Customer Experience Is A Journey

Reflecting back on my career I can appreciate the value of a customer centric organization. Not only are customer centric organizations aligned around the customer, but they typically embolden the employee with value and the ability to make decisions.

Successful organizations are those that embrace business as an ongoing conversation that involves customers, employees and a larger ecosystem. Think of successful business as a conference room where management sits at the head of the table, customers on one side and employees on the other. The dialog must be chaperoned by all parties with listening and development of dialog constantly at the core. The ecosystem enters from time to time in the form of external speakers who discuss larger topics pertinent to the business.

Sure the conference room changes over time as do the players, but the conversation must always be ongoing and open. It is like being on a trip and exploring local establishments including restaurants, shops, and even people’s homes.  It is a journey of collaboration, communication and life.

Is your customer experience a journey?

Churn as a Leaky Sink

Just like water entering a sink and then finding its way down the drain, your *aaS (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) business will likely always have customers leaving and sales coming in.

While it doesn’t really matter too much (at least in the context of this post) whether water coming out of the faucet at high rate or low rate, what does matter is the size of the leak at the bottom… the water going out.

First of all, is the drain wide open?  If it is, your company is doing more to drive customers away than you are to acquire them.  Figure out an effective customer insights strategy and close that drain! Setup effective surveys, reporting, and a churn action committee to address the reasons why your customers are leaving.

The drain will leak. No matter what you do, you will always have a customer cancel due to death or other reasons outside your control.  Do you know how much your sink leaks?  Again an effective system of capturing data and listening to customers is important.

But, you can go one step further by simply investing in a dedicated analytics team.  Let them model churn and build predict future customers who are likely to churn. During this process, they will identify the key drivers of churn and the company can then build a proactive strategy to engaging and saving the customers that prevent your growth.

Before you know it, that sink is a little small for the water you’ve collected, so you have to upgrade to a bigger sink.  Just make sure you don’t buy a bigger drain with it.

The Great CEO Hold Music Challenge

If anyone has sat on hold they would know that know hold music can range from great to downright hidious to the point of obscenely pornographic.    As a customer, forced to sit on hold and listen to such torture, I hereby take it upon myself to save other from the same fate.

I hereby challenge every CEO in the world that has a customer contact center, to listen to the company’s hold music for two hours each week.  The bottom-line, if they can’t stand it, change it! Why would you, as a CEO, expect your customers to listen to something that YOU yourself wouldn’t listen to?   

If you accept my challenge, post your customer contact center number here is a comment and let my readers judge.  Honestly, if you have any kind of music savvy taste, I am sure my readers will love it. 

Do you accept?

How Your Job Effects Customer Churn

With company’s growing larger and larger and employee skillsets becoming more and more specialized, it is easy to see a workforce behind a product numbering in the hundreds or even thousands.  Yet, the customer might only come into contact with one, two, or three people that have customer facing jobs in sales, customer service and/or technical support.

But, just because you get to sit in a nice cushy office behind the scenes does not mean that your job will not effect the customer’s decision to leave your product for a competitor or alternatve solution.

If you are in Finance, make sure you do the math correctly when you calculate a customer’s bill.

If you are in Product Design, make sure you go out of your way to make sure the product is reliable, well designed and fits their needs.

If you are in Factilities, make sure you keep those bathrooms clean, those snacks well stocked and the conference rooms at the right temperature to keep company moral at high levels.

If you are in Security, smile and take pride in creating a safe and secure work environment for all employees.

You see, a product is not one person, one funtion, or one thing.  A product is team effort of functions that create a positive customer experience that prevents churn.  One part of that team that drops the ball, puts the customer experience at risk and therefore drive churn.  

How clean are your company’s conference rooms?   Are you thinking of the customer and their experience at every decision?

Interesting in reading more on customer churn, read my previous post.

How to Report and Understand Customer Churn

Understanding customer churn is essential for every SaaS, IaaS, or service company doing business in any marketplace today.   Too often companies will be so focused on what is coming in through the marketing facet that they forget to check the flow of water going down the drain.  Your sink full of customers might be draining slowly and along with it, your company’s future.

Even the smallest companies will benefit from tracking customer churn every month.  Reporting around churn will give you a lagging indicator which can tell you a lot about your company, your product, and your policies.

1) Do you have access and/or the ability to gather information on why your customers leave? 

If not, consider an exit survey and follow-up courtesy call to the customer.  Also consider setting up a data warehouse to house the information you gather so it may be linked back to customer records, usage, and campaign data.

2) Are your cancellation reasons aligned toward the company’s structure? 

Reasons/categories should be aligned along company owned churned (something your company did to cause churn) or customer owned churn (the customer churned because of something they own and is not the company’s fault).  In addition, each category should represent a function in the company. 

Price too high? Your CRM department should own that one. 

Reliability Issues? Your Product/Engineering department should be held responsible for those.

3) How do you report your churn?  Is it a single chart?  A dashboard? What time frame do you use to report it (quarter or monthly)? 

Your churn report should contain multiple views of the same data that let decision makers understand: a) who is churning, b) why they are churning, c)  trends over time, and d) the general mood of the customer as they leave (do they hate you or are they going to miss you)?

4) Is the data accessible to everyone who plays a role in decision making?  How do you know they review the data? 

Setup a recurring monthly meeting a few days after the final report is published with the stakeholders and make sure everyone is on the same page as to what the report says and what action items there. 

5) Does your churn report look better than it works?  Does it have more animation than the last banner ad you saw?

A well designed churn report is not defined by animation, color palletes or the number of charts.  A well designed churn report was built from the ground up with a firm understanding of how your business operates, a solid method of customer engagement, and well defined data viewpoints that help the decision maker understand what is dripping down the drain at a glance.

The more you can understand churn and help the decision makers understand churn, the better off your service company will be.  In fact, if you can gather enough good data, you can start predicting churn with a degree accuracy, preventing a customer from churning before it even happens.  How much better could that be?

So, what are you waiting for?  Get down and dirty with churn, get your plumbing tools and start making sure that drain doesn’t drip any more than it needs to.

Read more of my content on: Customer Experience

Customers HATE Jumping Hurdles

Hudles are great when placed around a track.  They provide a challenge to runners to get over them repeatedly as they run toward the finish.  Hurdles provide the challenge.

Challenging hurdles lose their value when they leave the track.  When your customer is running the track that your product provides and they come across a hurdle, they swear, they stop, they become angry, and they start to look at the track next door that doesn’t have any hurdles.  Your customers HATE jumping over hurdles to:

1) Use your product (poorly designed interface)

2) Interact with your company (not providing a direct telephone number on your Contact Us page)

3) Claim rewards (remember those annoying mail-in rebates that require the reciept in triplicate and a form with BLUE ink only?)

4) Get rid of your product (not allowing your customer to cancel easily is a red-flag)

Hurdles can be seen in your data.  Whether you track conversion rates on your website or survey customers regularly, hurdles are patterns that stand out.

Do you look at data? Do you talk to your customers?

How many hurdles does your product have? 

Do you even know if your product has hurdles on its track? 

If you don’t know, found out immediately!

Why I Gave Up on Starbucks

Why I Gave Up on Starbucks

I used to be a huge fan of Starbucks.  The first time I walked into a Starbucks, I was mesmerized by the wonderful smell of coffee, the abundance of comfy, upholstered chairs and couches, the beautiful smiling baristas serving a tasty Mocha with a huge smile and a meaningful “How are you today?”

Things clearly change over time.  Unfortunately, Starbucks has become the very corporation that they saved us from so many years ago.

1. Now, you walk into a store and smell chemicals. 

2. Now, the abundant comfy furniture and carpet have been replaced by hard chairs, tiled floors and if lucky, one or two arm chairs.

3. Now the original Starbucks Gold club card that I enjoyed 10% discount, free drink customization, wifi, and other perks, has slowly been dismantled to simply be a frequent buyer’s card.  The latest nail in Starbucks coffin is the introduction of wifi to the general masses that doesn’t even work.   Clearly Starbucks gave out and decided they couldn’t, slowly taking the perks away without offering anything innovative in return…  my loyalty is rewarded with a frequent buyer’s card.

4. Now the “How are you today?” is no longer sincere.  Drinks are rarely presented with a smile. Instead, we see overworked Baristas trying hard to keep up with demand, yelling names out even though you are standing right in front of them.

5. Now the music is odd and doesn’t inspire productivity.  Before, we were treated to jazz, but today, something folkie and modern, played WAY too loud.  When I step into Starbucks,  I don’t want to step into a folk music concert.

6. Getting help is about the manager.  Before, Baristas took some of the responsibility and resolved issues quickly and happily.  Now, we are told to wait for the manager who doesn’t always know the answer.

7. Instant coffee from the company that saved us from instant coffee?  Yes, it is true and while I was taken aback by its introduction, the truth is that it is quite good.   Innovation can be good, but I still can’t quite get over instant coffee at Starbucks when they awakened the masses to freshly brewed coffee.

8. Starbucks wants to serve wine.  If this is true, I will never return to a Starbucks location.  To walk into a store and smell wine while sipping my coffee is only going to be an unpleasant experience.  I recall being stuck on a flight from Frankfurt to Dulles, next to a woman who constantly consumed red wine.  The smell of the wine made me want to vomit.  Starbucks, please, please, please don’t do yourself more damage and make me smell wine when I drink coffee.

Clearly the Starbucks experience has changed as all corporations do. Starbucks has joined the ranks of McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza in the quest to deliver a mass produced product in a sterilized environment as quickly as possible.  Innovation took a backseat to replicating the fast food experience.

The very core of the Starbucks experience has been stripped away by corporate investors and rewarded with non-innovative frequent buyer’s cards.    There is nothing new and innovative here and I must give up on Starbucks to deliver what it mastered so well, a welcoming experience to enjoy coffee in and be productive that rewarded my loyalty.