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Why customers help some companies and hurt others (!)

Impact of Sentiment, Dark Social on Growth for the Next 5 Years


Chip Royce, Flywheel Advisors – March 30, 2023

Hello, I’m Chip Royce of Flywheel Advisors. More about me in a minute. Let’s, just jump right in.

The commercial internet started 30 years ago, and every good company has put at least some of their activity online, to reach and service customers and big companies often call this digital transformation. They moved their customer interactions online, their brochures became websites, they implemented e-commerce for products and replacement parts, and instituted self-service customer support.

Through this, they’ve gathered enormous amounts of data and automated back-office tasks. The commercial internet created all-time productivity and went a long way to reducing costs.

We’ve all assumed that by giving customers endless choice and enabling self-service, we made things easier for the customer, RIGHT?

Well, it turns out digital transformation didn’t end up improving customer satisfaction.

Many companies accidentally, on purpose, turned themselves into commodities that are easier to replace.

My name is Chip Royce.

In 1993, I came across the first web browser and started my career helping companies do business online. Do you know what the very first paid search term was? It was golf. And you know who bought it? I did, in 1997, on Yahoo! That’s how long I’ve been working on the commercial internet.

Before the dot-com implosion in 2002, I was in product development. I was in business development. I led marketing and sales, corporate strategy, all for a big internet holding company called CMGi, which is one of the high flyers of its era.

In 2002, I joined Dell. My job was to break the company’s distribution model. Before that, Dell only sold PCs directly online and by phone. I had to figure out new ways for customers to buy desktops and new laptops through what we called alternate channels. These were the TV shopping networks like QVC, HSN warehouse stores, and even auction sites like eBay. In the PC industry, I saw firsthand how successful companies strategize, operate, and delight customers.

In 2014, I left the corporate world, started Flywheel Advisors, and went back to my roots to work with smaller companies.

I’ve noticed over the past nine years, more so, in the past three to four as Gen Y become managers, as more and more apps are in the workplace, and as companies have placed massive reliance on data for making decisions, I’ve noticed that companies today only want to hire specialists. Everybody’s thinking in discreet specific problems. SEO strategists, data analysts, social media experts, webinar copywriters, salespeople to focus on qualifying leads, salespeople for closing deals, and salespeople who focus on retaining customers. Customers went too far in automation and data collection. They made most of their business decisions based on data, and that’s convenient. Data is great. Heck, you can make whatever decision you want with data and then justify it later.

The smartest companies, the most aware companies are realizing, or they already know that:

They exist because of their customers, not the product.

They know that the data is the starting point. It’s not the yes man, it’s not their lawyer.

These companies look at how they market and sell.

They look at how they deliver and support through the customer’s eyes.

And how do they know what customers want?

They ask. They survey and listen to their customers.

The smartest companies engage customers in the way customers want to communicate.

If the customer has a cell phone glued to their hand, they’ll send a text.

If they prefer email, they’ll use email.

If they’re cloud software users, they’ll do it right in the web browser.

They respect their customer’s time.

I can tell you there’s a way to send surveys at the right time and frequency. You need enough, so responses are statistically relevant. You don’t want to send too many or they’ll start to ignore you. The best companies just ask the right number of questions and they don’t ask for anything  they already  have. Customers REALLY hate that.

Here’s a tip: Just like you. I don’t end up working with everybody I speak with, but I try to make sure I give them this one piece of advice. Push back on your teams when they keep adding  just one more question into your surveys. When it comes to surveys, the creators of these surveys at companies just cannot help themselves. They have zero restraint. Most companies to start with don’t even have a consistent strategy for surveys. So when there’s a mention of doing a customer survey, everybody comes out of the woodwork to see if the survey can just include one more question or missing piece of information that they never bothered to gather before. They cram in more and more questions, and this turns customers off. And you all know what I mean, because you’re at various times a customer as well. The only customers who want to answer this kind of survey are not providing information you need. You’re going to get information from those that love you. You had them at hello and those that despise you, they’re going to be impossible to ever satisfy.

So what companies excel at collecting customer feedback?

Well, you must know, DoorDash, the food delivery service?

Regardless of your experience with DoorDash, love them or hate ’em. They are making customer service and feedback a priority. So DoorDash has changed how they survey after your food is delivered.

They used to ask eight to 10 questions after every delivery. “Was the food temperature to your liking? Would you order from this restaurant?” Again, “Was our driver courteous?” On and on. Basically, they would admit they ask too many questions.

Now they send one survey right away after your food is delivered in the app via email. And they use what I’ve coined a ‘micro-survey’. This ‘microsuvey’ only has one or two simple questions. “How is your DoorDash order?” And what could we do to make this better?

Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this new survey gets a better response rate.

And the customers I mentioned earlier, the fanatics and the fanatical haters, they don’t need to hear more from those people. DoorDash wants to hear from the big fat middle of the bell curve. Think of what your company can achieve when they know what the big fat middle hates and wants more of.

The best companies also do something with what they learned from surveys.

It goes to the right department. Somebody acts on it. The customer has a poor experience. They contact the customer with an actual telephone call, believe it, huh? And they even try to understand and resolve the issues.

The companies that do this, they win, but I’ll get to that in in greater detail later.

So what else are the smart companies doing?

They’re implementing something called ‘Revenue R&D.’

So what is it? It’s like regular R&D but it makes money In regular R&D your company develops a product or service, dedicated teams design what you plan to market.

Great R&D organizations use established methods to run the entire R&D process, including researching the market, designing products, costing and procuring the parts used in production, especially if it’s physical product and eventually building the product and testing it. They do all of this before handing it over to the rest of the company who will launch and then sell the product. 

Revenue R&D just like regular R&D takes the same approach. A revenue R&D  team designs new sales and marketing efforts, and they sometimes make the business case for a new product.

You can’t use your regular sales and marketing team to do regular Revenue R&D they already have day-to-day responsibilities. They’re running their departments, they’re ensuring consistent revenue. They’re the lifeblood of your company. Smart forward-looking companies have at least one person dedicated to revenue R&D this person or team identifies new ideas, new products, or new sales channels, new messages and sales processes. They test these ideas with real prospects and customers. And when the tests work, they hand off a playbook for your organization to execute. So thanks to the internet, we’ve seen a massive change in how customers purchase and how they renew subscription-based products, and that evolution isn’t good for most sellers.

Before 2016, customers relied on the salesperson.

Customers contacted your sales team, they requested sales literature and product comparisons. They asked questions, and together with your salesperson, they jointly built the sales case to take to management. Now, it’s not like this was anything new because before 2016, all the information was also available on the internet, but prospects trusted this time your sales team to provide the help they needed.

Now we get to 2016 to 2020. Customers wanted to be in control during this timeframe and do self-guided research. And as the commercial internet rose the challenge, we saw software directories like G2 and Capterra, which provided guidance and reviews. We saw the rise of professional forums and consumer sites like Reddit, which let users share their experiences. In response to that marketer shifted their focus to producing content through content marketing companies produced articles, videos, and FAQs. They built sales funnels and they try for a high ranking result in go Google all to get customers to their websites and then draw them in with details, case studies and social proof. And these companies use technology behind the scenes to watch what customers were doing. They built a dossier of their activities in the background and they powered their sales teams who anticipated customers’ needs and provided help.

Quick side note as well, those industry forums and Reddit topics, if they’re still active for your product or service category, take the opportunity under your company’s name to interact. Don’t do it in a slimy way, but be available. Share information, demonstrate your expertise and offer to help if the door opens. This helps your chances with a customer and shows future customers that you care and you’re different.

Okay, so let’s go to 2020 where we saw an acceleration in self-service.

And this is where things get much more difficult for companies. New privacy efforts in Europe and now in certain parts of the US like California all restrict the ability to capture data on customers. It’s harder and harder now to build that dossier in your customer. Before 2016, your customer was likely a Gen Xer who had a tendency to appreciate business relationships. In 2022, we’re seeing more and more customers falling in the Gen Y co cohort, and they’re not that interested in forming relationships with vendors. They grew up with the internet and cell phones as the primary information source, and they prefer to research and evaluate purchases on their own.

So brings us to today and “Dark Social”

The same prospects and customers? Their discussions are about you are taking place where you can’t see them. It’s called dark social. So what is dark social? Dark social is a term for the invisible communication between your B2B customers. It takes place on social media like messengers, but also email or text messages.

Here’s an example.

Go to the New York Times right now, pick any article and share the URL with a friend via let’s say Instagram Messenger, WhatsApp, even Facebook Messenger. You shared it via dark social from the New York Times’ perspective, they know they had a visitor, but it just shows up as ‘direct’ in their analytics. The New York Times has no idea where the customers came from. So another way of saying it, dark social is a closed room where your customers are comparing notes with each other. And unlike an online forum like Reddit, you can’t see what they’re discussing.

So for a B2B marketer or a salesperson, why does Dark Social matter?

Well, let’s say that your company has an operational hiccup. You didn’t ship out your product correctly, or you had a bad onboarding call.

In the past, customers told you something was wrong, or if it’s their way of doing things, they wrote about it in a product reviewer forum, but at least that way you were able to see it at some point and do something about it.

Today, your customers are telling their colleagues about your mistakes privately in these dark social channels. These colleagues or customers could be today’s customers or tomorrow’s products. It could take weeks or months if ever before you find out about the problem.

So why should you care? Well, your brand could be damaged, sales may decrease. You’ll look at your website and sales data and look for explanations, but never know the reasons why.

Well, let’s take it a step further. Your organization is starting to make multiple errors with customers. And this could be bad, it could likely lead to the end of your company or career, frankly, just from underperformance due to and bleeding out from a thousand small cuts.

Okay, but what if I told you that the best companies could defeat ‘Dark Social’?

They can tell you how to establish a connection with your Gen Y customers, something that your competition is ignoring. And in the process, have your customers tell you who they are, what they want to buy, where they want to buy it, when your company isn’t performing well, and even tell you how to fix the issues that you’re incurring or help you quickly exploit new opportunities for growth.

Did We Go Too Far Online, Accidentally?

The commercial internet gave us search engine marketing, customer relationship management software (CRM) and customer prospecting databases, self-service, automated customer support. And all of this helped our companies increase productivity. We generated incredible convenience for our customers. We provided them the ability to summon services and products to their door. And instead of waiting until business opens on Monday, we gave our customers articles and searchable knowledge bases to find solutions on their time and get back up and running.

All of these services were clearly the right decision at that time.

However, we’re now at a crossroads as customers are still not satisfied.

We’ve outsourced many aspects of our businesses to third party and made the customer do much of our work.

We collect data, but we often fail to understand what’s in the customer’s mind.

And lastly, our customers have learned more than most anything can be bought over an app trained in a new, more interesting tool or a new technology will be just right around the corner.

Whatever you sell may be easily replaced, you’ve allowed yourself to be commoditized.

And with dark social, which I mentioned just a minute or two ago, we now struggle to find out how the customer even feels about our company and what we can do to improve.

Why start thinking about making a change?

Well, companies that change will have something that few of your competitors will possess. They’ll have customers providing insights, in some cases, volunteering information. Some may even want to have ongoing dialogues and become invested in your success. Sales and marketing activities can be easier to com to execute and backed by real life tests and data. And these companies in the event of a misstep, which happens to everybody, have a better chance of finding out what’s wrong and what they can do to fix the problem.

So how does it work? How do you get there?

Well, there are three main components. Moving from left to right on the chart here. This helps companies become aware of their customer needs. Translate that into growth and scale and transform your culture.

So in the purple colors, you see the Discovery tools. They help customers understand the customer journey from the first website visit to the end of the customer relationship and enable the company to become more aware of what the company really thinks of them.

In green Exploiting Positives. These are the catalysts for generating growth or fixing problems that hold the company back from delighting customers, which ultimately will contribute to your success.

Operationalize, these tools, help management teams measure their operational performance and use the information and insights to drive cultural change, specifically shift from a product focused mentality to a customer focused.

Alright, let’s walk through each component in detail.

1. Mapping the Customer Journey

This depends on the complexity of your company and product or service. If you’re a relatively small company, 40 or 50 employees, you might map the entire company’s journey. If you are a division of a large company with 500 to  one thousand employees, you may look at each business unit. But during one to two meetings, your team sits down and helps detail all the key interactions with the customer. And it’s going to be detailed. It’s going to  include your awareness marketing, what brought them to your website, what activities do you provide on your site? Is it videos, is it case studies? Basically identify what, what adds value to the sales process. You look at one or more of the different steps to qualify and close a sale. You look at your payment process, the delivery of the product or service itself, any onboarding activities including new customer training, uh, support activities, technical support, or the sale of delivery of accessories, customer retention activities later on that you’ll do.

So for instance, subscription products are going to  get resold every year. Also, you might have some upgrade or trade-in programs. In short, this step should include all the activities with a customer, not just those connected to sales and revenues. The company’s ability to provide great after sale experience makes a significant impact on follow-on purchases by a company. Product renewals and customer referrals.

At one client of mine Fusion3 much of our business was generated by employees who transferred to other divisions. So they were used to using our 3D printers in their role, but they couldn’t bring them with them to the new organization, whether it was a division in their company or transferred to a new, a new outside organization. Because of their loyalty and because of the company’s ability to service them, they would actually be making recommendations. And that’s obviously a very powerful result if you haven’t had to spend money to build that new sale.

2. Benchmarking Perceptions

Okay, so with a solid understanding of the important steps in your customer’s journey, we then move on to benchmarking perceptions.

So we’ve detailed some really unique, short, and easy benchmarks that allow companies to find what will, what will later get into, which are quick wins. But the perceptions benchmark is pretty straightforward. Your company thinks they do certain things well and have certain areas to improvement, but does that really map to what your customer thinks of you? Is it rational? Is it, is it self-actualized or do they have blinders on essentially and, and think too highly of themselves in certain areas or not realized that they have certain strengths? Well, these benchmarks a series of very short but precise surveys that go through either your leadership team or the larger organization on the whole, if it’s appropriate. You map out, do they think positively, thumbs up, thumbs down about how your company handles a certain activity? And then uses a score similar to net promoter if you’re familiar with it. But basically if it was a thumbs down, let’s go from one to five and see how badly do you think we were doing and could improve? And if they think positively from six to 10, how well they’re doing. But that’s just the company’s view of, of things. Let’s go out to your prospects and customers. Doesn’t take a large sample, but just enough to be able to gauge, from a, a large enough population, how well they think prospects, potential buyers, people who are going from your reputation, how well they think you’re doing, using the same exact survey methodology. And then your actual customers who have had the full end-to-end experience, how well they think you do the results from this is pretty transformational. It would probably not be a surprise to anybody that there will at least be one or two gaps between what the company thinks they do well and what customers think that you can hunt into and find a quick wins, to improve your results and possibly even some strengths that you didn’t know you had that customers feel and be able to leverage those.

3. Quick Wins

And that’s where we get to the next to the quick win section.

Fundamentally, they’re just as they sound, and it’s, if you’ve done ever done Six Sigma, there’s uh, a step in the design for engineering processes. Just do what you know and don’t bother going through the process. You have customers who are telling you that you can improve here, and could give you specifics, information on what needs to be done. Why not go fix it, you can do it now, or possibly be able to go after new revenue opportunities right away.

This is profound for a couple reasons. One is it’s always great to get positive business results, but it also takes any of the lows that you found in that benchmarking perception step and allows the company to see firsthand the results that come from implementing customer feedback. So right away you start seeing some cultural change. You get the organization aligned behind the customer, around something that’s making a positive impact on their performance. So as we’ve been talking, we’ve now gotten to the green section under exploit positive.

4. Revenue R&D

So we covered quick wins. Let’s get to Revenue R&D.

This is a bit more complicated, and in depth than what the quick wins represents.

But as we described earlier, Revenue R&D is like R&D, but for the revenue and sales and product components of your company right now, every company has a few ideas for future expansion. In order to deliver a new business segment or a new sales initiative or channel, this really requires a dedicated group of, internal or external resources that can test, validate, and bring to maturity this product and eventually hand off to the organization.

So how does it work? Revenue R&D has a couple different steps.

Internally you may have new ideas for products or sales channels, new marketing programs or sales processes, but through what we’ve just talked about in the benchmark perceptions and some other survey techniques we’ll get to later, you may have already had customers suggest to you what they already know would work. And that’s the beauty of this. Through the discovery phase, by interacting with prospects or current customers, even lost prospects, you’re gonna be able to test and, and discuss what ideas resonate with customers and take that feedback and ideas from those conversations into the R&D. Now, this process is professional, it preserves your brand, but it is off the cuff, it’s dynamic. You need people in these roles to be able to have exploratory conversations and be able to pivot, and explore opportunities that they might not have, thought of before the, and being prepared for before the actual conversation. So that’s where you need the special skillset for Revenue R&D and you might not even have it in your organization to start with. Once you’ve taken those ideas in the discovery phase, the opportunity, to build a, minimum viable product or a minimum viable sales process to then go out and test with your customers. So during this phase, you’re refining the concept in a more formal structure for further testing. The goal here, the purpose of this phase is to identify repeatability. Is it’s gonna stick, is it going to generate tangible revenue? Or is it going cannibalize something you else you already sell? This is all going lead to building a firm business case and final approvals by the management team before you go and implement.

Then when it gets to implementation, it’s time to roll this out within the company’s normal operation processes. A company that already has a strong launch product launch capability will thrive with Revenue R&D. You’ll write briefs in conjunction with the Revenue R&D team, which is going outline your value proposition, your key features, your key messages. But what’s great about it is you’re not guessing. These will have already resonated with customers. So then you just collaborate with your sales teams, get them familiar with the customer needs, what the messaging is, what the, the key drivers are, and if necessary, you might even spin up and hire additional staff because you might want to develop a specialized sales team or partnership channel team to be able to push this forward. Lastly, a key step of Revenue R&D is monitoring and revising the process. The results from these earlier phases are solid, but will just like your business continue to evolve. You, you can’t be married to any one concept and you need to come in with an unbiased open view. You need to monitor performance. You need to get in contact with those customers, who are buying and make sure that you’re able to deliver what you had promised and what you envisioned. And through iterating and improvement, you’re gonna be able to not only delight customers, but also maintain internal morale. You’re gonna feed the engine of our Revenue R&D and the organizational support for it.

So let me give you one quick example of how Revenue R&D has worked in the past for me.

It has to do with the consumer online tax world. A company that I’ve worked with in the past called OnePriceTaxes.com The company has  a a fantastic online consumer tax product. And really they were able to find a way to do all of the technical work to be able to keep tax software updated with all the tax changes, year after year, with an incredibly small dynamic team.

And as a result, as you can tell by the name OnePriceTaxes it was very value driven. They were selling for $39, what you would pay the larger software company, 80 to $120 a year to file your taxes with.

The one problem that was never envisioned by OnePriceTaxes was that they had a competitor in Intuit large financial services company that saw taxes as a way to acquire customers for their entire portfolio of products and were willing to, and this was from SEC filings that they put out there because they’re a publicly traded company, they were willing to lose 60 to $70 per customer when they acquired them just to get them into their overall economic world. So OnePriceTaxes was not able to achieve the results that they wanted. And the kind of growth that you, they thought was originally identified by having just a low price offer, i.e. It’s low price, people are going to want  buy it.

The company would’ve succeeded and moved along, but it would never have grown at the level they wanted.

And one of the interesting things that started from a customer were inbound calls we received that suggested, “Hey, we are small local tax providers, accounting firms, or tax specialists. Um, we love your product, but it doesn’t actually work for us to resell tax services. Is there a way we could do it with your product?” now, the company stayed nice and focused, said, “we’re all about consumer. Sorry, we can’t help you.”

As the competitive challenges and ability to grow became more prominent, the management team and I sat down and said, “Hey, maybe there’s something to this.” and we engaged the Revenue R&D process.

We called back those companies that called us in other segments of the tax, the commercial tax preparation world to find out what they needed. What we found out was one,  there was a  tremendous amount of interest that the back of the envelope of calculations said would be way larger than our existing sales base. Two, a willingness to pay more for the product, and three, the ability to, to scale at a much faster rate because the partner doing the sales and marketing activities for the company.

So what ended up coming from this is, is through Revenue R&D we developed a parallel brand called TaxPreparerSolutions that wouldn’t interfere with the consumer mission. We test marketed and made it available the first tax season through a subset of these companies and saw three times the revenue, six times the margin, and substantial numbers of tax returns being filed  than we could have done ourselves. So this, this clearly went into implementation phase, right? This is now something that the company is going to roll out, um, through the Revenue R&D and, and take to the bank essentially, if you will.

The results of all of this, was that a number of competitors, even in the consumer tax space, approached OnePriceTaxes and TaxPreparerSolutions and licensed the platform because they, what we learned through this process, they couldn’t afford to maintain a platform and didn’t, like the process itself. So the idea of outsourcing it to a partner was incredibly attractive. This took the business 10x overnight with the, the closing of that deal, and eventually with the success and proving of the capabilities of both the software platform and the revenues generated in customers so far, led to OnePriceTaxes price taxes being acquired by a company called Credit Karma, was a monolith in the financial services space, a technically a unicorn in venture capital terms. If there’s any irony to all of this, CreditKarma was  acquired by, intuit, Quicken, TurboTax. It was neat to see that success happen from the Revenue R&D process.

Okay, so I think I’ve gotten enough info to you on Revenue R&D uh, but later we’ll have questions so we can dive into that more if you’d like.

5. Measuring & Tracking Sentiment

Let’s get to the last steps, the operational steps. So measuring and tracking sentiment.

So you’ve mapped the customer journey under discovery. You’ve identified all your touchpoints. Now it’s time to start building an ongoing relationship with your customers in a way that they are going to  feel, that is just natural to be replying back to you and telling you how you’re doing.

Now let’s, let’s rewind just a tiny bit. Remember this is not easy. The Gen Y and Future Gen Zs are all digital folks. In terms of attention span, they’re not always invested in the success of the companies they work with.

So how do you do this? How do you get them to give you feedback on a continual basis and be able to, and willing to tell you how you’re doing and not grow tired of it?

After you’ve identified all the touchpoints, those microsurveys I talked to you about, just a quick one question, how are we doing? or “How’s it going with the product delivered today?” “How was your customer support call?” Thumbs up, thumbs down, swipe left, swipe right. That’s all you are going to ask them. And you’re gonna deliver these micro surveys in the normal course of your business.

So if your website has a chat bot and you need to ask a question and intercept them, then you do. If you’ve just, delivered the product and you’ve received shipping data saying that it’s been delivered, you send an email right off. And of course, almost all companies have their own, bulk email capability to be able to send these out. So being able to, to automate and trigger these is incredibly easy in today’s business world.

And for that matter, let’s say you finish a customer support call or it’s been three months since you’ve had a customer retention call. How are we doing? Or how did that customer support call go? You just ask them, tell us how we did thumbs up, thumbs down.

By using those existing tools, you’re now just naturally integrating this into the flow of your business. But you are encouraging customers to give you this feedback because it’s immediate. They just got off the customer support call. They just received things and they, as you implement this, and as I said earlier, as long as you follow up and demonstrate to customers that you are delivering results, then they will have the incentive to continue to respond. If you neglect it, you don’t do anything that information, you do not improve your business, it’s likely that your response rates are gonna trail off. The other thing is you’re going use your existing databases with these microsurveys.

6. Data Normalization and Integration

So there’s a data integration perspective where we take your company data, your individual user data from both your CRM or your, customer registration database, and integrate this into a single data warehouse. It sounds daunting, it is  difficult, but can be done  if you’ve have a good technical team internally or someone like myself can help you with. Because once you have all this data in a single place, and once you deliver these microsurveys, you are seeing per customer in per segment, we’ll get to that in the reporting. All of this data and all the results and some neat things are gonna come from that.

And before I get to the, the sort of dashboard and reporting, I want to  talk about that yellow bar underneath everything, data normalization and integrity. As we’ve worked with companies to implement this, we’ve noticed some other, I guess in hindsight expected things, but we didn’t expect it at first. So meaning that companies that are implementing this type of system and receiving customer fact find accidental oversights and how they set up their systems and how their data is syncing between the systems, if at all.

One of our clients, a company called EasyVote Solutions, provides software for running an election here in the United States. They don’t do voting, they don’t do the machinery, but they basically help your city or county go through the exercise once, twice, maybe three times a year of running an election, deploying people, deploying ballots, deploying hardware in the right places.

One of the things we found out, from their implementation of our processes, is that for instance, when they created new software accounts, they didn’t require an email address. So not having those policies in place, threw wrench into implementing the process.

However, one of the side benefits here is by going through this process, they were, we were able to help them identify all the places where there were data disconnects between systems. For instance, their customer support system might change an email address, but that doesn’t end up in their sales system. So somebody could be chasing in sales for renewal, with someone who has a new email address and it, would take a while to figure that out. And these, this whole sort of resolution process provides incredible long-term benefits for their operations, not including the benefits they’re gonna get from measuring customer sentiment.

So with EasyVote when we implemented this, we sent a survey to all their customers. Now we did it in stages as we want to make sure everything was going to happen correctly, and if there were any sort of bugs in the systems or disconnects and expectations that we didn’t anticipate, it would give us a chance to go and fix them. We also went through this data normalization process and we figured out where they had an active accounts, we figured out where they had missing emails, disconnects and email addresses like I mentioned between the sales and customer support, where even made sure that they identified who the primary purchaser was and not the actual users. And I’ll share a little bit more information there in a second.

For the actual survey we asked, “How was your experience using EasyVote software this election season?” Hopefully it’s pretty clear to you that that’s a really wide open question, right? We’re not trying to focus on any one specific thing we want the customer to tell us because we might not have anticipated it that there might be something in the process that might be suboptimal. Well, we sent this to 85% of their active customers because the other 15 we didn’t have email addresses. They’re still working to resolve those issues, but this was wild. How many of you have gotten a 93% response rate on a survey? Blew my mind! This is the highest response rate we’ve ever gotten on an activity like this. These normally end up being in the 75 to 85% response rate. And when done properly, it stays level and consistent over time.

Here are the positives that we got from this. We had customers who suggested improvements say, look, I love your product, I love your customer support, something the company is really well known for. But here we we’re wondering, could you please fix a couple pieces of the interface? Some customers even said, “Hey, so great that you hit me up. We love you guys. We actually want to discuss adding a few more of your software modules and upgrade.” It’s tremendous here we are just looking to make sure that that nothing’s broken and we’re doing the right thing by the customer and they’re initiating conversations that increase revenues and strengthen the relationship.

On the negative side? Well, we did something cool, and this was something I mentioned earlier about making sure that if you get negative information, follow up and do something with it. We aligned the entire company and put in place an SLA for the customer and expectations with the entire staff that if one of their customers had an issue, they were gonna call that customer within one business day. Basically call up and say, “Hey, I’m here to, to find out what’s going on. We’re certainly disappointed that you’re disappointed in us. What can we do to improve?” now they of course have to manage expectations. We don’t want the inmates to run the asylum, but it did give the opportunity to find out what’s going on and capture product suggestions. One instance where if you hit tab the the customer wasn’t being moved to the right cell as they’re doing data entry. And those little things have a massive impact on that customer’s experience and their perceptions of you.

7. Scorecard and Creating a Culture based on Customer Experience

Okay, so we’re wrapping up the section, but let’s get to the continuous improvement port portion here, right?

So think about it, you’ve got all of this data, aggregated, and the additional part of all this is to have a robust dashboard that’s tied to your data warehouse and allow your company, sorry, I could use the term slice and dice, but I’m not sure that know of any other way to talk about this. To slice and dice the information in a variety of ways.

You’ve mapped out your entire customer journey. So you from left to right or down, you know how you’re doing, right? But as long as you have enough people replying, especially as a percentage of your user base, you’re able to see how you scored five weeks ago, four weeks ago, three weeks ago, all the way up to the completion of each week. That’s pretty powerful. If any of you have had an operational role, and you know how important it’s to review your P&L weekly. To review other operational scorecards, to be able to see what customers think you and, and rate how well you’re doing a particular task week by week is powerful. And the information I’m talking about is available in real time. I mean, it’s essentially available that day. Just depends when you’ve got enough data to know that there’s something significant you can act on.

So imagine you’re sitting there on Monday morning meeting and you’re looking at, let’s say our customer onboarding for a software company and you’ve had a score of 93% positive, give or take one or 2% every week for the past year. But suddenly in a week you come in on Monday and you’re having your meeting go out, we’re normally 93%, but we’re at 89%. We’re 4% off the average. Now people should be starting to wonder, is there any problems there? Now you don’t wanna react too quickly. You might not take action yet, but now you’ve got something to keep an eye on. Well, what if the next week, that next Monday you see a dip down to 79%? Now you’re way off norm. If you haven’t taken action already, you have a number of options and you’re still quickly going to be able to go look in and, and resolve this, right? You have the opportunity to go in and research your customer care activity to see what customers are already reporting. You can look at their orders, see what they purchased, and look to see if there are themes or commonality on that. But last but not least, you’ve have very specific responses that you can dive into and find out who were the customers, go directly to them and interview them. Ask, “Hey, what are the reasons that, that you gave the score, we want to improve. Clearly something was wrong, we want to go fix it.” and I bet you the customers will be happy to tell you and, and give you the opportunity to get on this.

The dashboard tools themselves, they’re robust. They’re designed for management teams and department heads, even lower level managers if you wanna give them access to various portions. But it’s going allow you to slice and dice. It’s going to allow you to segment the information and look at a variety of different attributes. So depending on your data and what you have, you can say, you know, what is commonality? Or let me see people by location or customer type? If you sell the government education and business, right, you might want to look at just your government customers. You can look at the performance of your company as their sentiment based on the product or service they’ve purchased and how long they’ve been a customer. You can even look at this to verify information from other sources. So let’s say you’re interested to know if this result is tied to a particular technical support or salesperson. You’ll be able to see that information there. But again, bringing this home, imagine if you had another tool right next to your P&L right next to your other systems that told you even if you think you’re doing wonderfully, what customers actually think of you and what you can do to improve.

So one of the re reasons I refined this whole process is that I was in your shoes.

One of my clients Fusion3, a 3D printer manufacturer, asked me to join as their CEO back in 2015.

When I first started working with them, Fusion3’s customers could not wait to talk with the company and asked for help. Fusion3 had a stellar reputation of being accessible and transparent. And if the products weren’t right for our customers, Fusion3 was very proactive. Well let ’em know, we’d say, “Hey look, we’re not sure this product is right  for you. We want to see you succeed and be able to point them in the right direction. Help them find what they were looking for.

What’s interesting, in 2018, something started to change each year.

Fusion3’s customers started to insist on being the self-sufficient, the type  of customer that I was talking about earlier in the presentation. By 2021, many of our customers were going out of their way to avoid interaction with the sales and support teams. Let me give you some examples. This is some weird stuff. So we be at a trade show, some young engineer would come running up to us really insistent, and and they’d ask all sorts of questions, very technical stuff, “well, why’d you do this?” We were glad to answer glad to help you. “Did you have any more questions?” and they just like turned tail and run. They scurried off. It felt like they just didn’t want to have a personal conversation with anybody or that we were salespeople and, we didn’t have their interests at heart. They would hold off filling out website forms.

Through our Google Analytics, we knew we had all these people visit the site. With historical data for many years  down to a given week. What kind of response rate we should expect, for people to request, a pricing quote, with shipping information for their specific location. And yet they were holding off, filling out these forms and they’d wait until we were a finalist. So based on their own self-research, they would decide whether we were right or one of the, the few finalists and then possibly interact with us. And if they filled out the web forms, they didn’t even set up their voicemails or never emptied their mailboxes seemingly as  they didn’t wanna speak with anybody. So if you, so you might wonder why your content isn’t working to generate leads.

We’ve spoken with other companies who also encounter similar behaviors.

This shift in customer behavior is clear. These changes make it harder for us to reach our customers.

It’s requiring more effort to close business.

Your sales performance is gonna be more volatile and harder predict because business is going close in the customer’s timeframe, certainly not yours.

And some customers will use all of your live customer support, and yet others, believe it or not, may never contact you if they have a problem.

I see good companies, I see good people who are out in business who think all the answers are in just the data they have. They can’t think of alternatives. They refuse to see it. Not only that they’re doubling down on it. I mean, I just came back from a venture capital conference. They’re doubling down so much on data. Companies wait to include AI or machine learning like ChatGPT in new ways of looking at their data and finding more insights rather than recognizing that, that not all the answers are in your data. And they come from the customer dialogue, which is harder to get. And these companies are just hoping they can navigate through this whole thing.

If a friend of mine were being recruited by a company and the company wasn’t recognizing this and they didn’t have a plan to survive and succeed in today’s world of dark social? I’d be telling them, I think you need to pass and find a company that will.

How can you run a business without the ability to measure what customers think of you?

Are you gonna continue to poke through mountains of data to come up with explanations for what’s happening?

Flail away guessing what customers want or using the data you have or making small changes hoping for big results?

All while your issues magnify customers thinking worse of you or not thinking of you at all?

And hoping that you stumble upon the issue and a fix?

The growing number of businesses in the situation, they’re losing their their differentiation, they’re becoming commoditized.

And the funny thing is, it’s not because their product or their, their way of doing business isn’t differentiated.

It is because they lost control of the message, their brand and allowing the customers to perceive them as commoditized. They say, perception is reality.

You made it easy for customers to replace you.

So what’s your story?

Are you seeing links between sales and the customer experience?

What’s going on with your company?

Are you able to, to get past these issues?

If you’re okay with sharing them here in the webinar, I’d love to, to start the conversation. There’s a chat box here. Just type in your question or your situation and love to, to interact with you or more than happy, you know, to take this privately and spend 15 minutes to speak one-on-one.

There is a link on the screen, in front of you to schedule a call before then.

Questions & Answers

I see a couple questions, so I will do my best to answer those. One second here. Okay, so this question, this is a good one.

Isn’t using more technology to fix the problems, the same issue with technology that this, that technology got us into?

So I think there’s a few ways to answer this.

I’m, not a Luddite. I’m not sitting here saying we need to abandon everything we do online. And customers aren’t today asking for less technology. They certainly have short attention spans. They de-emphasize relationships. They’re very transactional. I, talked all about commoditization.

The case I’m making here is that we need to use the same technologies we have today more effectively. Another way of saying it is, is how we’ve been using online tools isn’t necessarily how we should use them going forward.

So we could ask them long-winded surveys and hope that 3% or 5% will respond, or we could ask them right then and there while we have their attention, “how’d it go?” and get 75 to 85% of people to respond. It’s a 180 degree from what we’ve done now, but it can work.

Many managers remark “the data says that we could do more online ads and it must work. So let’s just start running tests, different ad messaging on Google ads.”

Or we could use Revenue R&D, sit down with customers, spend the time to find out what it was that motivated them with particular messages, and learn how to unlock their insights gave, which might include a different sales process lastly, we can continue to operate based on.

Let’s say it’s a SaaS product, a software as a service product. We see that customers are using the product and 60% more use this feature. Therefore, we have to emphasize this feature more when, perhaps if through those conversations or by using the, the scorecard dashboard process, that the surveys provide to know that that’s actually not the issue. Our issues with onboarding and if we only taught people how to use the full variety of the product, they’d get more out of it.

For example, Microsoft Office products. Despite the fact that they add more and more features every year with every release, people only use a very small segment of these features.

So long story short, I think the companies have the opportunity to become more productive, by ending the less productive activities. The surveys that don’t add value aren’t consistent and possibly even eliminating some part of the, the technology components of their marketing stack and focusing on the things that work. Again, because the data suggests that’s what works. So hopefully that answered your question.

Let me see if there’s another one here. Okay, this one’s good.

“This looks like it’s just surveys. Haven’t we had surveys forever?”

Yes, we have certainly had surveys forever. Some surveys are really good.

The net promoter score is a great tool for those of who aren’t familiar with it. You’re rating a company, basically the question is, would you, would you recommend product or company X to a friend and you rate that from one to 10, 10 being an excellent score and then you follow up with a question. “So why’d you say that?”.

Now you can’t ask that every single day. It’s usually used once a year, twice a year, maybe quarterly, but it doesn’t really work when you have a specific case.

And not only that, a lot of companies, you know, love the net promoters score so much that they will just embrace it to no end. And you know, if they get a in 75, by the way, 75 or 80, my understanding is, is that’s sort of the, the Primo score you could ever have. And so if they’re like saying, okay, well we’re 75 to 80, we’re doing great, right? There’s, there’s, gosh, let’s all go get drinks. Not much. We need to go improve on. Great, let’s let’s see what transpires over the next six months to the next time you ask that. A lot can happen in this internet world we have very quickly, and not only are now resting on your loyals, but you have this positive confirmation bias that you’re not, trying to address and, probably have less incentive to go out and ask customers how you’re doing and how to improve. And that’s usually the time that somebody gets hit by a two by four, right?

So think about if, if they were to use the microsurveys in conjunction with Net Promoter Score, it’s going to fit the attention span of your customers because they’re used to super quick questions and then they’re not gonna stick around for, you know, a seven page 20 question survey. They’re timely. You do it right then and there. So they’re not going to  tell you, yes, it was delivered correctly, or No, my product arrived damaged. You have to get with UPS or, or package these better. It allows you to ask the right questions. You’re, you’re going to be able to target a narrow instance with a broad question allowing to tell you no, it wasn’t actually the packaging. Your product bounces around in the packaging itself and isn’t built to withstand that kind of, of effort and, and gives you an opportunity to improve.

And last but not least, you get the frequency, and to me, this is probably one of the strongest parts having run a company, needing these kind of, of data points, right? Being able to get it on an ongoing basis and be able to see the trends. In my opinion, one of the most powerful things here. Know what you’re doing well. What were those actions you took that improved it. And where could you improve and how to get an entire team aligned and, change your culture and take your culture to a place where everyone puts the customer first. Not the data, not their, their pride in the product. It’s all about doing what’s right by the customer.

Wrapping Up

So that’s the questions I have. I’d like to thank everybody for being able to turn out today. And please use the link on the screen if you have questions. I’d love to meet all of you and speak about your situation and learn how we might be able to help.

I’d like to thank everybody who joined us for their time today. If we can help you address these issues and implement what great companies are doing in the customer experience space and turning into growth, we’d love to do so.