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How to win a customer for life—for only $12

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I recently had a problem with a headset purchased nearly a year ago from Headsets.com. The automatically adjusting speaker volume resulted in numerous aborted calls. When I called to complain the rep said, “Mr. Bingham, your headset is just barely out of warranty.” I waited for the bad news. And then he surprised me by saying, “But I can imagine how frustrating that must be with such an important piece of equipment. I want you to be happy and I’m going to send out a replacement via FedEx. You should have it the day after tomorrow. Use the enclosed return label and send back the defective unit in the same box.” Later that day I received a shipping notification and a personal follow-up from the rep, and exactly as promised I received the replacement headset.

Such excellent care went above and beyond the minimum they were contractually required. But that wasn’t necessarily what won my loyalty. 

Within the box was a handful of Tootsie Rolls and a paper survey, the kind that everyone sends and surely nobody ever reads. Because they had done very well in meeting my needs and even exceeding my expectations, I gave them very high marks on the survey. Deciding to have a bit of fun with them, I answered their open-ended question, “What other suggestions do you have for us to improve?” with the tongue-in-cheek, “I don’t really care for Tootsie Rolls, but Jolly Ranchers, on the other hand…” 

Two days later I received another FedEx shipping notification. I was convinced that somehow their systems had screwed up and sent the notification in error, or I was going to have to waste my time calling them to return a duplicate headset. The package was much lighter than before. And it rattled. I opened it to find a very large handful of… Jolly Ranchers. 

Some employee read the survey, purchased a bag of Jolly Ranchers on their way home from work, and shipped a handful the next day. I had to laugh, as even though I know very well how this game is played, I felt an intense loyalty to them—I won’t even look anywhere else for phone/headset equipment. Not even for a better price. 

Rudy Vidal, CCO Council board member and originator of the Extreme Customer Loyalty initiative at Panasonic, found that the difference between second- and top-box loyalty scores was that customers felt they unexpectedly got something more. As he put it, “it didn’t matter if it was a new car or a lollipop!” 

Or in my case, a Jolly Rancher. Of course, the replacement headset may cost some in terms of time/effort to get warranty service from the manufacturer. But the real clincher for me was the fact that someone not only read the survey and took action—they showed thoughtfulness. The Jolly Ranchers probably cost $0.50, and shipping was $11.50. Of course they did everything better than right with the return. But they won my loyalty for $12. 

What are you doing to show your customers you are actually listening and responding to their needs and desires?

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Loyalty

You’re Not a Real Chief Customer Officer, Are You?

Friday, September 24, 2010

“I don’t think I can get budget approval for that.”

Wait a second. You’re telling me that you are a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), ostensibly a member of the C-Suite, the ultimate authority on customers and the one establishing customer strategy at all levels of the company, one of the most well-respected and honored employees, with the explicit mandate of the CEO to improve customer loyalty—and you don’t have $2500 in your budget? Nor can you get approval from your C-Suite peers to attend the most valuable CCO event in the world?

Excuse me?


The Chief Customer Officer Summit is two days of learning, sharing, & creating new best practices with the most forward-thinking, experienced CCOs in the world. It is the only event where CCOs can gather without being inundated by vendors or ladder-climbers clamoring for attention. It is an unparalleled opportunity to learn the best practices that others have paid millions to learn and deploy. It is one-to-one time with the likes of Jeb Dasteel, the Chief Customer Officer Council’s 2009 CCO of the Year. All of which equates to drinking from a firehose long enough to ensure your customer and personal success.

And you can’t afford $2500 for this?

In recent years there has been an increasing number of CCO appointments. On the surface this may seem like a wonderful indication of a strengthening corporate customer focus. However, some of these are a lie.

As I’ve monitored and worked with these new appointees, I’ve found that many companies, particularly in the small- and mid-cap markets are appointing a CCO who is but a figurehead. They are designed to look good but are without the power, authority, and executive support to effect any real change. In fact, these figurehead CCOs actually do more harm than good.

As defined at the 2009 Chief Customer Officer Summit, CCOs may be known by many titles, but the CCO is “An executive that provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.” In the broadest terms, the CCO is responsible for profitably aligning the company’s deliverables with strategic customer needs and values. To do so, the CCO follows an iterative process of understanding critical customer issues and goals, assessing the business and customer impact, and (re-) aligning the company deliverables and processes to meet them.

Customers are beginning to understand the promise of the CCO role. They are beginning to hope that the CCO will help navigate and even remove the obstacles companies erect in front of customers. Customers are beginning to respond to requests for feedback and embrace overtures to closer relationships and partnerships. In most cases, customers are becoming more loyal. However, figurehead CCOs are falsely raising hopes, only to dash them on the rocks. Their customers walk away jaded, or even swearing never to trust again.

These figurehead CCOs have the title perhaps because executives decided they could generate more revenue or boost profits if they had one, so the CCO title was simply added to an existing job description. Yet, the title did not come with a budget for customer experience improvement, nor for personal development to gain expertise in the new role.

Despite having “Chief” in their title, these figureheads are not peers of the C-Suite. They are not the ultimate authorities on customers, nor are they developing strategy at the highest levels of their company. They don’t have the explicit and vocal support of the CEO that gives them organizational credibility and clout that gives them the ability to improve processes in the customers’ best interest.

They are essentially overpaid customer service reps with a fancy title, unable to help customers beyond feel-good slogans and empty promises.

This has got to stop.

If you have the title without the authority, you owe it to your customers, your employees, and your shareholders to either step aside and stop damaging customer trust, or quickly grow into your role and earn this credibility and authority to truly make a difference for your customers.

Ways to become the ultimate authority on customers include attending the CCO Summit, open to all CCOs or equivalently titled executives. In addition, you can view the CCO Council webinar hosted by IIRUSA describing the first steps the CCO must take to become credible. Finally, the article "The Secret Weapon in Building Customer Strategy: The Chief Customer Officer” is another excellent resource. If you are truly serious about becoming a real CCO, consider membership in the CCO Council.


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Categories: Chief Customer Officer