Evaluate Your Customer Best Practices

Evaluate Your Customer Best Practices

I’ll get right to it… I believe everything we’ve been told about customer best practices, are killing our ability to yield real, repeatable and enviable results with our best customers!

What do I mean by customer best practices?

A customer best practice should:

  • Be a careful evaluation of a process.
  • Solve a specific problem.
  • Be of high value to customers.
  • Adapt to specific customer needs and businesses.
  • Generate repeatable results.

What it often is today: The result of the evaluation of a process, methodology or framework that has had success for a group of companies over time.

These are two very different definitions. Which would you choose?

I’ll go out on a limb and say you might prefer the first definition. 

Who wouldn’t want this? 

The reality is very few organisations get it.

Listen to my podcast to learn more about the dangers and powers of customer best practices

How we respond to customer best practices today

All around the world organisations are implementing customer practices. That included me throughout my career as a leader and business owner.

We hear the great successes of particular companies. We see the case studies, stats and testimonials to prove it, and we make the case that we should be doing it too.

The challenge when we hear these practices and success stories is we miss four critical components:

  1. The effort and coordination really needed to make best practice work. 
  2. The resource, talent and maturity of the company executing best practice.
  3. Customers may have very different views of engagement.
  4. Different industries almost always change the application, execution and even structural delivery of best practice.

This doesn’t mean best practice isn’t relevant or helpful. There are many best practices I’d advocate; insights to these will be in future blogs. 

What best practices show today is something much more important.

Customer service best practices don’t solve problems! 

Good analysis of the problem you want to solve, and the execution of the right practices to achieve your outcome does. 

  • Not all best practices are created equal and solve the same problems as effectively.
  • Not all best practices are designed to meet the future goals of your customers. 
  • Not all best practices yield the same results for everyone. 

We all know these from experience. 

Why do we continue to adopt every customer best practice we see?

  • Statistics can be deceiving and often tell just one side of the story.
  • We don’t have a clear way to evaluate the fit of a best practice for where we are today.
  • We have a success bias, as when it worked once we assume it will always work when implemented the same way. 

We take on countless projects that fail. We place our hope in a new wonder best practice and we end up losing time, money, resources, and sometimes trust. In the end, we gain no advantage.

In more cases than not, we find with close examination we’ve implemented the same best practice differently 20 times and no one realised plus worst still, no one knows what actually worked. This does happen, especially in large organisations.

Why you should challenge your best practices

Customer best practices have changed dramatically over the last 200 years and are shifted by three main factors:

  1. Customer behaviour.
  2. New technological practice.
  3. Global market relationships.

They all interact together in some way.

best customer practice relevance cycle

Here are a few examples of best practices that have been triggered by new tech, new customer behaviours or global market relationships.

From the 1700s 

The industrial revolution and the notion of scale was introduced changing our perception of consumers immediately. Now we understood it was possible to access a product almost anywhere.

1868 

Watkins Liniment became the first company to offer a money-back guarantee. Customers were given greater rights to demand high-quality customer service experiences.

The 1960s

Call centres were established as customers now expected to have live chats with someone.

The 1980s

  • Database software, that became Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, evolves to be used for good customer service.
  • Account management practice, which changed the relationship between customer and partner, enables you to earn the right to be an adviser.

The 1990s

  • Introduction of CRM and tracking, as customers expect you to know their business better. Buying customer loyalty with gifts and incentives.
  • The internet launches allowing customers to research your company and make distinctions between you and your competitors more easily.

The 2000s

  • Customer service is offshored as customers expected higher service standards, faster response times and 24/7 support.
  • Subscription economy drives the customer desire to have cheaper, faster, better and on-time products and services.

These are just a handful of over 50 customer trigger points I’ve discovered in history, that have made some best practices completely irrelevant. The sheer volume of competition in some industries has made phone books or loyalty gifts less effective.

Most customers now shop for convenience and not commitment.

Earning customer loyalty takes more than best practice.

Today it takes a deep understanding of future needs and current behaviours to drive value perception with customers.

Let’s take customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction gives you a snapshot of a perceived view of a customer today, but it is a poor predictor of future behaviour.  

In fact, the more data I explore the less convinced I am that customer satisfaction is a trustworthy indicator for the likelihood of customer growth. Higher customer satisfaction may be correlated to growth, but closer research shows it may not be caused by it. 

Taking a market view from recent research from Zendesk in global customer satisfaction, it showed significant uplifts in satisfaction across different industries, with reductions in others. 

Yet during the same time, the slumping manufacturing industry reported significant market growth and profitability. It is also shown to be one of the top 10 future growth industries, according to McKinsey research.

Customer Satisfaction Chart

So what are we to make of this?

The first is to understand best practices by themselves are not the problem. It’s the ineffective approaches we can take to evaluating how and why to use them that causes problems. 

Remember…

Best practices don’t solve problems!

Good analysis of the problem you want to solve, and the execution of the right practices to achieve your outcome does. 

How do you evaluate your current customer best practices?

Write down your top four or five customer best practices.

Then ask yourself these four starter questions designed to help you critically assess the impact of these best practices in your organisation.

  1. Do the existing best practices we have currently solve the root cause problem we have identified?
  2. Do the current best practices we have give us the same or greater results intended each year?
  3. Are the current best practices we have viewed as equal to, or of consistently high value to our customers?
  4. Do the current best practices we have give us a unique differentiation advantage that is tough for our competitors to replicate?

After reviewing these questions you might suddenly be surprised by the answers.

Why?

Not because your best practices aren’t good at first glance, but because we all fall for the same thing.

We believe best practices are solving the real problem, when in fact it’s just a part of it. You need to involve other disciplines to make them work.

How do you choose what customer best practices to adopt?

Let me introduce you to a simple framework that will help you and your organisation make more confident decisions about the customer best practices to use.

The R.A.R.E™️ model was designed specifically for my business and my customers. It identifies the right practices that solve real problems to generate repeatable results.

R – root cause

You must first understand exactly what the real problem you’re trying to solve is. 

Example: If you’re experiencing high customer churn, the problem may be that you need to increase customer contact to catch signs of dissatisfaction early, instead of merely identifying the problem as “keeping more customers”. 

A – advantage

Determine what advantage you want the outcome to create. 

Example: If you want the outcome of reducing customer churn each year, you may want to create a system of managing the retention of customers at scale without increasing costs to give you the advantage.

NB: Once you’ve gone through the first two steps of the model, here are two criteria questions for choosing best practice.
Example Criteria:
1. Will this help us reduce churn?
2. Does this give us the advantage to adjust to scale without increasing cost?
Use your answers to select your best practice.

R – remodel

I’ve never experienced a best practice that hasn’t had to have some shift in the approach for an organisation, so you must remodel. Once you know the best practice you want to adopt it’s vital to know what you might need to stop, start or change internally to yield the outcomes and advantages you want.

Example: You may need to change the customer communication process to capture feedback at identified stages in the customer journey. 

E – execute 

Decide and fully commit to the remodel. Ensure you act on what’s most important, track what is measurable, and obtain feedback often. 

Example: Schedule and maintain weekly calls to hold the team accountable to key actions, address challenges and evaluate outcomes. 

What next?

If you’re thinking, wow this is a lot to consider and take in. That’s ok, I want to help and break this down even further. 

If you want to:

  • reduce the risk of high costs and resource from implementing best practices you may not be ready for; or
  • increase the speed of implementing customer best practices so you and your customers can yield greater benefits and results together faster…

Then get in touch or subscribe to my mailing list for exclusive customer growth resources and more on the R.A.R.E model.

Before you go if you’ve found this blog of value why not share, make a comment or leave a question.

Whatever you do, I want to help you become the adviser your customer never wants to leave.


Jermaine Edwards
Your Customer Growth Guide

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