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Measuring ROI of Customer Centricity-Changes in Customer Value

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Customer executives are regularly challenged to prove the value of their initiatives. To demonstrate value, executives must speak the language of business so as to allow business leaders to make comparisons and tradeoffs. Executives are primarily interested in increasing revenue, decreasing costs, and mitigating risk. To effectively demonstrate value, customer executives need to show how their customer initiatives impact one or more of these key factors. In my previous post I described the historical retrospective approach whereby incremental per-customer or per–segment revenue gains are correlated with increasing loyalty and engagement. Expected change in customer value is another valuable means of demonstrating ROI.

Many companies use lifetime customer value to justify marketing and customer acquisition efforts. Similarly, positive changes in lifetime value are a result of increased preference, decreased price sensitivity, increased consumption, and greater advocacy. Conversely, lifetime value plummets in response to negative experiences as consumption drops and referrals cease.

A number of years ago, JetBlue analyzed NPS results correlated with passenger behavior and found that each detractor converted to promoter is worth $40 additional profit and each 1-point overall NPS gain yields a $5-8M increase in annual revenue. Highly satisfied customers increase their use of ancillary services such as seat upgrades, box food purchases, etc. Converting a detractor to a promoter yields an additional $100-140 per customer annually, or the equivalent of another flight traveled each year plus ancillary service purchases. Conversely, negative word of mouth costs the company $104 per detractor per year in missed revenue: $72 in lost referrals and $32 in unpurchased ancillary services. 

Put another way, every 25 customers actively promoting JetBlue to friends, family, associates, and on social media equates to one new customer flying JetBlue, whereas only 16 detractors would dissuade an existing customer from flying.  By the same math, it might take 36,000 promoters to increase revenue by $1M, but only 14,000 detractors to realize a revenue loss of $1M.  Every customer value quantification effort must begin with a tangible understanding for each key segment of the length of average customer relationships, costs of new customer acquisition, average customer value, and retention rates. 

Enrich these data by examining how your most loyal and engaged customers within critical segments behave differently than your least engaged. Examine factors such as overall profitability, repeat purchase frequency and volume, longevity, share of wallet, breadth of product portfolio purchased (i.e. the ancillary services mentioned above), the number and value of new customers acquired through references and referrals provided each year. For many companies the annual value of these computations are significant and become even more so when extrapolated over the average lifetime of a customer. 

Similarly, the cost of dissatisfied customers can be computed to measure the cost of status quo.  What is the cost of each call into the call center? How many callbacks are required to address the same issue as a result of an inappropriate focus on average call handle time? What are the most common customer dissatisfiers and what does it cost to address them?  How many credits are being offered to correct billing mistakes?

Armed with tangible proof of the ROI of investments in customer centricity, customer executives can have meaningful conversations with top leadership, enabling them to compare such investments against other priorities and make the best decisions for the company. Without these measures, “doing the right thing” will only happen in the best of times and most certainly not in the worst of times when it is most needed.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Consumer Spending | Customer Centricity | Customer Engagement | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention

How to Shape Customer Behavior?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google and Microsoft took what initially appeared to be an innovative path to decrease residential energy consumption. Believing that customer's decisions to conserve electricity were impeded solely by the lack of easily-understood, real-time consumption information unobtainable via paper utility bills, both created web-based analytics platforms, displaying consumption costs in real-time to help make conservation decisions. And both companies canceled the projects. Their tools had absolutely no effect on behavior. 

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, oPower programs yielded $234 million in energy savings last year, removing 1900 gWh from the electrical energy grid, enough energy to power 190,000 homes for a year. How did oPower succeed when goliaths failed?

The overall goal is to decrease energy usage. Google & Microsoft solved a data problem with their belief that people naturally want to conserve energy but are prevented from doing so by a lack of insight.  Their failure disproves their hypothesis.  oPower solved both a context and motivation problem using both descriptive and injunctive norms. oPower partnered with public utility companies to present via monthly bills a comparison of recent historical energy consumption with nearest two or three neighbors. Because individuals measure their own behavior against their perception of peer norms, consumption data in context with neighbors or peers can change behaviors. This is an example of a descriptive social norm.  Those consuming greater energy than their neighbors began to conserve energy.  But as is common with descriptive norms, it had a boomerang effect on those consuming less energy that subsequently relaxed conservation efforts and quickly climbed to the average.  oPower added an injunctive norm wherein they added a smiley (☺) or frowney (☹) face to the descriptive comparisons, representing approval or disapproval of their positioning relative to their neighbors.  The addition of this judgment is a form of operant conditioning, which is a powerful driver of behavior.

Google, Microsoft, and oPower all provided insight into energy consumption. Their assumptions were vastly different. Google and Microsoft incorrectly believed that people inherently desired to conserve energy and insight would enable behavior change. oPower correctly assumed that social pressure was a far more effective means of shaping customer behavior.   Research has shown repeatedly that people desire to conform to social norms. Other research has shown they overestimate the prevalence of undesirable behavior and use these perceptions as standards for comparison. Energy customers overestimate their neighbor’s energy consumption and conserve when faced with descriptive norms showing otherwise coupled with assessments of desirability of behavior.

How can you use descriptive norms to change behaviors?  One chief customer officer (CCO) showed a B2B customer how often they were calling customer support in comparison with other customers and as a result were decidedly unprofitable. The number of support requests tapered dramatically thereafter. Another company uses peer mediation in their customer communities to assess behavior in comparison with other players and assess penalties in an effort to root out toxic behavior. 

What other applications of these principles have you found?

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Categories: Consumer Spending | Customer Insight

Has social media grown up enough to prove its own value?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This past March was published one of the very first quantitative analyses that I'm aware of that correlated the effect of customer engagement via social media with the firm's bottom line. In the article entitled, “The Effect of Customers' Social Media Participation on Customer Visit Frequency and Profitability: An Empirical Investigation", academics examined the effect of customers' participation in a firm's social media efforts and found that social media engagement resulted in not only a stronger bond between the brand and the customers, but also discovered that engaged customers visited the store 5.2% more often and generated 5.6% greater revenue than the control group with similar shopping history, identified before the social media effort began. As well, engaged customers as measured by frequency of posting had a stronger preference for premium products and lower price sensitivity, making them more profitable than their non-engaged counterparts.

The researchers examined a large retail wine seller and gathered information on customers' demographics and spending habits including wine purchased from other outlets. They created a control group consisting of customers with similar purchase habits and who are not participating in social media. One of the challenges that could easily get lost in a company's social media experiments is whether the relationship is actually growing or the firm has actually provided greater accessibility to promotional coupons. In this study, the researchers weeded out "price buyers" who were using social media solely for the purpose of obtaining coupons. The social media customers and the control group did not have significant differences in their purchase behavior prior to the firm's social media experiment. Thus, they effectively isolated the effect of social media on a material segment of their customers.

However, these results are sometimes masked by the law of averages. To duplicate these results in your company you should carefully segment customers, observe their behavior, and compare such behavior with an appropriate control group. Even more importantly, it appears that done properly, social media can be an effective tool for engaging customers.

As we see in this study, engaged customers spend more and more often, may have a higher predilection for premium products, and are therefore more profitable.

What can you do to engage customers in your business? How can you go beyond preaching at them or pushing coupons to engaging them in a dialogue, and truly understanding what they need?

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Consumer Spending | Customer Centricity | Customer Insight | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention

Dear Customers…We Hate You! Sincerely, Netflix

Friday, October 07, 2011

Once upon a time, Netflix was an innovator and a giant slayer.  They offered a great product, enormous selection and a unique delivery system for DVDs.  By allowing customers to rent DVDs online and have them mailed to them, they put Blockbuster and video stores in general, out of business.  Next, Netflix wowed customers by offering a selection of movies to stream online via the same account.  No hidden fees, problems were addressed early and customers were loyal and excited about the product. 

They were once a company that “got it right” with their customers, but in the last three months, they have managed to squash 7 years of good will with some bad decisions that were poorly executed by the company.

I do a great deal of writing about companies and Chief Customer Officers that get it right, creating superb customer experiences that drive loyalty which in turn drives revenue and profits. While this can be instructive on how to be successful, sometimes it’s better to know what NOT to do to avoid complete and utter catastrophe.  Netflix is a study in both extremes, and whether or not it survives its own blunders time may only tell.

Paying the Price

Early last summer Netflix announced a price increase…not just any price increase, but one that raised rates as much as 60% depending on the plan a customer was subscribed to.  The reaction was immediate and pervasive.  Angry customers blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and used every communication vehicle they could find to voice their disgust.  Netflix was silent.  After a short period of being ignored, the customers did what dissatisfied customers always do: they voted with their feet and left Netflix in droves. Still Netflix did nothing. 

Customers are never fans of unjustified price increases.  Netflix showed a complete disregard for their customer base when increasing the price of the service without a justifiable increase in value.  Price increases of this magnitude force customers to reevaluate decisions that used to be automatic.  They used to happily pay their bill every month and now they were determining if it was worth the price.  Many decided it was not.


Months later, CEO Reed Hastings came out with an apology, but it was several months overdue and it included a new bombshell: instead of the traditional online and DVD service found in the same convenient site, he was splitting the company into two entities.  Netflix would only stream video and Qwikster would continue in the spirit of Netflix’s original intent of DVD rentals.  Neither site will communicate with each other, so you will have to have separate queues for your movies and your credit card will be charged twice by two different companies.  Wait…what?  So, he is sorry for the price hike, but the price hike remains AND he is taking the most convenient part of his service and making it considerably more complicated?  How does this make things right for the customer? Does this sound like a company that cares about customers?

Companies are in business to create value for customers.  The price they charge is derived from the value provided.  When the value erodes, the price can’t be expected to remain the same or even increase without a backlash.  In 3 months, Netflix managed to destroy their service value and instituted a price increase.  Netflix is paying for these blunders both in a dropping stock price and in reduced Wall Street guidance as they lower customer acquisition expectations for Q4.   

Make It Right

Where is the customer in all of this?  Leaving, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Netflix could institute some changes to quickly bring departed customers back and save face with current disgruntled customers.  How?  By taking it all back.  Clearly, they have a strategic direction to split the company into two entities so they can pursue different customer segments.  Not all people who stream videos also watch DVDs and vice versa.  However, they can make the two services talk to each other to maintain consistent history, ratings, and recommendations. They could also go back to a single charge for those who use both services.  Small changes, but they reflect the biggest issues customers have with splitting the services up.

The largest gesture Netflix can make is to own their pricing miscalculation.  Reed Hastings belatedly apologized for the mistake and admitted it was quite a gaff, but he didn’t make it right.  Take action and correct the pricing scheme.  Grandfather current customers and make it an offer to those that left that they can return for their pre-June pricing plans.  It would energize the customer base, regain a percentage of lost customers and it would be a positive PR boost to a company that desperately needs one. 

Will Netflix do this?  Sadly, no.  They have stated publicly that they won’t recover the customers they lost.  Instead, they are rolling out announcements regarding new content agreements to justify their price hike.  This just increases the customer disconnect and will make them only too happy to jump on a number of very promising competing services such as Amazon and Apple that have gladly stepped into the breech. 

John Woods said “The purpose of a business is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between itself and those that it serves.  When it does that well, it will be around tomorrow to do it some more.”  Will Netflix be around tomorrow?  It is too early to tell.  However the prognosis is not good. 

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Consumer Spending | Customer Centricity | Customer Insight | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention