Braintrust Query: ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ – Listening to Best Customers

Discussion
Jan 13, 2010
Mark Price

By Mark Price, Managing
Partner of M Squared Group

BJ Bueno, in a post on MediaPost Blogs on Dec
22 entitled "Attract
Loyal Customers by Creating a Magnetic Brand
" provides
10 key strategies for building relationships with best customers. The second
one is "Listen to what your best customers are telling you. Don’t be a transaction-making
machine. Be a real person."

But it is much harder
to tell companies about what I think as a best customer than it should be.
I can go to the website and see if I can find a "contact us" form, I can see
if I can find a written feedback form and fill it out and remember to hand
it in and then find someone who will take it, or I can tweet or blog about
it and hope someone reads it. All in all, I have to go way out of my way to
share feedback — not just the bad, but the good as well.

We know we need feedback
from our best customers, the 15 percent who drive 40-60 percent of revenue
and more than that of profit. We don’t just need feedback, but we need conversations
that help create and reinforce relationships. Customers who share their feedback,
listen to us and then share again are committing to more than just transactions.
Then we can get feedback and, as importantly, we begin to earn commitment,
the Holy Grail of relationship marketing.

But how do we do this? How do we create
places where people can safely communicate with us and with other customers
and respond to them without spending a bunch of money we just don’t have?

Here
are three “no excuses” marketing ideas about getting feedback and having
conversations with best customers:

  1. Open a Facebook fan page and set up a
    part where you can get feedback. Let your best customers know about these
    pages through a special, dedicated email. Check the page daily. Let customers
    know which ideas have been acted upon and which are still under review. Check
    out the Starbucks Idea section for an excellent implementation of this strategy.
    Their approach cost more than a fan page on FB, but you will get the idea.
  2. Call your best customers. That’s right, call them. Have the marketing team
    each call a half-dozen best customers every week and ask them about their
    last experience and what you could do better. Send an email from that employee
    to thank the customer afterwards.
  3. Ask for feedback after every e-commerce delivery. Send a link to a form for feedback and then offer a small discount for the
    insight.

None of these are huge ideas, individually, but together they set the
starting point for more engagement in the future.

Discussion
Questions: What are the challenges of getting feedback from your best customers?
What do you think of the three suggestions offered in the article? What
other ideas do you have to engage with your best customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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12 Comments on "Braintrust Query: ‘Do you hear what I hear?’ – Listening to Best Customers"


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Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I truly understand the desire to turn a customer into an advocate and then to generate two-way communication with them. While the “discussions” might not always be as pleasant as you would like, they should provide meaningful insight.

Two of the ideas on there are opt-in (Facebook and email survey after delivery of e-commerce purchase) – the customer gets to decide if they want to participate. This is likely to generate a response from the two extremes – those who are very happy with the process and those who are very unhappy. The middle is less likely to respond.

I saw nothing in the third method regarding how the customer’s phone number was secured. More importantly, I didn’t see anything that indicated they had been given permission to call. This might be okay in a B2B situation but in this “Don’t Call List” world, I don’t advocate retailers start calling their best customers without their permission.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 3 months ago

Great article. I like the 3 ideas. I would also include twitter in that as well. Now the real trick is to get feedback from the clients who don’t have a lot of good things to say.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 3 months ago

1 and 3 make the most sense but I don’t believe number 2 is helpful in harvesting feedback. I really like the ‘Fill out our survey to win a prize’ campaign. With today’s cash registers, it’s easy to customize any kind of message you want to print up. And setting up an online survey takes about 1 nanosecond and costs nothing.

Social media tools can be used to connect with your customer outside the store. Yesterday’s consensus would suggest that allowing customers to post feedback on your website is a good thing as long as there is action behind the comments. Use your store to deliver the message: “Hey, we care about what you think!”

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Effective feedback can be garnered via these forms of “Qualitative” research. Those data points need to be blended with with the listening that takes the form of “Quantitative” research, thus assuring statistical reliability, as well as eliminating “Interviewer bias” that occurs in telephone conversations.

Importantly, taking the steps to both listen to and make the “Best Customers” a part of a retailer’s marketing discussion, is a MUST.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
11 years 3 months ago

All three are on target. But the point (which reinforces these three issues) is to really focus on using the store as the perfect media to visually communicate interesting, informative reasons to buy. Cross-selling done well dramatically increases basket size of higher margin items. When retailers do this, they have new reasons to communicate with their shoppers.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 3 months ago
These are all good suggestions, if for no other reason than that you demonstrate to your core customers that you are interested in them. The larger challenge, however, is to “walk the talk” and actually act on what you hear from the customer. This is where most of these programs break down as retailers gather suggestions and then don’t act on them. This can actually produce a negative result. One powerful approach that is consistently overlooked in 4-wall is to make use of an obvious resource–the people who spend the most face time with your core customer–your store organization. They already know who the best customers are, they see them all the time. They probably are already hearing from them about what they like, don’t like, etc, on a regular basis. Just as importantly, this provides the ability to pleasantly surprise these customers by acting on what they’ve said without building expectations that are unmet. This does, however, require managers in the home office to actually listen to the associates in the stores. Unfortunately, this… Read more »
Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I agree with the article; it contains many good points on building customer engagement and dialogue. I don’t agree that it is difficult for consumers to have their voices heard. In fact, it is very easy to leave feedback for companies in multiple venues these days. The burden is not on the consumer, it’s on the companies to listen.

I would broaden the suggestion to open a FB fan page to include more comprehensive use of social media to engage customers, listen and gather preferences, solve customer service issues, and build trusting relationships.

Calling best customers is “old school” and it works. A handwritten note from a senior exec never hurts and will be the biggest surprise of the client’s day.

As usual, the technology and tools that are in the market outpace our comfort in using them. We are all catching up as quickly as possible.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 3 months ago

One issue with customer surveys is that they are always automated and it is extremely rare for retailers to close the loop with consumers by indicating that they are listening to and acting upon these surveys and comments. My sense is that many retailers are conducting surveys just to check that box on their “to do” list.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
11 years 3 months ago

Always looking for the silver bullet! Shortcuts for doing the real work? I would advise the following: 1. Get on the floor with the customers and talk to them. 2. Consider anyone who might spend money with you a “best customer.” 3. Never treat anyone like family, treat them like a visitor. 4. Visit the competition and see what they are doing. 5. Steal every “good” idea you see. 6. Teach your employees that a customer is the key to their prosperity. 7. Visit a good restaurant and find out how management there motivates its employees and see what you can apply to your business. 8. Get to work early and talk to everyone with whom you come into contact. Learn from them!

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Forget your best customers. What really counts are someone else’s best customers. I’d be more interested in what people who don’t shop with me think and why.

Susan Parker
Guest
Susan Parker
11 years 3 months ago
Getting valuable, actionable feedback from customers is key to any business. Any business can gather data and feedback, but knowing what to do with it all to make a difference to the customer is not as easy to come by. You can be guaranteed that if you are not listening to your customers, someone else is–whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or old fashioned word of mouth (wom). Although, it may seem counterintuitive to listen to your current customers instead of vying for new ones, it is a well-known adage that it costs almost 10x more to get a new customer in the door than to keep a current one. Moreover, once you get a new customer in the door, they must be highly motivated to attach themselves to your brand instead of coming in to cash in on the temporary promotion and run back to their beloved brand of yore. There is no chance to build loyalty based on this model unless there happens to be an outstanding customer experience within your business that is… Read more »
Gary Edwards, PhD
Guest
Gary Edwards, PhD
11 years 3 months ago
This article does a great job of pointing out the challenge retailers have always faced in terms of getting their most valuable customers to voice their opinions. Traditionally, customers have been used to getting in touch with companies when they have a problem. People know that if they are treated poorly in a store or if there is a problem with a product, there is a number they can call or a manager they can request to speak to in hopes of fixing the situation. When they are happy with their experience, however, they might not feel like there is an appropriate outlet to make their opinions known. It’s safe to say that nearly every company would be thrilled to get glowing feedback from their loyal customers in any form, particularly in a way visible to other existing and potential customers. The problem may be that many customers simply don’t think anyone is truly listening, or that it matters, when they leave positive feedback, and therefore tend to keep quiet. Fortunately, the age of social… Read more »
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