services and social media are a natural fit. Going out to a restaurant or bar has always been a social activity, even if it’s a quick lunch with co-workers. And diners have taken to social media enthusiastically, taking pictures of their meals before they dig in, racing to check each other into Facebook places, and competing for the position of Mayor of their favorite restaurants on Foursquare.  Savvy restaurateurs have made social media part of their marketing plans as well, taking advantage of Facebook and Twitter to promote their brands and keep in touch with their customers.

There is a down side to the rapid adoption of social media and mobile technology, of course. It’s just as easy for a dissatisfied customer to broadcast a negative experience to their peers as it is for them to praise you for a positive one. Consumers are dining out less, yet their expectations remain high. A negative post or tweet may persist and remain searchable for some time, influencing the decisions of others who are researching where to dine this evening.

Customer rescue strategies and experience management

Social media platforms are more than merely broadcast channels, of course; they are places where conversations and discussions happen. The same tools that allow consumers to research brands can also help business owners to find out what is being said about them and act on those reviews. A negative “tweet,” for example, is an opportunity to initiate a dialogue and, ideally, a customer rescue – by letting a customer know you are listening, and have a sincere interest in improving their experience.

The next logical step is to develop a proactive, rather than reactive, approach. It’s important to act quickly, and on a personal level, to win back a negative reviewer. But is there a way to close the barn door before the horse escapes? Can a restaurant owner do anything to help ensure that the messages that get posted online are positive, rather than negative? The goal of Customer Experience Management (CEM) is precisely that – to use customer feedback in a measured and strategic fashion to fine-tune business practices and generate increased customer loyalty.

Successfully applied, a CEM program can help you to:

  • Capture customer feedback in a timely fashion and identify rescue candidates early in the process
  • Analyze and quantify feedback so that it can inform adjustments to your operations
  • Improve your customers’ brand experiences to encourage repeat business and advocacy
  • Motivate brand advocates to recommend your restaurant to their peers through social media

In a sense, a CEM program takes what the social media-aware business owner does on a one-to-one basis with a single negative Twitter review and applies it at the brand level. Inviting feedback at point of sale can help diffuse and reverse the effects of a negative brand experience, while at the same time providing you with an opportunity to turn negative feedback into constructive criticism – which then can be leveraged to improve the brand experience for all your customers tomorrow.

Learn more about Customer Experience Management solutions for the Food Services industry.

All Text Analytics Systems are NOT the Same

Claiming that all Text Analytics solutions are the same is like saying all forms of transportation are the same. They’re not.

Research your Text Analytics options. Ask your vendor, even Mindshare, all of these important questions. You’ll be happy you did.

  • Does the vendor’s text analytics platform categorize comments with similar-themed keywords and phrases for comparing and trending? (For example, would the comments “lukewarm cheeseburger” and “the hamburger patty was cold” both be classified under “Hamburger” and “Temperature”?)  Or would you have to mentally group terms such as “cold” and “lukewarm” to understand the scope of a problem.
  • Does the vendor’s text analytics accurately identify the key topics in each comment individually as they come in? Or does it require a large sample size and batch process?
  • Does the vendor’s product ensure the highest quality results by using custom-tuned Natural Language Processing (NLP) semantic rules? Or is it based on simple keyword extraction or statistical probabilities?
  • Is their insight tagging at least 90% accurate overall? Or is it only slightly better than flipping a coin?
  • Does the vendor’s solution minimize setup time with pre-tuned, industry-specific models? Or is the vendor’s solution generic, lacking industry domain knowledge and requiring extensive time and effort?
  • Does their text analytics product seamlessly integrate with your current EFM system (Enterprise Feedback Management) or will you have to manage two separate systems? (E.g. Will you benefit from the cost savings of a fully integrated EFM and text analytics platform?)
  • Does the product automatically highlight correlations between structured survey data (like location, time of visit, and satisfaction ratings) and unstructured survey data (open-ended comments and social media)? For example, would your product be able to find that the phrase “on … cell phone” is highly correlated to poor customer service scores? Or will you have to connect the dots yourself?
  • Does their system send instant alerts when a key issue is detected in a customer comment? For example, if a customer reports “slipping and falling” on a wet floor, is an alert email sent immediately to your corporate office? Or will you find out much later?
  • Are their text analytics results reported in real-time and available 24/7 to managers at all levels of your organization (permission-based)? Or will the results be stale? Can the reports be pre-scheduled to email to managers or must you always log in every time to get what you need?
  • Do they have a turnkey product that can identify the central themes and sentiment in customer comments? For example, could it identify that the phrases “rude cashier” and “check engine light” are showing up frequently in negative context? Or do they require significant training, setup time, and resources to reach that insight?
  • Can the vendor customize their solution to tag comments in categories unique to your business, such as products, programs, competitors, etc.? Or is it limited to measuring generic insights only?
  • Can you navigate directly to source comments about key performance areas or are their results limited to high-level statistics? For example, assume that several feedback comments mention the cleanliness of floors in a store; can you instantly pull up those specific cleanliness comments to identify the root of the problem?
  • Do they support more than seven major languages? Or are they limited to English and not much else?
  • Is their solution fully up and running (already developed) and ready to deploy within just weeks, or are they selling something you’ll have to wait months and years to ever see.
  • Does a team of professional, full-time text analytics experts guide their text analytics solution? Or is their text analytics package just a piece of software with no support?
  • Are they confident enough to show you an unscripted live demo of their solution?  Will they allow you to test it with your own comments to see real results using a sample of your own data?  Or are they hiding behind a staged presentation?

Gather More Feedback by Offering Both Phone & Web Surveys

Gather More Feedback by Offering Both Phone & Web Surveys

I was at the drive-thru of a national burger chain last week, craving that juicy super-burger that melts as it slides down my throat and becomes 800 calories of fat that I’ll probably never work off. As I grab my bag of food at the pick-up window, the employee informs me that if I call the number on the back of the receipt and take the survey, I’ll get a free burger next time I visit.

The quickest way to a man’s heart is up his wallet pocket and through his stomach, so the words “free burger” sold me. Plus, I had a bone to pick – they forgot my ketchup and a straw. As I pulled out of the drive-thru, I was already dialing the survey number with my cell. After all, texting is illegal in most states, but hands-free talking isn’t. So I can provide feedback, eat, and drive all at one time!

The easiest and most effective surveying method for the customer is over-the-phone responses to an automated survey. Automated phone surveys allow you to rant and rave to a company without an awkward exchange between you and another person. You can let it fly! Plus, neither your hands nor your eyes are busy while responding to a phone survey. In fact, I JUST took a phone survey while I wrote that last sentence! That’s how simple they are!

Ease of Method Trumps Technology

According to our research at Mindshare Technologies, when customers are given the option to take either a phone survey or an online survey, they choose to use their phone approximately 60% of the time — no matter the size of the company or its industry.

Though web surveys still take almost half the cake, they’re not as hot as everyone expected. When the internet became a regular household appliance nationwide about 10 years ago, customer feedback experts expected it to overtake phone surveying methods.

Web surveys never made phone surveys obsolete because technology doesn’t dictate your customers’ surveying preference; ease of method does. And for most, automated phone surveys are the simplest, quickest, most comfortable feedback method for customers.

Regardless, both web and phone surveys are here to stay. To collect the most surveys, your customer feedback program should offer customers the option to provide feedback via phone, web, text message, kiosk, iPad, social media, or whatever method they choose. After all, the more feedback you collect, the more usable information you receive. And with proper analysis for all that info, you’ll find more specific, actionable insights from your feedback to improve operations and increase revenue.

With customers taking as many or more phone surveys as web surveys, you need an analytics engine that digests both audible and textual comments equally well, combining all comments into one platform along with all of your Voice of Customer data.

Negative Feedback Is Good Too

We all like positive feedback. It’s natural to feel good when someone gives you a pat on the back.

In business, that feeling is extrapolated ten times. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a satisfied customer telling you how perfect their experience was and that they want to come back. And for good reason – the more positive feedback you get, the more customers you’ll keep for life, and the more revenue they’ll bring.

But there are, in fact, no businesses anywhere that receive exclusively positive feedback.  Of the six billion people living on earth right now, there are about… six billion different attitudes, tastes and preferences. No one could ever expect to please each one of them.

As much as we all like positive feedback, a negative comment tends to create the opposite reaction. It cuts us personally when a departing guest tells us that they had a bad visit.

How you choose to react to that negative feedback is the key. Do you shrug it off and chalk it up to “just one customer” who won’t come back? Or do you see an opportunity?

People love attention, and they especially love it when a business makes them feel important. With so few businesses actually paying attention to their customers, you can really stand out by treating everyone like a VIP. In turn, they’ll come back over and over again, as well as sing your praises to anyone interested.

Unfortunately, when something goes wrong, most guests are reluctant to have a confrontation, even when they’re in the right. If a hotel concierge is rude, most people will choose to keep quiet about it and simply avoid that hotel (and probably tell their friends, or blog about it). So there is a strong need for anonymity, a place they can air their gripes without confrontation or fear of retribution.

Are you giving your customers a place to freely voice their opinions?

Let’s face it: your guests are going to talk about you, especially the frequent guests. They’ll let their peers know what they experienced, good or bad. Those conversations will have a ripple effect.  Here are two scenarios using a hotel example:

Scenario one: A guest had a bad experience and tells his coworkers. The next time they travel, they look for anywhere to stay but your hotel.

Scenario two: Another customer also had a bad experience, but the hotel staff responded to his feedback, explained the changes that they would be making, and offered to make restitution. The customer feels important and tells his friends, who then seek out your hotel the next time they travel. After similar experiences, they all become lifetime guests, who trust your brand every time they need a place to stay.

If you’re truly committed to customer happiness, you’ll take note of every negative guest comment that comes through, and treat it like a valuable asset. Instead of moping about it, you need to jump on the chance to make things right.

What’s keeping you from listening to your customers? Let Mindshare help!

Is Customer Service Extinct?

Is customer service becoming extinct? Have we “hunted” it to extinction? Will an economic downturn be the last straw? Can it recover from the endangered species list? Who or what will make that decision?

All good questions – but maybe not the right questions.

As consumers, rather than spend our time bemoaning the loss of terms like “southern hospitality” or “western warmth,” we should each look in the mirror and question the level of service we are willing to accept. I believe the perceived drop in customer service that many consumers are feeling is a direct result of two simultaneous forces: (1) an increase in the comparable services against which we now judge any service, and (2) a decrease in our willingness to speak up, grab the pulpit, and let the service purveyor know how we feel. Let me address these two forces.

The increase in comparable services

It used to be that, as consumers, we pretty well knew the territory of comparison. We compared the service at our local banks. We knew the three closest pizza parlors and the local hair salons. When we called an airline to make a reservation, our point of comparison was “Airline X” versus “Airline Y.” This has all changed. Our point of reference has expanded.

Now, when we call an airline to make a reservation, we are consciously or subconsciously comparing our phone experience, not only against all other airlines, but we are evaluating that phone call with other phone experiences we have with companies like the Lands’ End catalog department and/or The Home Depot consumer affairs line. When I call my bank, and they ask me for my address three different times, I am no longer judging how my bank measures up against other banks, I am wondering how American Express seems to be able to transfer my personal information between agents, but my bank can’t.

In the age of the worldwide Internet, we are now faced with global service expectations. The acceptable standard is continuously being raised – cross culturally and across industries. What is most interesting to me, is that as our required minimum standard for service has continued to rise, our willingness to complain about poor service appears to have fallen somewhat. Which leads to the second force…

A decrease in our willingness to speak up and give companies our feedback

In a world of loosening values, declining courtesy, and speak-your-mind media, somehow the fear and avoidance of personal conflict remains mostly intact. Generally, all other things being equal, most people are “chicken.” They are conflict avoiders! Most folks would rather stick a fork in their head than tell you bad news to your face, particularly if they don’t know you. We may be willing to criticize a restaurant’s food in private, but when the meal arrives in front of us in poor condition, we often lower our eyes, and say nothing directly to the server or the manager.

Why is this? Could it be a result of the social interaction we’ve lost due to the Internet and computer gaming age? I’m not qualified to say. But it wouldn’t seem far fetched, that in a world where neighborhood kick-the-can and street-corner conversations have been replaced with texting, instant messaging, video gaming, and sterile social websites, that a culture’s comfort level with complaining directly about undercooked food would be diminished. It is one thing for a movie actor to say the words, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” It is quite another task to have the strength to provide that kind of personal feedback directly to a service provider.

The convergence of forces

So, here’s the situation: consumers with higher expectations and a wider definition of what constitutes “comparable service” are losing the courage to speak their mind directly and get things off their chest. But hey, everybody needs an outlet, right? So, where does a consumer go to vent their frustration over poor service? They tell 10 friends. They tell 10 neighbors. Heck, with the Internet and social media, they can tell 10 million strangers! Simple word-of-mouth broadcasting has exploded to become the global “bully pulpit.” Is good customer service extinct? Nah, we’re just hearing about the poor experiences more.

How can superior service companies lessen the drama?

Best practice service companies have quickly come to understand that when they do “drop the ball” with a customer, they can either hear about it directly, or they can read about it on the Internet. Even worse, they will assuredly notice it through declining customer counts. So, wise service companies are making it easy for their guests to provide anonymous, risk-free feedback to them in as many ways as possible, and at every potential touch-point. Through these different channels, companies can capture real-time, actionable information that they can use to immediately improve their operations and, over time, create even more loyal customers.

Mindshare can help

The Mindshare feedback system can lessen the impact of both forces described above, and help you close the gap. Because Mindshare collects over 25 million surveys a year, across multiple industries, our clients immediately see not only how they are performing within their company but also across their competitive set, and even more widely, across the general services landscape. They quickly see how their service compares, so that they can adjust their operations to be not only best in class, but best across all services. Also, by using automated customer feedback surveys, companies are providing their customers the ability to provide honest and direct feedback without experiencing the conflict of a face-to-face confrontation. For these astute companies, superior customer service is not extinct; it is alive, well, and flourishing.

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