CXM, Interviews, Complaints are a Gift in the Age of the Empowered Customer
Empowered customers are more demanding than ever and traditional views of marketing continue to be entrenched. One enterprising marketer has built his own value matrix to help companies figure out how to become the kinds of organizations those empowered folks love to talk about.

Forget B2C or B2B; It's About Person to Person (P2P)

Whether businesses are focused on consumers or other businesses, it's the relationships they build with people that makes or breaks customer loyalty, marketing industry veteran Stan Phelps said in an interview with CMSWire.

"I've come to the realization companies must exceed customers' expectations or completely fail," Phelps said. "It's not enough to simply meet their expectations. The bar has been raised too high."

Consumers no longer compare experiences with particular brands to experiences they've had with similar companies, Phelps said. Companies like Amazon, JetBlue, Apple and Zappos have satisfied their customers so thoroughly, every company now gets compared to them no matter what business they are in.

"Customers no longer just look at the last interaction they had with a competitor, they look at the last interaction they had period," Phelps said. The customer now thinks, "Amazon does x, y and z this way, so why can't this other company do it?"  

More is expected from companies through customer service, questions about products and finding information online, and the way Phelps looks at this is through his Value, Maintenance matrix (below). Companies that provide high value and are low maintenance are the ones customers love the most, Phelps said.

Customer Experience, Complaints are a Gift in the Age of the Empowered Customer

One of the ways those businesses provide value is by doing the little things right, he said, and that includes things like handling complaints.

"Most of the time, complaints are a gift, but companies often don't empower employees to do anything about it," Phelps said. "Most people don't even bother to complain, they just don't come back."

That's why it's so important for marketers to connect with people in small, memorable ways, he said. That's the kind of differentiation that sticks in people's minds. Handling a complaint the right way can even be more powerful than having a good experience in the first place. Those complaints are an opportunity, Phelps said, one that too many companies don't take advantage of.

Building the Lagniappe Economy

We hear plenty about the gift economy or the collaborative economy, but Phelps said he is a proponent of what he calls the Lagniappe economy (pronounced Layn-yapp). This is a creole word hailing from New Orleans, and it denotes a small gift or something extra thrown in for good measure.

A Lagniappe economy takes the gift economy mindset and applies it to a market economy, Phelps said. The idea is to shift the way companies approach their customers, a notion that is all the more needed in the marketing world, he noted.

"Most companies spend 10 percent of their earnings on marketing, and 80 percent of that is usually on acquisition," Phelps said "That should be switched around and more money should go to making existing customers happy."

It's cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to constantly go after new ones, but one of the big reasons companies don't alter this reality is sales teams are paid for bringing in new customers, Phelps said. That's not likely to change, and this inevitably raises the question of who in fact owns the customer journey.

In the short term, companies should focus on doing little things for their customers that will exceed their expectations. Offer them a little something extra, Lagniappe style, Phelps said. One example of this is the company Safelite Auto Glass, a company that ranked high on customer satisfaction at a recent Forrester Forum West conference

Safelite workers will fix a chip or crack in an automotive windshield, and while the epoxy dries, they'll vacuum and clean the inside of a vehicle. Who remembers the company that fixed their windshield? People do tend to remember the person that cleaned their car unexpectedly. Another example is a company called Peter Millar, a provider of clothing and apparel for golfers.

The company ships out packages to retailers -- its customers -- and makes sure the packing slip matches what's in the box. This helps those customers cut down on taking inventory, a painstaking process that when made just a bit simpler, can really make a difference, Phelps said.

Having an approach like this, especially when dealing with empowered customers, means relationships become more relational and less transactional, he said. Customers are then more likely to spend more money, more likely to continue doing business with that company, and maybe even become an advocate to their friends and followers.

"Everything is P2P, human to human. People buy from people they like."

Title image courtesy of nito (Shutterstock)