What are your pear drops?

Computers talking to each other has knocked business back 40 years. And that’s a good thing. 

Everything everywhere is being digitised. People call this a revolution, and it is. But it’s not progress. We are living through a revolution of regress – at least where customer service is concerned – and this is a very good thing.

As the joke goes, sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards; unless you’re a driving instructor. About 40 years ago, growing up, one of my chores was the every-other-day run to our local shop. Mrs Colley, the shopkeeper, knew my name. She knew what Mum and Dad liked. Quite often she would give me a few pear drops ‘for being a good customer’.

When a supermarket chain opened close to home, I shopped there a couple of weeks before heading back to Mrs C, because nobody in the supermarket took the time to notice what I chose with my pocket money (mmm pear drops). Or ever gave me a few for the walk home.

Pear drops, gift, customer experience

What are your pear drops? The small, considered gifts that can have a large impact on customer experience.

To be clear, I don’t live in a different world where local won. Supermarkets had price and convenience on their side and, like most big businesses, didn’t have to worry too much about being nice. Big business owned the 80s and the 90s. It won the battle.

I don’t think that means it will win the war. Whoever masters a digitally-enabled customer experience will.

Last week, I attended our Next Generation CMO Summit in Miami. It was 2.5 days of powerful stuff – cutting edge thinking from some of the best in the business. I was particularly taken with a presentation from Dorian Stone, a leader in McKinsey’s North American Customer Experience practice. It not only echoed my thinking, but also added a whole lot more (as the best presentations do).

Essentially it was about the concept and practice of the customer experience ‘journey’ – his quote marks, not mine. This, Dorian believes, and I agree, is a better way to deliver your brand promise and the right customer experience. Those are my italics, because this is a blog about business and right means right for your customer and for you. It deserves some emphasis.

Journeys cut across multiple individual touchpoints in your business. And you need to make sure they are all thought through from the customer’s point of view, engaging and effective. One interesting stat from his presentation: 67% of unsatisfied customers used 1-2 touchpoints to meet their need. 77% of very satisfied customers used 3 or more touchpoints to meet their need.

(To be clear: what do I/we mean by touchpoints? The exploratory call, the consultation, the sale, the gathering of materials, the address change, the primary contact change, the billing…)

The bumper stickers say ‘think global, act local’. The problem was, until a few years ago, by and large (and there are some notable exceptions), business couldn’t. We hadn’t connected everything: sales to product development to order fulfillment to sales. If a customer liked something a certain way, chances are that, without an exceptional force of will from the sales person, the product teams didn’t know. If the customer liked to be addressed a certain way, the fulfillment teams had no idea.

Every department treated the same customer as though they were a blank slate (‘I’m sorry madam, what was your name again? And you’re calling about…’). We were companies of goldfish.

Today, CRM systems give us memory. We know who our customers are and what they like. Every business can offer a reasonable level of customer experience. And with the internet providing access to a million comparison websites, every business can be competitively priced too (which is very different to competing on price). It’s a more level playing field. Which means…

Which means that you need to take your company back 40 years to move forward. You need to think about the customer journey and everyone needs to think like Mrs C. Your client-facing people need to think about what they can give your clients. Your internal-facing people need to think about what they can do with all of the data at their fingertips. How can they turn that into something useful for the client-facing folk to feedback to the fee-paying folk.

Most of all, you need to understand what you can give customers without asking for anything in return. You need to understand that this is a cost of business today. Because we all like to be thought of. We all like the personal touch. We all pick up the phone to the friend who remembers our birthday.

On a level playing field, you need pear drops.

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About Spencer Green

Spencer Green founded GDS Publishing Ltd in October 1993 to specialise in industrial, government-led publications for the burgeoning Chinese market. The company launched over forty business-to-business titles, was name-checked alongside Tony Blair on China’s national news as ‘best for Chinese business’, and – following a move into India – deemed to be ‘of national importance’ by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. In 1998, GDS Publishing became GDS International and launched its first conference, Enterprise China. The hugely successful Enterprise series of conferences was rolled out across China and Latin America in the next two years. In 2000, GDS International launched its first Senior Executive Summit under the ‘Next Generation’ banner. This became the catalyst for nine years of 25% year-on-year growth... and 40% growth in 2010. In 2011, GDS held over 70 Summits for C-level Executives from a wide range of industries and across the globe, and eight digital marketing conferences. Today, GDS International is determined to become the world’s no. 1 business-to-business media and services company. It’s going to be an exciting journey! Spencer is married to Emily. They have two children, Finlay and Maya, and live in Bristol, UK.
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