Business is simple

Until you make it complicated.
Simple business looks like this:
1) happy customers
2) who regularly return
3) and tell their friends
3.a) who then also become happy customers
This is a virtuous cycle.
Which seems so easy to understand.
Damn near every business forgets steps 2, 3, and 3,a.
Getting a customer in the door is just the start.
You NEED the other steps to actually have a viable business.
Drug dealers get this and so does Netflix.
So do Zappos, Amazon, and Target.
Peter Drucker said “that which gets measured – gets improved”.
Many companies track marketing, sales, and initial conversions.
But do they track recurring sales – nope.
Ask who their top 10, 50, 1000 clients are – they have no idea.
Here’s why this matters so much – profit margin.
Returning customers cost about 1/8th what a new customer cost.
And – returning customers bring their friends ( for free ).
If you aren’t measuring ( and then enabling ) returning customers – your missing a huge opportunity.
Make it simple,  your customers will thank you ( and so will your CFO ).

Restaurants – its NOT about the food

Customer lifetime value is the game of the best restaurants
Good restaurants serve delectable food.
Great restaurants – they take amazing care of the customer.
Not enough restauranteurs grasp this intuitively.
( the ones who do are grateful for their apprenticeship )
Some restauranteurs believe their good food is the whole game.
They completely miss the value of building many long-term relationships.
A friend of mine (Fred) has a regular Friday dinner with his wife.
They always go to one of the same 3 restaurants.
They always go – because of how the staff treats them.
They’ve been doing this for years, buy wine and specials, and tip 20%+.
He regularly brings friends for – $500-$1,000 tabs.
The restaurants check on Fred when he doesn’t come in.
And have invited him to major family events.
That’s serious relationship building.
Fred can eat anywhere he wants – but those 3 restaurants get 95%+ of his dinning spend – for a decade.
Those three restaurants have very smart management.
They 100% understand customer lifetime value.
How do you approach customer lifetime value?

Smart service -> $$++

I just got up-sold two services and I’m very happy about it.
That’s ~30% more revenue for the company than I initially planned to spend.
And all because a behemoth treated me like a valuable human.
This is proof that “we can’t scale great interactions” is a lazy tactic – which ultimately leads to more customer churn and higher marketing spend ( huzzah for the marketing budget!! ).

USAA's huge office in San Antonio

USAA is huge.
Their office in San Antonio is a mile long ( literally a mile ).
It houses a Starbucks and multiple other national chains for it’s employees benefit.
You’d think at their scale, any caller would just be another commodity/cog.
Au contraire!
USAA has north of 28K employees, 12M clients, and 137B in assets.
My car insurance is an insignificant drop.
Despite my microscopic stature for the larger USAA business, Amanda was ridiculously nice, gave me cost saving suggestions, answered my most obscure questions, and ultimately got way more of my $$ than I’d originally planned – and I’m very happy about it.
That is genius – and I applaud anyone who’s approaching business like USAA does.
Side note – every time I walk into an Apple store – they treat me like an old friend, super helpful. Thus Apple continues to earn my $$ via leveraging the attention economy.

Customer Service is dead

Your customer service is dead.

And by that I mean – the way you’ve historically defined customer service ( and probably were taught it in some educational program ) is gone, dead, fossilized.

It’s dead because your customers say so – and at the end of the day the customer is the power player here, not you.

You were taught that customer service happened when a customer had a complaint or a return.
That made sense back when the Sears catalogue arrived by US Postal Mail. Places to purchase were scarce and so businesses had power.
That business is gone. That power dynamic is gone. That game is gone.

Customers now have more options than they can count. More than they want to count. More than they will count.
Because they don’t have to.

Customers just need to ask their friends “where do you ……”.
Friends recommend businesses that make them feel special – thanks to great customer service.

Today smart companies realize that customer service starts whenever anyone touches the company.
Social media posts, Amazon searches, Geo-Tagged photos, or hashtags are all touches and opportunities.

Customer service is now customer everything.
It’s the 360° view of your business by the people with the $$.

Done well – you get huge lifetime customer value.
Done poorly – you die from the thousand cuts of damage control.

So how is your customer service?

Reputation management or damage control?

If your hiring a social agency for damage control – it’s way to late and that agency can’t help.
You did something very bad and should fix ( over – fix ) the issue.
Your reputation is stained – period.
Reputation management is like securing a network – after all the data has been scooped into someone else’s computer.
What’s way more effective is taking a pro-active approach – starting on day 1.
Here’s 3 ways to stay ahead of the game.
  1. recognize where your customers are posting about you – and it’s NOT on review sites. More customers are posting compliments ( and critiques ) on regular social channels than are using review sites. If you care at all about your reputation, be part of those conversations.
  2. say “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. Just like you learned as small children, these are incredibly effective ways to lubricate communications with people and leave them with a good impression of you ( and as a business, leaving customers with a good impression is very important ).
  3. if you don’t get this right – everyone gets fired. One of Sam Walton’s less famous quotes “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam was a very sharp guy. He understood customer dynamics. Remember that your job is determined by happy customers – period.
So about that rep – how much are you really working to make it amazing??

The customer journey is everything

How far has he walked?

Sales are awesome.
Reviews are gratifying.
Loyal customers validate our ideas.
But this is only the last 3% of the story.
Customer journeys start years and continents away.
The story of how they got to you – your hotel, restaurant, audio book, socket set – started when they were kids, hearing stories, imagining adventures and fairy tales.
You can’t go back in time to their childhood – but you can consider the ways their stories grew and your business becomes their focus.
This is the 2nd part of marketing or maybe it’s the first part of sales, actually talking with people who are customers or who are thinking about becoming customers.
The core drivers haven’t changed in millennia – trust, familiarity, and attention.
But the global village has exploded in size and Guizhen doesn’t walk past the town cobbler every day.
Because Guizhen isn’t walking past the cobbler, every other shoe maker has a possible chance at her attention.
If Ms Cobbler wants to keep Guizhen as a customer – now she needs to keep engaged and be front of mind for Guizhen.
Luckily we’ve got a new conversation tool – social media.
Ms Cobbler can ask Guizhen’s opinion of a new shoe line – before Ms Cobbler stocks up.
Ms Cobbler can learn how past purchases are holding up and what Guizhen is looking for next.
If she’s really clever, Ms Cobbler will ask Guizhen to check with her friends – making the “customer” an “insider” and influencer.
In a beautiful twist – these conversations are public on social media – and all Guizhen’s friends can witness, praise, and perhaps even become Ms Cobbler’s clients.
Wait a sec, this sounds like word_of_mouth advertising 😃
Yes it is – on steroids thanks to social media.
Someone is going to have these conversations and become Guizhen’s cobbler for life.
Could be you….

Your customers and their sphere of influence

Your guests have a broad sphere of influence.
This might not be something you regularly consider but it is a key lever to improving brand perception ( and demand for your rooms).
Remember the multiplier effect – every guest has at least 200+ friends/followers ( and some are well over 10,000 ).
How do you get all those friends to become your guests?
Hint: it’s way more powerful than OTAs or search aggregators.
We still live in a human-as-social-animal world.
We notice what our friends do, where they go, and the rare brand interactions they have on social media.
( “Rare” is a sad modifier for “brand interactions”.  The modifier should be “common place” or “daily”. )
Guests are reaching out every day to hotels on social media – and rarely do the hotels respond.
( hotels that care respond quickly – and earn higher booking volume and revenues )
If you want to leverage the friendship effects ( aka the social media halo effect ) connect with your guests on social media, let their friends see you care.
You’ll stand out above the crowd, earn more direct bookings, and have more control over pricing.
Next week – what every hotel misses in social selling ( Hint: it’s not about advertising on Facebook )