thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

The First Day of School

By on August 26, 2010

The world needs more voices for customer-centricity and Mark Price is one of the best advocates that I know. He is the Managing Partner of M Squared Group and a thought leader in the practice of building and sustaining customer loyalty. I am proud to share with our readers this guest post and I hope that it helps you to enhance the experiences that you offer to your customers.

School_lrgCan you remember back to your first day in a new school? Most of us can. I don’t know about you, but for me it was not exactly an uplifting experience. Everyone seemed to know each other from other places, and they seemed to be speaking a language that I did not yet understand. I remember feeling out of place and alone, and not really sure if I were wanted.

It is amazing that marketers today often end up providing the same experience to first-time customers. Have you gone into an electronics store to look at TVs recently? Or tried to understand the differences between computers? Electronics are often one place where the customer experience and the language seemed to be designed for insiders. I’ve also had the same experience trying to buy insurance, or automobiles…

Given that our school experience did not leave us very excited to return, you can understand why many businesses today face a very high attrition level among new customers. Old customers know their way around, are recognized by the salespeople (hopefully), and are familiar with the breath and types of products available. But new customers have none of those advantages.

Many companies today are focused on acquiring new customers. They often use complex segmentation rules to identify prospects most likely to become customers and then market to those prospects intensively. But fewer of those companies spend as much time ensuring that the new customer experience achieves the desired goal of creating repeat, loyal, profitable customers. Instead, most new customers, feeling like left-out school children, end up seeking out a playground where they might be more accepted.

If you have not focused attention on converting new customers to repeat ones, here are three approaches that can help you improve that experience:

  1. Become a new customer yourself. Go into one of your stores, sign up on-line, contact a salesperson for a quote -- experience what it is like to start from scratch with your company. Have a family member do so as well, so that you can see what it is like to work with your company without background, insider knowledge. Then do the same for your best competitor.
  2. Get feedback from customers after their first transaction. Many companies employ a “voice of the customer” email survey as soon as a new customer has completed their first experience, to ask them the famous “Net Promoter Score” question. Analyze the survey data to see if you have strong results or vulnerabilities among specific stores or salespeople.  Then conduct interviews to determine “Best” or “Worst” Practices.
  3. Analyze acquisition/retention patterns in your customer data. Understand which products, stores, salespeople, timing, markets, etc. are the ones that seem to do better than others. Identify the key drivers of attrition (what do people who never come back have in common).

Let’s build relationships with our new customers, and make them feel at home and wanted. Then we can move those customers up to deeper relationships, and hopefully “graduate” them into an even higher category, that of advocates.

Mark Price is the Managing Partner of M Squared Group, a consulting firm that specializes in helping clients understand and build customer relationships. You can find his blog at www.cultivatingyourcustomers.com, where he addresses key issues companies face in moving towards customer-centricity. He also writes weekly for www.retailwire.com.

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