Turning Customers into Promoters – A Lesson in Customer Support

Written by on January 3, 2012

Apple’s retail stores have a lesson for us on this, as Fred Reicheld of Bain and Company narrates, in this video from the HBR stable.

The iconic company wanted a simple question answered, and the question was, “How do we make our customers come back for more and bring their friends too?”

Apple invested in the IT to find out how likely customers were to recommend the store to their friends. On a scale of 1-10, scoring 9 or 10 meant they had succeeded, but anything less than was a failure. Apple went back to the not-so-happy customers and asked them where Apple had gone wrong. Armed with that information, Apple was able to figure out customer pain points precisely and address them immediately, in real time.

But what Apple did remarkably well, and differently from others was recognizing the efforts of the employees who were delivering service the customers loved. Every shift, at the opening huddle, managers asked these employees to share this important learning with others – how they had served customers who had then given them a straight 10 for their great support.

There was always support from the top management at Apple for this kind of endeavor, and when employees know that the management is listening to them, that their contributions on the shop floor are valued and recognized, innovation and a culture of quality service will automatically be fostered.

The results are for the world to see – In fiscal 2010, Apple’s retail stores pulled in $2.36 billion in profit on $9.8 billion in revenue. Over the first six months of fiscal 2011, Apple has made $1.84 billion in profit on revenues of $7.04 billion.

The lessons here are not just for retail. Major companies have tried to implement variations of this, and failed, but the organizations that have cracked this tough nut have found themselves in a position of some advantage.

Reicheld goes ahead and gives us a 4 step plan to transforming our customers into promoters, which we have condensed here.

Gathering Feedback – The single question survey with the 1-10 point scale that we talked about earlier would be a great place to start. The knowledge about how many of our customers are actually inclined to recommend us to others is a priceless piece of information. The best thing we could have is real time information on what the customer is thinking while buying and using our product.

Closing the Loop – Using this data, we can then go back to those of our customers who don’t think a recommendation to their friends is warranted. After apologizing to them for not meeting expectations, we can find out what went wrong in the sales cycle. This, in turn, could then be changed immediately to make the process smoother for our customers.

Enhancing Successes – From the customers who have been happy with our service and who said that they’d be recommending us to others, we need to find out why and reinforce those reasons in a way that all our customers can experience what our most happy customers experienced. That way, our successes can be enhanced.

Sharing Best Practices – The knowledge gained from enhancing our strong points and using the data to minimize customer dissatisfaction should be shared across the organization, so everyone knows what it takes to keep the customers happy. The best practices can then be a resource that everyone can draw from.

In an online perspective, these same principles can be applied, but a different set of tools are required. Before we can even think about turning our customers into promoters, we need to be able to serve them effectively online. Here are 5 reasons you should be serving your customers on Facebook. Also, here’s a piece that validates why you should be using Twitter for the same purpose as well.

Does your organization use customer support like this, to deliver value to your organization? We’d love to hear from you. Do share your thoughts with us.

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  • caithriellesam

    Listening to customers grievances and opinions are very important in providing good customer service.  Serving them effectively and asking feedback regarding the service that you provide will keep the relationship strong.