Posts Tagged ‘Customer’

Weighing the pig won’t make it fatter, but feeding it will

July 28, 2014

How top companies are changing their approach to sales

When the influential management analyst Dan Pink conducted a poll for his latest book To Sell Is Human, he found that the most common word associated with salespeople is ‘pushy’ – no surprises there. But this cliché of sales as the domain of ruthless hustlers is as tired as it is tenacious. Fuelled by new research and innovative thinking, the UK’s best sales teams aren’t just driving the bottom line, they’re taking a lead role in generating customer advocacy and loyalty, not to mention boosting employee engagement. They’re game-changing the industry.

Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.

The days of ‘hooking’ the client, fielding objections, and constantly pushing to close are over. Thanks to social media, customers are unprecedentedly informed and empowered; recent research from the Sales Executive Council finds that most buyers are 60% of the way down their decision-making cycle before they even talk to a salesperson. Distrust in big business has skyrocketed, and regulatory changes are causing massive upheaval.

Weigh the pig

Stop weighing the pig

Doing more of the same – selling faster and harder, to bigger targets and shorter deadlines – will not lead to different outcomes. Instead, leaders need to help salespeople redefine who they are, what they do, and how they do it. It’s not easy, but it’s urgently important, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let’s begin by examining the ‘who’. When it comes to personal sales styles, it’s time to give pushiness the shove. A study published by Adam Grant last year in the journal Psychological Science found that ‘ambiverts’ – people who are equal parts extroverted and introverted – perform best. Dan Pink’s essential ABC of sales traits are Atunement (an ability to connect and understand needs), Buoyancy (an ability to bounce back) and Clarity (being clear what you’re offering). The Challenger Sale, a new book by the Corporate Executive Board, outlines five typical sales personalities – the Lone Wolf, the Problem Solver, the Hard Worker, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. Experiments reveal that it is the Challenger, the commercially savvy, far-sighted and well-researched self-starter, who really moves the dial.

So emotional intelligence, sensitivity to context and a sophisticated perspective are the personal qualities that win out, but the way in which organisations frame the function of sales itself is equally important.

Earlier this year, Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatter, popularised the concept of H2H (Human-to-Human) sales and marketing, in which he advocated discarding the concepts of B2B, B2C and D2C in favour of a connection between equals: “Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form […] Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.”

This includes understanding that salespeople are not just there to sign off order forms. Research from the Corporate Executive Board finds that a good sales experience accounts for 53% of what drives long-term loyalty, so although price will always be important, focusing on value at the expense of service can be a false economy.

Of course, these new mindsets will only take hold if they’re embedded in a whole ecosystem of suitable management, process and reward. Encouraging advisors to provide authentic experiences rather than setting restrictive sales targets, coaching Challenger skills, and tweaking recruitment criteria are all part of the mix.

In his previous book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink suggested that 80% of the workforce is motivated by a sense of purpose, autonomy and mastery more than they are financial gain, so leaders also need to balance a fair and transparent pay structure with the sort of flexible, empowering culture seen in young hero companies such as Innocent and Netflix. Sometimes this involves getting rid of people who cannot or will not adapt. Netflix is as ruthless with ‘dead wood’ as it is supportive of bright stars, so if you followed this approach, your own Lone Wolves will gradually have to be rooted out.

It’s challenging stuff, particularly for large, established companies operating in sectors such as energy, finance and telecoms. Thankfully, there are leaders out there proving that it absolutely can be done.

A leading energy company has 15,000 people in their energy sales channel, 4,000 in their homecare channel, and 500 in field sales. A few years ago, they hired a brilliant new sales director who believed that current perception of the energy sector begged a whole new channel approach, and called on Blue Sky to help. Starting with the 1,200 people in their outbound channel, we helped them remove the frontline sales-per-hour target, instead encouraging salespeople to focus on having a great conversation with the customer, building the brand and being genuinely helpful. If customers didn’t wish to make a sale at that time, they were given a number to call back on later if they changed their mind, rather than being pushed to confirm a sale straight away.

The results? Sales per hour stayed largely the same, and from an engagement perspective, the workforce was far more motivated. Plus, thanks to the ‘call back’ mechanic, they saw a significant increase in the volume of inbound calls – which had double the conversion of the conversations on the outbound line.

“Selling, I’ve grown to understand,” says Dan Pink, “is more urgent, more important, and, in its own sweet way, more beautiful than we realise.” Sales leaders need to stop selling themselves short. H2H makes for better results – but it’s also a sales approach of which we can all be proud.

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementSally@bluesky

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

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The Peak End Rule – how do you leave your customers on a high?

June 25, 2014

Neil ShackletonHave you ever watched a film and as it plays find yourself thinking, “wow, what an amazing special effect, I wonder how they did that” or “NO, don’t go in the house, he’s in there with a knife!” Did you know that Hollywood craft every single moment of their movies to an exact formula, that every incident, special effect, twist in the tale is laid out to the exact same page number, every time? Check out http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Hollywood-Blockbuster

Those that are genius at it like Steven Spielberg are able to craft an amazing movie experience with a great ending to leave us exiting the movie theatre on a high. But think about those movies you saw that didn’t have a great ending. What did you say about them when asked…. “it was ok but the ending was rubbish, so don’t bother seeing it!”? Probably 95% was great but that last 5% wasn’t good enough to really win you over, and promote the movie to a friend. Relate that to the customer experience you deliver in your business. Are you carefully crafting that journey for them, ready to send them out on a high, so they promote your business to a friend?

To help you, you need to understand The Peak End Rule and the different ways in which it works. In his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman says that we judge any experience we have in life by two things – how they were at the peak or peaks of the experience and whether it got better or worse at the end. He calls this The Peak End Rule. If a movie has great special effects or an amazing fight scene but the ending just wasn’t strong enough to leave you on a high, you probably won’t tell your friends to go see it. Relate that to the customer experiences you are creating. You may have a great welcome, ask great questions or offer amazing solutions, but how much thought did you give to how you closed the transaction or in fact, where the customer is on their whole journey with you? Sometimes, by that point we are just happy that we gave the customer what they wanted as we limp out with a “bye, thanks for using us!” but if Spielberg did that, you know what you would say about his movie.

But there’s more. Understanding the journey the person has come on is also important. Daniel also states that if the ending is strong enough, it has the power to wash away any pain the customer may have felt along that journey. “WHAT!” I hear you say. YES. Let me explain…

The Peak End Rule in action

So, a friend of mine went to get a tattoo, his first and rather than choosing something simple as a first, oh no, he had to go big. He chose to have a huge tattoo over his left side. Now they say tattooing over your rib cage is possibly the most painful experience you could ever have whilst getting a tattoo, but that is where he wanted it.

Here is the journey. So the first peak is deciding he is actually going to do it, he is euphoric about it. The second peak is deciding the design he is going to have. It includes an intricate Celtic Knot design, interwoven with pictures of his children. There is a bit of a low when he finds out how much it is going to cost but he hits a peak when he actually raises the money to have it done. So far, three peaks, right?

He is 15 mins into having the tattoo done when he has to ask the artist to stop. He is in so much pain and it is about to continue for the next four and a half hours! During this time he is in agony, he is crying, I think he even called for his mother at one point (which we still tease him about), but here is the surprising twist. The minute it is finished you would think that he would say “never again”, but no. He stands looking at it in the mirror in total awe, turns his body to show the now untouched side and says, “think I will get this side done as well!”. “WHAT!” I hear you shout, “is he insane?” but actually, he just got hit by The Peak End Rule.

Remember, when the ending is strong enough, it does have the power to wash away the pain, which in this case, he had only just experienced. A bit like a mother holding her newly born baby – the pain was worth it. The minute he saw how fabulous the tattoo looked, he was ready for another one.

Let’s put all of this in the context of your customer. Firstly, you have a product you sell, let’s say it’s broadband as that probably resonates with most of us and let’s put it in some simplistic terms to scope the journey.

You just bought a new house – peak
You choose the Broadband provider and you are really happy with the deal and speed you are going to get – peak
The router arrives when it should and service goes live without a hitch – peak
Then one day, the Broadband just won’t work and you can’t figure out why – low

What happens next is often the key deciding factor on how the customer feels about the provider they chose. If the customer calls up and the company is really easy to do business with, then it is a peak for the customer and they are happy to continue. They may even promote your business because they get that it will go wrong sometimes, but you were so great in fixing it and made it so effortless for them, they are happy to stay. Peak

BUT, if you create a difficult experience for them at this point, full of hurdles and broken promises to call back and a total lack of acknowledgement of the pain they are going through, then this is when they want to leave you. You created a poor ending. Get it?

Creating a Peak Ending

You can take The Peak End Rule into any customer interaction you have by ensuring that you leave the customer on a high. It is the way you leave them that will have the lasting effect and to illustrate it, I am going to leave you with a short story I stole from a colleague of mine.

So my colleague orders his groceries online regularly and as usual, a guy brings them to the door and leaves. No big deal, that is what we expect, but one day a different guy turns up. This guy offers to carry the groceries through to the kitchen, passing the young daughter who is trying to learn guitar. On the way out, the delivery guy stops and shows the daughter two great little guitar chords and on the back of a receipt he has in his pocket, writes a visual depiction of the chords so she won’t forget them. WOW, what a way to leave. The daughter is delighted she learned two new chords and my colleague is stunned to say the least. TA DA! The Peak End Rule. Guess what, he tells EVERYONE to get their groceries from that store.

So are you ready for your high after RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or are you churning out SCREAM 58?

Written by Neil Shackleton, Associate Consultant at Blue Sky

Friday Night In

November 11, 2013

Tesco-Van-BSI was sat in last Friday night, anticipating some great TV moments ahead. I had already started to plan out the mindless action films I was going to watch, the rubbish I was going to eat…..My better half was heading out for the night leaving me to put the kids to bed and sort the food shopping delivery. The latter task for some reason I build up in mind as something I hate doing.

The food had been ordered online; the man had packed it up and had delivered it to my doorstep! What is there to hate about the process….maybe it is me being a grumpy old man…but my experience tends to be…..The van pulls up, the guy then proceeds to pull 3 huge boxes from the back, rings the door bell and then drops them outside and grunts a hello. I then have to become a human shopping sprinting machine.… where I have 5 seconds to pick up all 12 bags at once, race to the kitchen, dodge the kids who have started to unpack the goodies as I carry the bags, catch tins that have fallen out of the wafer thin bags, unload it all and race back before the guy puts another 3 huge boxes down in front of me. This process repeats until I have no breath left and no room on my kitchen worktop or floor to put more bags down!

I saw from the corner of my eye the supermarket van pull up outside.  I sighed here we go…..The doorbell rang….anticipating the normal grunt and ritual cliché exchanges. Not this time, I was met by a middle aged guy who can only be described as a very happy man, who loved his job! He immediately scanned the situation and observed that I had two children poised ready to take any chocolate from the bags that they could see. He must have noticed I was a little flustered, he calmly said…. “There’s no rush, I will give you a hand to bring these ones in before we get the rest!”. Could I believe what I was hearing… I had readied myself and limbered up even for the customary race  back and forward to the kitchen. But it looks like this time it would be different, the delivery guy was helping me.

As the chap walked back through the lounge he noticed my daughter who at the time was holding her guitar, practicing 3 Blind Mice from memory. He stopped in his tracks and started asking her about the guitar and how long she had played. Loving the attention my daughter proceeded to tell him her musical career (all 2 weeks of it). He asked if he good borrow the guitar for a moment and started to show her a couple of chords… which he then wrote down on the back of the receipt so she would not forget them. All I could think of was…. why don’t more people take the moment to scan the other persons situation and seek ways to help them in the moment? This is what great attentive and thoughtful service is about…. make it easy for people, connect and leave them with a peak ending they will remember.

The delivery guy could have chosen to be oblivious to what was going on for me, but he didn’t. He took a few precious seconds to slow down the process to allow me to only break a moderate sweat moving the bags, he took the time out to engage with us and most importantly he left a lasting memory of the service. That is what I call a peak end to a customer experience. I would love to hear about your stories.

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Seanatbluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

When it comes to service the USA are the real ‘Superpower’

October 21, 2011

Having recently returned from a trip to the States, it was incredibly obvious to me that the service culture in the US is light-years ahead of the UK – whilst years ago I used to laugh about the ‘have a nice day’ and ‘great to see you today’ type comments that could have been interpreted as false or patronising, I have to admit that this year I found it refreshing to hear positive, friendly statements from almost without exception, every service individual that I met.

Customer Experience - Amercian Flag (Courtesy of http://www.us-flag.net) - Bluesky Performance Improvement

Smiling faces, offers of help, care and attention to my children and always a ‘peak ending’ to make me feel good was a lovely way to do business! Looking at the recent ICS survey results and seeing that in the UK we have moved forward by 1 point – with public sector and utilities lagging well behind the rest, it occurred to me that our attitude to service is completely different.

How do we engage people at all levels in service roles to ‘want’ to make a difference to their customer, not because we are asking them to and not because they have to – but to actually feel good about being nice to customers? Can you imagine a world where your local council tell you to ‘have a magical day’! or who always offer solutions instead of re-visiting the process and why it has to be this way!, well I do believe this paradigm shift can be achieved…….but can it be done before my next holiday…?

Lindsay@Bluesky

Lindsay Terris - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Cat’s Everywhere!!

September 27, 2011

Business spend millions raising awareness of brands…more and more businesses are tapping into the emotional reasons why customers buy products, companies who understand this do not just focus on transactional relationships with customers they aim to create an experience for each customer.  We are all customers… Everyday we purchase products and we form beliefs and opinions about a product or brand. It’s in our nature to share these experiences with people we know or meet. In the light of the social media revolution we are now connected to more people and we share our experiences across a wider social group. We have huge amounts of information on line that can help us inform our buying decision.

IKEA Cat's - Cat's Everywhere!!

With this in mind it is vital business provide customers not just with great service, but also an exceptional experience on every transaction that they will remember and share with the people they meet. Regardless of whether the customer buys, they need to leave with a positive impression of a brand,  an impression that triggers something in them next time they think of buying a product or when a friend asks ‘who would you use when buying …..?’ Watch this video and consider what message Ikea are sending their customers….what would does this mean for your business?

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Ever tried to bake a cake without an egg? Part 2

September 8, 2011

We know that customer advocacy is vital, now we need to explore the current shift in customer perception and mindset.

So, there has been a shift – a big shift!  So why, following this big shift in focus and perceived capability to deliver against a customer focus from the top, are the top dogs for service still relatively similar to the one’s we would recall from 10 years ago?

Really! The same organisations that were at the top of the tree in the UK; the likes of First Direct, John Lewis, Waitrose, Virgin and BUPA are still there today. (Check out any of the UK CSI results over the years)

Some, like BT, Tesco, British Gas have slipped a bit, but if you were to look at Britain’s best-loved customer experiences then and now, there would not be much difference.

So despite making a shift in implementing processes and retaining really strong intent from the top, success still eludes the vast majority of companies.

As with ten years ago, successful companies are those that have the greatest appeal to their customers in both rational and emotional terms.

We’ve spent much of the last decade shoring up the rational ways we do business – better processes, better measurement, better management, but have potentially neglected the emotional appeal.

Engage - Hand Holding - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

So what’s the answer?

Well, I think there are probably many things that the best of the best have in common in the way they create customer advocacy, but I was recently reading the Starbucks story and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks summarises the customer experience transformation undertaken by Starbucks as a combination of Intent – the genuine and visible intent of the leadership team, Process – those that truly support customer advocacy, and Heart – the engagement of the people within the organisation to deliver.

We often get asked to focus purely on Heart – ‘please come in to our business and make our people more engaged!’. But what we know is unless all three are working together and continually finely tuned, you’ll always be good, but maybe not on the list.  It made me think – focussing purely on one bit is really just like trying to bake a cake with just an egg.

Sally@Bluesky

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Ever tried to bake a cake without an egg? Part 1

September 2, 2011

It’s pretty common knowledge now that creating customer advocacy pays off.

By ‘advocacy’, I mean generating such an emotional connection with your brand that customers remain loyal in the long term and by ‘pays off’, I am referring briefly to the robust research that concludes that loyalty leaders have lower costs and higher growth rates than the average organisation.  (If you don’t believe me, check out any of Fred Reicheld’s work on-line.)

So armed with this knowledge, you’d think organisations would be getting much better at creating high levels of advocacy, wouldn’t you?  Well I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling a massive amount of advocacy for many of the companies I am a customer of – there are some, but they are still the same companies I liked 20 years ago.  They are probably the same companies you like, or at least have heard other people raving about.

Connect - BlueSky - Bluesky Performance Improvement

10 years ago research was conducted into Customer Centricity, to establish the extent to which organisations truly did place customers at the heart of their organisation.

What this research revealed was this:

  • 83% of companies believed their CEO’s were passionate about customers, although few had evidence to support it.
  • However, whilst over 80% of organisations had strategies in place for customer acquisition, development and retention, in some cases as few 40% actually had the relevant processes, targets and measures in place to implement the strategies effectively. Companies knew what to do but didn’t have the mechanisms in place to deliver.

Now 10 years on, we repeated this study in to a smaller number of organisations, but the pattern was evident all the same.  The picture 10 years on looked like this:

  • Interestingly 88% of organisations now believe their CEO is passionate about customers
  • However over 90% now have not only the strategies in place, but claim to be happy with the supporting processes, targets and measures in place for each business development component – customer acquisition, customer development and customer retention

The next part of this blog will explore the shift and what it means to the ‘Top Dogs’.

Sally@Bluesky

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Features & benefits – who’s the real winner?

July 20, 2011

Features and benefits are the cornerstone of selling. All products and services have features but the features on their own won’t make the potential customer want to go ahead as people need to see what’s in it for them – and that’s what benefits demonstrate. Advantages are potential benefits, but they don’t become benefits until we link them personally to the customer.

Features & Benefits - Who's the real winner?

Great sales people focus their questioning on establishing what the customer needs, really getting under the skin of ‘why’ a customer buys a product and uses this information to present the benefits of a product to the customer linking to what the product will do for that customer on a personal level. When this level of tailored selling is achieved it has a massive impact on customer experience as well as sales results….when it goes wrong it can have the adverse effect, have a look at this video and see the impact of getting it wrong

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Great service in the most unlikely places..

July 13, 2011

Trains are not usually the sort of places that you would expect to find excellent customer service, especially not trains packed to the gunnels with over tired business people during the morning rush hour.  But here I am on the early morning Grand Central train from York to London having a conversation with the ticket collector and thinking how great his service has been. To backtrack a few minutes, I’d boarded the train and was in the process of buying a ticket from the collector when he suddenly stopped in mid sentence, excused himself and started running down the carriage calling after a lady who he’d just let past.  I looked at my fellow passengers and we wondered if he’d realised that she had the wrong ticket and needed to pay an excess.

inspire

A minute later he reappeared and slightly out of breath told us that “I just realised that she was heading to the buffet car to buy a drink and I’d forgot to tell her that it would be free if she showed her ticket”. It was a simple gesture and one that was delivered with absolute sincerity. When I commented on this he simply said “well, it’s part of my job to look after the customers” and then he added “Grand Central is a really good company to work for, we all like coming to work each day”.  I wish I’d had time to explore this comment further but of course he had better things to do than to talk to me. But it did inspire a conversation around my table about customer service and how the simple gestures like this leave you with an overwhelmingly positive impression of an organisation.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever moan about broken air conditioning, delayed trains or overcrowded carriages, but this is definitely a company I want to travel with again.

Robin@Bluesky

Robin Mar - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Don’t let the technology get in the way of the message

July 6, 2011

I was interested to read the CCA latest press release warning about the complacency in handling customer’s emails. The use of email, text, web chat and social media are clear growth channels of the future. What lessons have we learnt from call handling to make sure we create a clear and differentiated customer experience online?

The old saying ‘what goes around, comes around’ is true and it’s great to see that we might be going back to applying the good old fashion rules of written communications and I believe some of the key philosophies that should be applied are:

  1. Make sure you flex your style of writing to match your customer’s style of writing. Very often the company brand comes first and without flexing the style of writing the level of rapport and connection will be limited.
  2. Bring good news upfront – how often have you received a letter or email response with three paragraphs of explanation around the process and in the last paragraph an answer to your question. This does little for engagement
  3. Apply a peak end rule at the end, make your customer feel that you have really read their email and use some of their language at the end of the message and not the usual company sign off line.

There is a real opportunity for companies to embrace this channel and learn from previous mistakes, to view the CCA press release click here

Definitely food for thought.

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement