Unordinary Thinking No. 38: Deliver less and make customers happier

Organisations often say “We must do more for our customers”. And whilst that’s a worthy ambition, the way in which it is delivered is not that straightforward. The typical response to such a desire, which is ideally accompanied by a ‘I can’t sleep at night until we do” sentiment from the tearful CEO or an equally emotional fist smashing down on a break out area desk, is to give customers more of something. And the typical demonstration of more is to give them more money off stuff – or less. Hold that thought.

fist on desk

Here are three examples where brands have taken a step back, looked at this situation from the customer’s perspective and found they could do less than they did before for their customers and still improve things for their customers. Additionally, in every case there is an improvement to their own bottom line – no margin eroding brand equity destroying discounting needed here, thank you!

So it’s a win-win, or is that a win-win-win. I’ll move on.

A slower delivery saved a builders merchant millions 

I was speaking to a very bright CX consultant who recalled a classic case from builders merchants Travis Perkins. TP used to bust a gut to get deliveries out next day. However, when examined it turned out the type of ‘builder’ TP attracted wasn’t a last-minute ‘@**&, we need it now!’ type. It was well planned projects so orders were put in a week or so ahead of when materials were needed. Through research customers confirmed a later delivery date was just fine, as long as the knew when it would be. It was this permission which helped TP save a shed load. If the delivery could be more than four days, then their suppliers were happy to drop materials directly at the customer’s site rather than taking it to TP who then had to reload and take it on to customers. This saved millions and customers were equally happy (and in some cases more happy as they didn’t have palettes stacked on their drive a week before they were to use them). Smart.

Snail mail reduces unwanted inbound call costs

cat & postbox

I have worked with Aviva in the past on comms and branding, but never on CX. But they do seem to have a rich supply of great examples – so well done to those in York, Norwich, London and everywhere else – we salute you. This is another such case. I’ll admit I don’t know what the product was, but customers purchasing over the phone were told documents should be with them in 3 to 4 days. The key word in that sentence is ‘should’. One of the most vocalised attributes of customer satisfaction is managing expectations. The problem with the should be with you in 3 to 4 days statement is that whilst from Aviva’s perspective it sounds like a licence to tolerate error, the customer hears ‘should’ but computes this uncertainty as a more certain ‘will’ – human nature at play. So when the docs don’t arrive in that time frame, as they didn’t in many cases, the customers (I did hear 75% of them) would call up and tell Aviva they hadn’t arrived. Aviva had dispatched them but the Royal Mail who should deliver in 3 to 4 days hadn’t delivered all of them.

So whilst it wasn’t the customers desire to have them in 3 or 4 days and it wasn’t Aviva delivering them, the expectation was unnecessarily set so Aviva ended up picking up disgruntled customer calls costing them money.

So instead they checked with the Royal Mail who said all post of that class used is delivered within 7 days. So the operators switched to ‘your docs will be with you in 7 days’. The time difference wasn’t important to customers but the certainty of expectations being managed was. As a consequence 95% got their documents in that time frame and were happy and Aviva reduced the cost of managing the ambiguity of the Royal Mail delivery down to just 5% of what it had been.

One flavour for all

shower gelOne of the largest gym chains in the country runs a daily ‘CSAT dip tracker’. One complaint they received was that the (let’s call it) mango and lime shower gel had run out. So they fed back to the facilities manager at that store what had happened. Who duly ordered more from centralised procurement buying. It happened again, and again at different stores. Nothing amazing there until the data showed it was always the mango and lime gel that was mentioned. Procurement confirmed they’d been ordering exactly the same volumes as the other flavours.

It was then the CX team realised this was so popular the others weren’t being used at all. So the decision was to drop all but one of the other flavours. Procurement was now able to negotiate a much keener price for the gel because they were ordering nearly three times as much. The complaint disappeared off the radar of the CSAT tracker too. Giving customers less choice proved more popular and saved the company money in the process.

It goes to show what a little lateral thinking can achieve. But that’s half of what being a pedigree CX practioner is about. It’s about taking a step back and questioning is there a better way to do this for customers. If the answers yes, then you can start to think about the other dimensions such as affordability or capability to deliver it. If you put customers at the heart of the decision-making, everything else always falls into place. Trust us we are customer consultants!

If you don’t believe how easy it is to do, put us to the test.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of the marketing strategy.

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter | Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548 | You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris.

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