Thursday, January 30, 2014

The State of the Union . . .

. . . really depends upon where you are in life. For Republicans, the State of the Union is not too good right now. For Democrats, it is a lot better (though there is some trepidation with the looming elections, which are always looming it seems). And yet, it is the same Union for both.

In reality, it is not the State of the "Union" that matters, it is the State of "Me". And, there are over 200 million "me's" running around with differing opinions as to the true State of what is going on.

The same can be said of your customers. You can tout the merits of a 92% retention rate, or an 89% customer satisfaction rate. But, that means 8% and 11% have a differing opinion.

Having a high retention rate, or satisfaction rate is nice. But, if you are the only one saying anything about it then there is great potential being lost. Instead, be proactive in developing a culture of sharing by your customers who are satisfied with you. Remember, the percentage who leave you are already telling others of their experience with you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Touch points with your customers

One of the methods I deploy when working with companies is to help them identify each and every touch point they have with their customers -- whether it is through their employees, their web site, their literature, their receipts, etc.

What's the point? The reason we go through the process is to ensure that each touch point is continuing to tell the story the company wants to share. If there is a break in the story the customer will find it.

A movie is made up of individual frames with each one continuing the narrative -- if one frame is out of sync it disrupts the story. Touch points are no different. Each one must be aligned with the overall narrative and play a supporting role. When they do not, it could be the difference between a "B" movie and an Oscar-nominated one.

In your business, strive for the Oscar, your customers deserve it. If you do not, they may take their popcorn and catch another show.

Take time to think about the touch points for your company. Then, go back through the process and uncover the hidden touch points -- these are ones that are sometimes hard to find because they can easily be overlooked -- sales receipts, shipping containers, inventory slips, email signatures, etc. Remember, they are not hidden from your customers.

Each and every touch point provides you an opportunity to share another part of your story.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Education of US

Imagine a world where the education system cared about the students.

Imagine a world where the educators could treat the students as customers.

Imagine a world where families could choose schools like they do when ordering at Starbucks -- a customized learning experience tailored to each child.

Imagine a world where students could be encouraged to think rather than memorize facts for a test.

Imagine a world where failure could be celebrated as a step toward learning the content.

Imagine a world where students could be rewarded for doing their best -- no matter what grade was assigned to the result of that effort.

Imagine . . . remember, all that we have today first began as an idea, and nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Virtual students?

The district superintendent said it several times during the course of our conversation the other day.

"We have over 1,000 virtual students around the state."

"Our virtual students come from all over the state."

"Most of our virtual students reside in these counties."

He even emailed me a .pdf showing the data points of where his virtual students reside.

And most of them are struggling, not happy with the school, with the exodus rate continuing to grow annually. His question to me was "why?" "Why are they leaving us at such a high rate?"

There were a myriad of reasons really but I focused on the one that was glaring.

"My first suggestion is that you take a step back and understand that you have a virtual school, but your students who attend it are real kids, not virtual."

I then went on to share with him four additional suggestions:

1) Rather than data points on a state map, display their faces where all of your administrators can see them. That way they will grasp the fact that these are real kids.

2) Use the word "virtual" sparingly, and only when referring to the school. In all oral and written communication, refer to them as "real students" and not virtual.

3) Develop a plan, a course of action, even a culture where you are able to learn: what they believe? what are their aspirations? what are their dreams? what are their goals? why are they here? And, how can you serve them more effectively?

4) Understand that retention efforts begin the same day a family commits to your school. It is wrapped up in the teacher/student relationship; the communication from the school (what is said and how it is said); the ability for the student/family to find answers; the perception that they are being heard; and whether or not your actions match or exceed your words.

If you want to put a dent in the attrition rate, give students plenty of reasons to stay.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top 7 Most Overused Words in Advertising

Words and word choice are critical elements in advertising campaigns (web sites, press releases, etc.). They can tell your story or turn off your readers/viewers.

With all of the tools at our disposal (online dictionary, thesaurus,  word synonyms, etc.) it should be very easy for marketers to avoid the list below. And yet we see these words again and again.

The list was emailed to me recently and taken from a story on -- you can read more about each word there. I simply list them for you here:

1) Amazing
2) Free
3) New (or Improved)
4) Different
5) Incredible
6) Just
7) Guaranteed

It's amazing how many times we offer free or new items as incentives, calling ourselves different from our competitors while not demonstrating just how incredible our products really are. Doing so will cause our customers to become even more cynical of our words -- and, when they do that, they stop listening to the story we want to share with them.

Others will say the reason we see these words so often is because they are effective. Perhaps. As long as you are authentically amazing, incredible, different, or really free.

At some point though customers will desire something that is fresh rather than different, bold rather than incredible. Your challenge, your opportunity, is to determine when that tipping point is due to occur (difficult to do) -- or, you could move it closer to that point yourself by leading the way.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Scavenger hunts in the store are not allowed.

"Scavenger hunts in the store are not allowed."

That was the sign on each of the doors when I visited my local bookstore recently. It was typed in large, bold letters and printed on a single, white sheet of paper then taped on the inside of each door. Absolutely no way one would miss it when entering.

Granted, I do not know what transpired to cause my local bookstore to feel the need to put up signs like these to deter the rampant scavenger hunting that occurs in this area -- perhaps it is pervasive across the country too but I am not sure.

What I do know though is that there are better ways to handle this in order to make the greater percentage of guests entering the store feel wanted.

* What if they decided to actually allow the scavenger hunts? In fact they could help coordinate them, determine the rules of the "playground", set them up on Tuesdays and invite the families to participate -- even offer coupons for Cafe items during the hunt. Might lead to greater sales. At least it would lead to higher customer satisfaction.

* Rather than post the scavenger hunt signs, what if they used that space to promote the book, cd or dvd they want to sell? Everyone entering that store knew not to conduct a scavenger hunt because it is prime market space -- use it to move merchandise or tell customers of an upcoming book signing, kids event, etc. They could search for other ways to share the "anti-scavenger hunt" theme that would be less intrusive.

* If, at the end of the day, the need to quell the scavenger hunt idea is too great then surely there is a way to communicate it more gracefully and appropriately. What if they said, "Unfortunately we have had to suspend any future scavenger hunts within the store until we locate the "lost" family who played the last time. If you see them while browsing please let us know and thank you for shopping safely."

Instead, the sign on the front door interrupted my experience and the coffee just wasn't the same this time.

Remember there are a myriad of ways to say the same thing -- even when you want your customers to cease doing something. Think about what you are communicating and look at it through the "windows" of your customers' vantage points before posting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A letter from your competitor

Dear Company,

Your customers are trying to tell you something -- are you listening? If you are not, then they will find someone who will.

If you are listening, your customers want to know if you hear them too? If you do not, then they will find someone who will.

If you do hear them, your customers then want to know what you are doing about what they are telling you. If you do nothing, then they will find someone who will.


Your Competitor

Figment Consulting