Archive

Archive for June, 2010

The five big questions for all online retailers and how to answer them.

Those questions are:

  • How satisfied are my customers with their total web site, delivery and after sales service experience?
  • What is our customers’ reaction to their experience and how will it affect future sales?
  • Do I know where our processes let us down with our customers?
  • How much better or worse is our competitors’ customer experience?
  • Who is the best in class and what makes them so?

These questions were defined during the research phase of a major new initiative for the UK’s eRetailers I have been working on and which has just been announced called the Index of Customer Experience.

This new annual programme is aimed at helping online retailers increase sales and reduce costs while boosting consumer confidence.  ICE tests, measures and quantifies the customer experience right through the purchase cycle: from log on through delivery and on to after sales service.

As all our research subjects acknowledged one of the key differentiators  in the online retailing world now is customer experience.  Positive experiences engender loyalty and recommendation; poor ones can ruin a brand’s reputation and lose you some market share at the speed of light in the world of social media. But the experience is governed by more than just the web site, it is also affected by the delivery process and any subsequent service inquiries the customer may have.

As an independent customer intelligence and opinion based research programme, ICE 2010 will produce actionable feedback to help eRetailers improve sales and competitive differentiation while also reducing cost.  It will help them understand how that experience affects the customers’ likelihood to repurchase and/or recommend your brand to friends.  It will allow them to benchmark themselves consistently and fairly against their sector. 

And, through an extensive award and promotion campaign, the ICE and its badge of honour will also heighten staff engagement and, I believe, will increase consumer confidence in online retailing.

I am particularly pleased that this initiative is being fully endorsed and backed by the online retail industry’s association, the IMRG.  Managing director, David Smith said: “This bold and original initiative supports our aims of helping individual performers raise their game and also boosting consumer confidence in online retailing. In future the customer experience will be the key factor in winning and keeping customers. ICE provides a unique and consistent measure to help businesses manage and develop their own customers’ experience.”

The programme is also endorsed by the Institute of Customer Service.  Its chief executive Jo Causon said: ‘The Institute of Customer Service is pleased to support this initiative which alongside our own UK Customer Satisfaction Index brings a further customer-centred focus on how organisations are performing in customer service delivery and importantly helps identify which parts of their delivery needs to improve.”

eRetailers are going to have to substantially raise their game and to do that they need to understand what the customer experiences not just what they offer to the customer.  And I believe ICE can help them do that and I’m looking forward to making it happen.

Be careful what you ask your customers for

June 10, 2010 2 comments

The new Tory Liberal govt is asking us to share in a consultation exercise on where the public spending cuts should be. In this there are two assumptions – the first assumption is, of course, that there must be cuts while the second is that our views will be listened to and they will make a difference.

I see two takes on this move. As I said it assumes there will be cuts and now we know they will be deep ones. So it could be a PR exercise to warm us up to the severity of cuts and mitigate the public ire because we are sharing the Govt’s pain in having to make these tough decisions. Or it could be a genuine extension of the democratic process engaging us on a micro level as well as the macro level of election time?

But this citizen consultation idea did remind me of those customer service/satisfaction surveys where we ask our customers how we, their supplier, should put things right not just personally but almost how we should run as a business.  

 So I offer a few thoughts and guidelines that should apply equally when consulting with customers and/or citizens  – whether the request for information is an online or offline form, through a call centre or in person.

  • Don’t ask for information unless you intend to do something with it
  • Only ask for information you can do something with
  • Don’t use surveys to abdicate responsibility for decision-making
  • Don’t expect surveys or research to give you all, if indeed any, of the answers
  • Don’t believe your customer can run your company better than you can
  • Don’t believe the customer is always right
  • Ask questions that get you inside the head of the customer about how they felt/feel not what they did
  • Understand the customer experience and how its outcomes affect your business drivers eg propensity to recommend
  • And, finally, whether you do or don’t take any action always give feedback to the customers