Curt Fowler: How Do Your Customers Want to Be Heard?

Curt Fowler

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

“Thank your customer for complaining and mean it. Most will never bother to complain. They'll just walk away.”  ― Marilyn Suttle 

People are different. And they like to be treated like that.
Even in how you listen to them.
Keep reading to find out the best way to listen to each of your very different customers.

We now know that understanding the needs of each of your customer segments is key to your organization’s success. But, did you know that each of your customer groups want to be listened to differently? That how they want to interact with your organization varies based on where they are in your customer lifecycle?
First, let’s talk segments. For instance, your primary customer segments might be based on the age of your consumers. Remarkably (not really), your baby boomer customers want to interact with your company differently than your millennials.
Your baby boomer clients might respond best to a phone call (on their home phone – gasp!). Your Gen X customers might be best reached via email. Your Millennials might be best reached by text. In each case your ability to get great information from your customer segments will be greatly limited if you approach a segment in a way that is not best for them. To increase your customers’ participation and engagement in your organization you must mix up your listening methods.
Now, how does your customer lifecycle affect how they are most likely to engage with your organization? To keep it simple, let’s break your customer lifecycle into three stages;

  1. Pre-Purchase
  2. At Purchase
  3. Post Purchase

Before your customer buys what are they doing? Are they checking out your organization or product before they buy? How are they doing their research? Via social media, your website, calling your place of business or talking to their friends. Based on your customers’ pre-purchase patterns, how can you best engage and serve them? Is a 1-800 number that you never let ring more than 3 times before picking up the best investment or an instant chat feature on your website? What about social media monitoring? Again, how your customers act in this stage will vary from business to business and even inside one business between your customer segments. You must know how your customers act so you can reach them where they are most likely to engage.
What is the best way to engage your customers at the point of purchase? If they are purchasing online, can you engage them with a quick survey? If they are purchasing at your location, what about a kiosk asking for their feedback and offering them something in return? You can build apps that reach out to a customer when they are in the vicinity of your location. The options are endless and are getting less and less expensive. You’ve got to test and measure to determine what works for your customers.
Post purchase can be the most important interaction that you have with a customer. This is where customer satisfaction really happens. If something is wrong with the product, how quickly can the customer get help? If they need to return the product, how easy or hard do you make it. If your product requires assembly (hello Christmas toys..), did you make the assembly intuitive? Did you put videos online to help your customers through the assembly process?
My wife just had a fantastic experience returning items at a store that is not widely known for their customer experience – Wal-Mart! She had purchased a few items online that turned out to be not exactly what she wanted when they arrived. She had purchased multiple items online to get free shipping and was concerned about how hard returning a couple of those items would be. It was remarkably simple. All she had to do was log into their website, find the order and select the items she wanted to return. The system immediately printed out a return receipt that she could ship back or take by any Wal-Mart store. It was simple and easy.
If you run a retail operation and are frantically trying to figure out how to compete with the likes of Amazon, think about how Wal-Mart leveraged their retail stores to turn my wife into a return shopper.
What about you? How do you engage your different customer segments across the customer lifecycle?

About Curt Fowler

Curt Fowler is the President and Founder of Fowler & Company, a business advisory firm founded to help its clients maximize the value of their organizations. Curt is a Certified Public Accountant and earned his Masters in Accountancy from the University of Georgia. He also earned an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School at Northwestern. He has spent 20 years studying and learning from some of the best businesses in America including Verizon, Sara Lee, Cox Communications and many more.