07 May

3 Big Ideas for B2B Product People: Mairi Miller from Nanometrics

MairiMillerAs Head of Corporate Marketing at Nanometrics, Mairi’s done some pretty interesting stuff when it comes to understanding her customers.  Beginning with the creation of a “Customer Experience Taskforce,” she found ways to gather deep insights about the difficulties her customers — mostly scientists measuring shifts in the earth — face daily. From there, she focused on how Nanometrics could improve their experience.

Here’s what she had to say:

  1. Even smart customers appreciate user friendly products
    We first formed the Customer Experience Taskforce because we felt distanced from our customers — we were designing products for people that we hardly knew. We decided to do a bunch of in-person interviews to get to know them better, and the results were astounding.

    One interview stands out in particular: We talked to a group of scientists that had just returned from the South Pole. These folks had had a less-than-stellar experience with our equipment, but not for the reason we expected!

    The equipment itself worked perfectly. The pain point was in actually deploying the equipment and setting it up. We’d assumed that these scientists, as smart as they were, would have the same technical know-how that a group of engineers would. Not so — they were experts in reading the data, not in how our tools worked.

    From these interviews, we realized there was a large gap in our offering when it came to giving scientists a user-friendly experience. We also uncovered a brand new opportunity for expanding our business by offering installation services and engineering expertise.

  2. To influence change, focus on the preexisting pain points within your own company.

    As a marketer, it became obvious to me that we could learn a lot from an in-depth, intentional study of our customer base. But part of the struggle was convincing everyone else internally — engineers and C-suite alike — that the project would be worthwhile.

    Eventually, we found that we could make our case for forming the Customer Experience Taskforce most effectively by framing it in terms of a pain point the company was already experiencing. We decided to focus on a somewhat recently released product that was underperforming, and aimed our pitch to our executive staff around getting customer feedback in order to improve sales.

    The response was fantastic. Instead of a resource-sucking side project, the taskforce was now directly in line with an existing company initiative.

  3. Data is only meaningful when aggregated; and presentation style matters.

    When you interview people, especially scientists, you end up gathering a ton of feedback. I mean, a ton. And it’s messy, too — not all of it will fit nicely into buckets, and aggregating it into something useful can be tricky.

    As we began collecting data, we started to get very excited about what we were finding. But, we had to wait to share it with the team — we knew that sharing the raw data would be overwhelming and potentially misleading to others that weren’t looking at all the findings at once.

    Despite the eagerness of others in the company, we decided to keep our findings confidential until we could present them all at once. I’m glad we did. We were able to curate the most powerful stories and the most impactful feedback, and deliver it all in one cohesive presentation that contributed to repositioning our company from a product manufacturer to one that offers services, too.

 

Powerful stuff! (And we’re talking about earthquakes here, so the bar is high!) I had one more question for Mairi, of course: “Dr. Strange or Dr. Who?”

I loved Mairi’s answer: “I never saw Dr. Strange, but Dr. Who creeped me out as a kid! Now, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, those are my favorites!”

Fair enough! See you next month.

 

21 Dec

3 Big Ideas for B2B Product People: Chris van Loben Sels

A market evaluation expert and an incubator advisor at Veeva systems, Chris has built a career around finding what makes successful B2B software tick.  He began at Adobe, and was one of the early advocates championing Customer Experience as core to B2B product strategy – long before it became the buzzword it is today.

Here’s what he had to say:

1. If you creatively solve a problem internally, look to see if it could help others. 

You’d never have known it, but during the 90’s at Adobe, much of our non-core data         think helpdesk inquiries, internal communications, etc. — was cobbled together with little more than manual excel sheets and chewing gum.We knew we had a problem, and there wasn’t much out there to help us. Except for a  little Swiss company called Day Software.  Our CIO at the time, Geri Martin-Flickinger, was the one who alerted our enterprise document product team.  She pointed out that they were head-and-shoulders above the competition and that they might be a good fit for our product suite.  It was a classic case of the Remington Shaver guy: “I loved it so much, I bought the company!”

We had a hunch other companies might have similar problems, and it turns out we were right  — nearly every other company we talked to said, “Oh, you have no idea!”, when we asked if their non-core data management was a mess.  Turns out our dirty little secret was everyone else’s dirty little secret too.

The product we acquired from Day Software became the cornerstone of Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe’s enterprise content management product suite. And it all started with scratching our own itch. If you’ve found an awesome way to solve an internal issue, see if there’s opportunity to turn it into something more.

 2. Buying enterprise software is a highly emotional decision.

 Here’s the thing: consumer purchases, as emotionally charged as they may be, don’t usually have a huge impact on your life if you buy the wrong thing.

It’s a whole different story with enterprise software, though — making a big software purchase could make or break someone’s career.

That’s why brand trust is so critical with B2B software. If the VP of sales is going to take a bet on your software, it’s not a decision he or she will make lightly. People need to know that the company they’re buying from will stand behind their product. So ask, “Does that trust come across to our potential customers?”

Actually, this phenomenon played a huge part in the success of Day Software, mentioned earlier. While their product was fantastic before Adobe acquired them, they hadn’t yet built the market trust needed to win a critical mass of customers. Once they were paired with the reliability of the Adobe brand, though, things really took off.

3. New B2B products need to solve the problems that keep VPs up at night.

I had the amazing opportunity to work with Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm. One thing he said always stuck with me: “When evaluating if you have a good B2B product, ask yourself this: is there a VP out there saying, ‘If people actually knew how we were doing this, I’d get fired’?”

I love that line, because it’s a great criterion — if you focus on the problems VPs care about (after all, they make the purchase decisions), you’ll find it almost always is a, “gotta fix this fast” problem that has the potential to noticeably affect their bottom line.

Turns out, I’d later learn this lesson the hard way. After Adobe, I worked with a mobile CRM company called Selligy.  We made a fantastic product that was miles ahead of current practices. But it didn’t focus on a problem that the higher-ups at companies were dying to solve.

Eventually, we died the same death as the letter opener: Even though those old-fashioned letter openers work wonderfully, most people will settle for an even more convenient tool: their fingers.

 

The insights don’t get much more helpful than that! Thanks, Chris. I had to ask him one more question, though: Captain Kirk or Captain Picard?

Chris pondered for a second, but his answer was clear. “I’d have to go with Picard — I mean, there’s no way Kirk could arbitrate the Klingon succession.”

 

 

09 Dec

Ten Letters For The President

As an avid podcast listener, one of my favorites is 99 Percent Invisible.  It’s about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about.”  As someone who works in B2B tech, there is nothing I love more than thinking about things people don’t think about.

A recent favorite of mine was, “Ten Letters for the President.”  This episode explains how and why President Obama reads ten letters each day from among the tens of thousands received at the White House.

It’s a pretty cool idea, and one which I think could be used in similar fashion in gathering customer insights. Here’s how:

  1. They have a process.

    The White House receives 40,000 letters and/or emails a day. Obama wants to read just ten.So, in addition to the necessary security and logistical hurdles involved, they’ve come up with an approach that provides him with a representative sample. Different ages, opinions, geographies and writing styles. And a mix of both positive and negative comments – everything.Large organizations (and even midsize ones) also receive lots of feedback: emails to product managers, conversations with sales teams, customer call center support tickets, etc. But, unlike the White House, they often lack processes for “trickling up” the everyday voice of the customer to the executive level.
  2. They are story-based.

    It would be easier – and more statistically significant – to simply distill the letters and provide the president with data regarding the themes of the day. But that would remove all the juice and much of the meaning.These letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with whats going on around the country than just about anything else, says the president. “Some of them are funny. Some of them are angry. A lot of them are sad or frustrated about their current situation.”While the aggregating of customer feedback is very important, nothing allows you to empathize with the people you serve better than the stories they share of their experience with your product.
  3. They are responded to.Obama doesn’t respond to every letter, just some. In these he takes a personal interest, jotting down notes in the margins for use in his reply.Needless to say, the impact of a personal and direct response from the president – rather than the standard, “your call is important to us blah blah” – is tremendous.

    How about your organization? How do you think your customers would feel if they received a personal email response from the CEO of what to them is a big, faceless corporation? What kind of impression do you think that would make? (Hint: The answer to both of these questions is “fabulous!”)
  4. Their impact is shared.

    Obama uses what he learns from these letters as a jumping off point for keeping his staff in touch with the outside world.”I try to remind people – what we do here, what the Supreme Court does, what Congress does – these aren’t just abstractions. These are things that really matter in people’s lives.”Working in a B2B tech organization, it’s also easy to be shielded from the actual users of the things we design and develop. We’re down in the weeds, often stuck inside our organizational silos.

    The direct feedback we receive from the outside goes a long way in breaking through.

So what’s this all mean? Do we give up using quantitative means for aggregating and understanding customer feedback? Not at all. That’s useful and valuable.

That said, if Obama can keep a finger on the pulse of a nation of 320 million people by reading ten letters a day, isn’t there a similar opportunity in your organization?

(Comment on the this post and let me know your thoughts.  Unlike the president, I personally read – and reply to – 100% of those I receive!)

Photocredit: Gilmanshin

09 Nov

Is There Lipstick On Your Pig?

lipstick-on-a-pig

My daughter, Rachel, is probably the only 12 year-old in the country who knows who Carol Burnett is. 

This is because I believe in properly educating our children, and that means exposing them to the joys of the Muppet Show.  In fact, we own The Complete Muppets, a five-season DVD set that my husband bought for me at ComiCon and that our entire family watches together.

The truth is, the Muppets have always felt like living, breathing characters to me.  It’s easy to forget that they are just pieces of cloth sitting on top of a puppeteer’s arm.

But when I saw one of the guests totally lose it during a romantic number with Miss Piggy, I realized how bizarre it must be to softly caress a stuffed pig while a man stands beneath it sighing and cooing “her” love in a high-pitched piggy voice.

Of course, it takes a ton of work and skill to give the Muppets the feel of real life characters. Jim Henson describes how it took his crew an entire day to film a single, two-minute musical Viking number.

And that’s why The Muppet Show is so hard to replicate. It requires so much more than just the puppets themselves. You need dozens of professionals who are skilled in set design, music, acting, writing and much, much more.

The viewing audience, of course, only sees the end result – singing, dancing Muppets. But there’s much more going on off screen – before, during and after the performance.

It’s the same with software and the quest to provide a great customer experience: It requires much more than just a pretty interface.

Consider this example: For the past decade, WorkDay Systems has been disrupting the boring old world of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Human Resources software. In a world overflowing with unwieldy, hard to use and maintain enterprise systems, WorkDay has been a breath of fresh air.

Do they provide a beautiful interface?  Absolutely.  But that’s just the “Muppet” part.

As a sales manager for WorkDay recently explained to me, “Our competitors try to copy our user interface, but that’s just the surface stuff.  What’s harder to copy is our underlying infrastructure.  What they don’t realize is that a pretty UI built on top of an old and inflexible system will still give your customers a clunky experience.”

WorkDay is eating away at its competitors’ market share by providing a better user experience AND making it easier on the backend for system administrators to manage.

And that’s just one example. Time after time, tech companies look at a successful competitor and assume they can replicate that success by simply copying the other company’s look and feel.  What they don’t seem to realize is that greatness begins beneath the surface and behind the scenes.

So try this.

Begin by considering the workflows that need to be accomplished: Scanning receipts for expense reports; filling in weekly time sheets; tracking overtime; etc.  Think about how people want to do this, not how the system forces them to.  Then consider the overall life cycle of your product: what do people need to do to install, maintain, and upgrade it?

Only then does it make sense to focus on the interface. Because no matter how hard you try, you can’t put lipstick on a pig.

 

Photo credit: Volodymyr Tverdokhlib

12 Oct

Ah yes. One of your earth emotions.

spock-emotion

“Irritating?  Ah yes, one of your earth emotions…”  mused Spock when Captain Kirk accused him of playing an “irritating” game of chess.

However, despite Spock’s detachment from feelings, he doesn’t entirely live up to his anti-emotion rhetoric.  He even allowed himself an enthusiastic shoulder grip and smile  when he discovered that he hadn’t in fact killed his Captain in hand to hand combat. (bonus points if you can name the episode)

Those of us that live in the B2B technology world tend to think of it as being an intensely rational environment.  Purchasing decisions are based on a reasoned analysis of the features, how it integrates into the existing technology stack, how the product roadmap aligns with the internal infrastructure roadmap and so on.  Complex stuff, decided on rationally by very smart people.

And yet, when you actually sit down and talk with the people who make these decisions, and who are responsible for making these systems run, their words are charged with emotion.

Take for example this system administrator discussing a system upgrade: “The stress on my team was unbelievable.  I am never putting us through that again.”  

He felt eviscerated because while he was performing a version upgrade of one of his enterprise systems, he had critical processes that went down for hours at a time.  He and his team had to field angry emails and calls from over 10,000 employees.

Needless to say, he wasn’t really happy with his vendor during that upgrade cycle.

Or this lawyer describing a very useful feature in an electronic documents processing application:  “When I show my lawyer colleagues how to do this, their jaws drop.  They are totally blown away.”

Or this comment discussing common user configurations that need to be done manually:  “I spend hours every week doing this over and over again.  It gets really annoying.  It should take only a few minutes.

On one level, you can look at those comments and notice that they are discussing features.   But that’s only the surface.

What always strikes me is that the way they talk about those features is in the language of emotions.  If you met these people in a social setting, you would perceive them as quite nerdy.  They might even speak Klingon (or at least Esperanto).  But even among the geekiest of the geeks, emotions still play a prominent role in the way they interact with their world.

Emotions are rarely discussed or even acknowledged in the context of B2B technology, which is strange, considering how high-stakes these deals usually are.  

Someone buying a new CRM system for their organization could lose their job if they choose a vendor that can’t deliver.  Or they might have to face an endless stream of angry employees who can’t figure out how to use the expense reporting system they approved, or some of their customers’ livelihoods might be in jeopardy if their data integrity was compromised.

The Canadian government recently rolled out a flawed payroll system which has resulted in over 80,000 people not being paid properly, or at all.  As a result, government employees are losing their homes, or are not able to afford critical medication. Every night,  there are thousands of people that are lying awake, stressed out and losing sleep because of this payroll system.

On the surface, B2B products seem cold and unemotional.  When I say “payroll management system”, the primary emotion it triggers is boredom.  Did your eyes glaze over just now?

We tend to think of even running shoe purchasing decisions as being more imbued with emotion (“Just Do It!”), but really,  what’s the worst that will happen if you buy the wrong shoe?  On the other hand, when a payroll system grinds to a halt, it can have life-changing reverberations for thousands.

Here’s the bottom line:  If you want to provide excellent customer experiences, you have to acknowledge that emotions are what defines that experience.   

Just because your buyers are technical and smart, it doesn’t mean that emotions aren’t part of the picture.

Photo credit: JD Hancock   

16 Sep

Build your own ninja army

lego-samurai

 

In  16th century Japan, times were tough and chaos reigned.  A few regions decided to take matters into their own hands by setting up their own government and getting their own citizens to protect them.

Up until that point, towns often turned to Samurai warriors for protection.  However,  they were expensive, they drew too much attention to themselves, and they were known to be jerks to the peasants.

To top it off, when a Samurai warrior failed in a mission,  they would kill themselves because of the shame, in order to protect their honour.  There goes your investment.

People needed to do things differently.  Enter – the ninjas.

Aside from amazing fighting prowess, ninjas had three main advantages.

First:  Ninjas were originally citizens of the towns they protected and tried to blend into their surroundings disguised as merchants or cleaners.  Contrary to their popular depiction, they rarely wore those all-black catsuits that are synonymous with ninjas today.  Unlike Samurai warriors, you never knew who might be a ninja.

Second:  If ninjas failed in a mission, they just tried again.  None of this self-disembowelment business.  Honour shmonour.  They cared about results.

Third:  They spent a long time practicing and honing their fundamental skills.  If you wanted to be tough, you had to do tough things – like sit under a waterfall of freezing water for hours on end, or run barefoot through the forest.

When your company wants to do customer research, do you take the Samurai approach, or the ninja approach?

I see a lot of companies take the Samurai approach.  They hire some high-priced consultants (cough), do some saber rattling where the term “customer experience” is thrown around a lot, and if it doesn’t quite work out, heads will roll.

Consider instead the ninja approach instead:

Blend in
    Practice the basics
    Keep trying

Blend in

There are a lot of people in your organization that you can leverage to gather customer insights.  For instance:

Customer Service representatives

Sales reps

Professional Services

Pre-Sales engineers

These people can be your Voice of Customer ninja army.  They already blend in with your current business and all they need is a some training on how to do it.  Your customer doesn’t even have to be aware that you are doing anything differently until they start to get better experiences from you.

The key difference of course (and I can’t stress this enough) is that unlike actual ninjas, you would be gathering data on how to better serve your customers instead of, you know, killing them.

Practice the basics

The basics are simply this:  Talk to your customers consistently.

You can do this with actual conversations, with surveys (carefully), or with analytics.  Preferably some combination of all of these.  The secret is to just keep doing it.  You don’t even have to stand under freezing waterfalls – although by all means feel free to try that too.

Keep trying

Not everything you try will work.  That’s OK.  Learn what you can from the experience and try again.  Each time you try, you will get better at it.

Here is the bottom line: Your own employees are your secret weapon.  You can use them to gather insights about your customers and build that consistently into your culture.  


Photo credit:  https://flic.kr/p/9nz5hj  (Creative Commons Commercial license)

A lot of the source for this comes from the “Our Fake History” podcast episode  on ninjas.  Check it out! 

23 Feb

What are you afraid of?

monsterUnderBed_smaller

You know that gnawing in the pit of your stomach when you have to face a difficult conversation, or a difficult truth?

You know the one I mean.

It’s the one that you felt in high school when you asked your friend to “find out if he likes me”, or when you were waiting for your acceptance letter from college and you asked your mom: “you open it for me.  I can’t look”.

It’s that feeling you get when you didn’t hear back after that interview for your dream job, but you can’t quite bring yourself to call them up and ask about it.

Ever notice how that how that feeling accompanies stuff that you care deeply about?  It comes up when there is a possibility of rejection.

Here’s something else about that feeling.

There is an overwhelming compulsion to avoid doing it.  Not only that, when we do address it, we often look to secondary sources of information.

You want your friend to find out if someone likes you.  You want your mom to open your college letter.  You call someone else to ask if your interviewer was dazzled or unimpressed.

But why?  Why would we want to outsource those most important conversations?

The answer of course, is fear.  It is human nature to avoid things that may result in unpleasant feelings: like rejection, or having to tell your boss that maybe this project isn’t such a great idea after all.

Anyone who cares deeply about their product feels this way about their customers.

When many companies want to do customer research,  they start by suggesting a survey, or looking at social media, or reading analyst reports.  Anything it seems, to avoid actually talking to living, breathing customers. 

But here’s what I have learned.  The thing that you are most afraid of is exactly what  you should be doing.  If you are afraid of it, that means it’s important.  If it’s important, you should be addressing it.

Of course, it is much easier to argue about features, or licensing models, or whether the brand color should be blue or magenta.  But those things don’t give you those nasty stomach flip flops do they?   That’s not what’s keeping you up at night is it?  It’s the big questions that do that.

“Does my product solve an actual problem?”

“Are people just buying from us because were are the lesser of two evils?”

“Are we doing this just because it’s the CEO’s pet project?”

“Are our customers really happy with us?”

These are the questions you need answers to.

So if you ever wonder where you should be spending your research dollars, close your eyes and ask yourself: 

What are you most afraid of? 

Photo Credit:  ShutterStock | Dmitry Koksharov

03 Feb

Don’t screw up your first date with your customers

unhappyCouple_smallerImagine you met an intriguing woman online and spent twelves months romancing someone on another continent.

Picture it.  You exchange witty emails, send her attractive pictures of yourself doing interesting and exciting things, and have long phone calls discussing mutual interests and plans for the future.   Then finally, you agree to meet in person.  At significant expense she flies from Australia to New York to meet you.  You are both excited to finally get together.

Wouldn’t it be weird if you didn’t bother to shower and look nice for the first date?

After all this time spent trying to establish a connection and deciding that there might be a future together, why would you fumble something as basic as making a good first impression?

Software vendors often make this mistake with their customers.

A B2B software vendor might spend 12 months wining and dining their prospects.  They show them sexy demos (I’m using a very loose definition of the term “sexy”). They discuss product roadmaps to see if they have a future together.  They offer “good faith” discounts.

Finally, after the customer has dropped a few hundred thousand dollars and arm-wrestled their infamously obstructionist procurement officer to make the purchase, what is the first thing they experience with the product?

An installation nightmare.

INSTALLATION

It is not uncommon for on-premise B2B software to have installations balloon from an estimated one week project to six weeks or even more.  To add insult to injury, the customer is sometimes required to foot the bill for additional professional services costs to boot.

This is the dating equivalent of showing up for the first date with bad breath, food stains on your shirt, and unkempt hair.  And then asking your date to pay for the experience.

Somehow “improve the installation experience” never makes it to the top of development priority lists.  The argument is usually that installation is a one-time event, and is therefore low in priority after the long list of stuff in your feature backlog.

However, that rationale means that you are willing to create a bad, or even a terrible impression as the very first experience your customer has with your product.  This can do tremendous damage to your relationship with them and jeopardize customer renewals or any word-of-mouth business.  This drives up your customer acquisition costs because  your business has to constantly invest in the long wooing cycle of new customers.

First impressions are critical and it is hard to recover from a bad one.

So consider making the installation experience better for your customers. They just might give you a second date.  Or at least recommend you to their friends.

Photo credit: Shutterstock | Creatista, Africa Studio

22 Jan

Your customers don’t think about you

TiredBusinessMan_cropped

Your product is amazing.

You’ve been working on it for over a year.  You’ve thought about every feature, every button.  You’ve had interminable meetings with spreadsheets discussing every little nuance of the feature set, product roadmap, marking strategy, and brand alignment.   You’ve stayed late in the office to work on it.  You lie awake at night thinking about it.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, what is your customer thinking about?

I hate to be the one to break this to you but…  There is only one way to say this…

Your customer isn’t thinking about you.

You want to know what they are thinking about?  They are thinking about their own job because they have their own set of interminable meetings to deal with.  They are thinking about their spouse and their kids and the fact that they have to coach little league next weekend and that they really ought to check out that noise their car has been making all week.

On any given day, this is what your customer’s brain looks like.

brainInfographic-01

Notice that your product isn’t in there.

So when you are sitting in one of your interminable meetings and you find yourself saying: “Yes, maybe it’s a little confusing at first, but once they’ve used it a couple of times they will get used to it.”  Remember:

No.  They won’t get used to it because they don’t think about you.

When you find yourself saying: “We’ll just provide some explanatory text to describe what they need to do”.  Remember:

Nope.  They don’t want to read your explanatory text.  They don’t want to think about you.

When you find yourself saying: “We don’t want to provide that functionality because we will cannibalize our existing product lines.”  Remember:

Your customer doesn’t care about your existing product lines.  They care about their own jobs and their own lives.  Unless you are helping them with those things, they won’t care about you.

So rather than like awake at night thinking about your product, I have a suggestion for a more productive use of your insomnia.  Try thinking about what your customer is thinking about.  Because knowing that is the trick to getting them to think about you.

06 Jan

The simple trick to delighting your customers

I don’t mean to brag but I give awesome gifts.

For example, here is what I gave my husband this year for Christmas.

Cessna-172R-Skyhawk_smaller

No it’s not the plane (although I’m sure he would love that too), but flying lessons.

This isn’t what he asked for for Christmas.  Not at all.  When I asked him for his Santa list he mentioned that he needed some new shirts, and maybe an art piece that he saw a while back that he really liked.  He never said anything about flying – but that was his favorite gift this year.  How did I know that he would like it?  Shouldn’t I just have given him what he asked for?

Amazing gifts don’t have to be expensive.  Fifteen years ago, for my mother-in-law’s birthday, a bunch of us got together at her cottage and played “Happy Birthday To You” on kazoos, recorders, and Dollar Store tambourines.  She still talks about it to this day as the most amazing birthday gift ever.  “It showed that you know me so well!”  she said.

Therein is the secret to giving amazing gifts.

Know the person really well.

If you get that part right, I guarantee that you will naturally know what things will make them happy.

How do you get to know someone really well?  It’s so simple I’m almost embarrassed to spell it out:

  1. Talk to them
  2. Notice things about them that they might not mention out loud.

When it comes to customer experience, the product designers I work with try very hard to figure out the best way to delight customers.  One common strategy is to simply ask them “What would make you really happy?”.

While this approach is not bad (and a darn sight better than not talking to them at all), it is a pale imitation for simply knowing your customers really well. 

Like the best gifts, delighting your customers doesn’t have to be expensive to have impact.  One of the best examples of a customer delighter is this compelling confirmation email from CD Baby which informs you that  “Our world-renowned packing specialist lit a local artisan candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.”

Total cost of development?  20 minutes and zero dollars.

They simply knew their customers well enough to realize that they would appreciate something more whimsical than the usual “Thank you for your order, let us know if it doesn’t arrive” email.  That single email has become famous since it was originally written over 10 years ago and it earned them legions of loyal fans.

So go ahead and ask your customers what they want for their Santa list, but don’t underestimate the value of getting to know them.

How do you get to know your customers really well?  It’s not that complicated really.

  1. Talk to them
  2. Notice things about them that they might not mention out loud.

This is much harder than simply asking them, but likely to be much more successful.

Customers after all, are people too.  

 

Photo Credit: Stefano Mortellaro  Creative Commons Commercial license