As I write this post I’m watching the sun set over the expansive white sand beaches from a catamaran in the middle of the Australian Whitsunday Islands.
Why did I choose this catamaran and not one of the hundreds of others that sail the exact same waters? The answer is risk, research and recommendations.
A two night sailing excursion is a big investment. Not to mention, you really only have one chance to get this trip right. There was a lot of risk in my purchase decision. But after some extensive research, namely through Tripadvisor.com, I gathered enough information from people ‘just like me’ who thought this was the best boat, personnel and experience the Whitsundays has to offer. I trust what these people have to say, because they have nothing to gain from sharing.
How do risk, research and recommendations affect your customer’s purchase decisions? The more risk your customers have before they buy, the more they will rely on research and recommendations to help them decide.
1. Can your business be found when a prospective customer searches for you?
2. What do they find when they do a search?
3. What are their key resources to do research about your industry or segment and is your business represented there?
4. Does your website feel trusted, does it answer their key questions and will it compel them to take action?
1. What is your business doing to encourage or incentivize recommendations?
2. What percentage of your existing customer base are actively promoting your business?
3. What percentage of your customers are unhappy with your business? What are they saying about you? What are you doing about this?
4. Are you tracking the sentiment of your brand online?
Over the next month, I will do my best to post during my time here. If my flight here was any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be a very interesting trip (think massive turbulence, burning hot coffee and the news media racing to interview me and others as soon as we exited the airport) ;)
Photo via wilf2
It’s very common practice to train employees that the customer is numero uno. It’s also common practice to spend the vast majority of time, resource and financial investment on those customers. But where does this leave your employees?
In a world where products can be replicated in record time, what often sets businesses apart is their culture, their mind-share and the intangible values they provide their customers. The power of a brand is built off of the sum of all experiences they have with you, but it’s the high-touch experiences (sales, customer service, project management, after sales support, etc) that trigger emotions – either good, bad or indifferent. Your employees can drive delight, create ire, or a whole host of emotions in-between. So, no matter how much time and money you invest in the customer, if your employees aren’t happy, it’s likely your customers won’t be either.
In the following video, Dan Pink breaks down what motivates employees to perform better. Contrary to popular belief, the answer is not financial incentives (although it is important to pay people enough so the subject of pay is off the table). It comes down to autonomy, mastery and purpose. My personal favorite, purpose, speaks to the desire for all of us to be inspired by our work. If we feel like we’re contributing to something, it simply makes work more enjoyable.
Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines believed that employees should come first. In his book, “From Nuts!”, he writes the following:
“…employees come first — even if it means dismissing customers. But aren’t customers always right? “No, they are not,” Kelleher snaps. “And I think that’s one of the biggest betrayals of employees a boss can possibly commit. The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.”
Howard Shultz, the visionary of Starbucks, famously said:
“We built the Starbucks brand first with our people, not with consumers. Because we believed the best way to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers was to hire and train great people, we invested in employees.”
And then there’s Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. He pays call centre employees a conservative $11/hr and does not have a 401K match. Yet his employees are extremely happy (one only needs to take a tour of his Las Vegas facility to see this first hand). Hsieh has created a corporate culture that is evangelized by employees with religious fervor. As he says, “I just want to have a company where people can hang out together and then come in to work the next day and not worry about whether they’ve done something stupid.” It sounds so simple, but the culmination of his unique corporate culture, philosophies and purpose-driven organization has resulted in some of the most amazing tales of customer service I’ve ever heard.
So, what do you think? Should the customer be #1 or the employee?
Photo via mrkumm