What’s hate got to do with? Everything if you want to stay in business (review of Nicholas Webb’s What Customers Hate)

What’s not to love about your business?

If you don’t already know, you’re in for a shock. And you’re flirting with disaster.

 “Haters hold the secret to your success – or lack thereof,” says Nicholas Webb, a customer service expert and author of What Customers Hate. “Being loved by your customers should be your goal, and every business must be focused on providing value and a superior customer experience. But the recognition of the flip side of the coin—the fact that consumers hate many businesses—should alert you to the very important fact that reducing what your customers hate is just as important as increasing what they love.”

Here’s why you need to reduce the hate. Most of your customers stick with you not because they love you the most but because they hate you the least. Of the millions of people who shop at Amazon and Walmart, could you fill a minivan with all the customers who are truly, deeply and madly in love with either retailer?

For your customers, you’re currently their best possible option. You’re in serious trouble if a competitor shows up promising fewer headaches and hassles.

This is why you need to ask your customers straight up what they hate about you.

If you don’t ask, they’ll tell you indirectly through one-star reviews posted online for the whole world to see. It won’t matter if you have dozens of glowing reviews from happy and satisfied customers. Everyone reads one-star reviews to find out what’s the worst thing that could happen by doing business with you.

 “When compared to customers who love you, haters are far more likely to share with friends and social media the fact that they hate you,” says Webb. “A few bad reviews can knock you out of the competitive arena, costing your organization dearly.”

Think of the hater’s feedback as a gift, even if it hurts. Dissatisfied and disappointed customers will tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong and, as an added bonus, tell you how to make it right. “Haters are inventors who offer up specific suggestions regarding what companies can do to stop the hate.”

Best of all, you can win haters over by talking with them and taking action. “Haters who are converted to lovers are some of the best promoters for an organization or brand,” says Webb.

Webb’s created a Net Customer Experience tool along with a RealRating survey. It’s a way to track and tally what customers both love and hate from the start to finish of their customer journey with you.

That journey usually begins with a website that too often gives prospective customers a reason to hate you right from the start. “The overwhelming majority of organizations essentially suspend a brochure on the internet that they call a website,” says Webb. “Your website should be structured in such a way that it is delivering real and meaningful value to your site visitor. If you look at websites that deliver the best experiences for their customers, they are dispensing free e-books, white papers, value-based videos and free offers that are of conspicuous value.”

So don’t use your website to humble brag. Make it all about your customers. Show them some love. And make it quick and easy for them to get what they need.

Webb has practical advice for taking the hate out of the rest of your customers’ journey. He even identifies the first step every business or organization should take starting today.

“The most important action you can take right now is to repeat this mantra out loud,” says Webb. “Our customers judge our company, brand or service not only on what they love about it but what they hate about it. We pledge to recognize this reality, and henceforth strive to both increase what they love and identify and decrease what they hate. This is the future of our organization.”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

8 ways to win over customers and make mom proud (review of Jeanne Bliss’ Whould You Do That To Your Mother?)

momThis review first ran in the May 26 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Would You Do That To Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard For How To Treat Your Customers

Jeanne Bliss

Portfolio / Penguin

$36

The manager of the Hollister store at Limeridge Mall in Hamilton won over this grateful dad and would make her mom proud.

I was there to replace my daughter’s new t-shirt. The colours on the red, white and blue shirt ran the first time through the wash.

I brought the accidentally tie-dyed shirt back to the store to make sure I bought the right replacement.

When I got to the register with debit card in hand, the manager didn’t get a lecture on how to wash clothes. She apologized that the quality of the shirt didn’t live up to my expectations or Hollister’s standards. She then exchanged the shirt at no charge. No receipt? No problem.

It was what Jeanne Bliss would call a make mom proud moment. Called the godmother of customer experience, Bliss has led the customer experience at Land’s End, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, Microsoft and Mazda and is the cofounder of the Customer Experience Professionals’ Association.

“We need to take how we are treating customers personally,” Bliss writes in her book Would You Do That To Your Mother. “Thinking of our moms at the end of our decisions helps to get us there. That’s why I suggest you imagine her in moments when you’re making decisions or taking personal actions. The image of her, of what she’s meant to you and what you’ve learned from her, can be a powerful and instant reality check. It can make us pause.”

So picture your mom as a customer, client, student or patient where you work. Here are eight ways you can make her proud and win over the people who keep you in business.

Honour your customers’ time and their clock. “Would you give your mom a four-hour window in which you might show up for a visit?” Don’t expect your customers’ lives to revolve around your schedule. At Amazon Prime, the entire customer experience is built around answering two questions. Do you have what I want? And can you get it to me when I need it? Shorten your service windows and move faster.

Take the monkey off your customer’s back. “Would you make your mom do work to get good service, which you could have easily done for her?” Don’t force customers to take on extra work themselves to resolve an issue. You should be doing the heavy lifting.

Don’t leave customers in the dark. Proactively communicate for peace of mind. When something doesn’t go according to plan, give customers the heads up before they start calling and going on social media. And then keep them updated until the problem’s fixed.

Allow for graceful departures and leave the door open for future returns. “Would you charge your mom a penalty for cancelling her subscription with you? Or would you take the opportunity to learn why she’s leaving and thank her for her business.” Keep your customers with outstanding service and value rather than contract terms and “gotcha” clauses buried in the fine print.

Make it easy to get help. “Would you put your mom through your phone tree before solving her problem?” Make it quick and effortless to get your attention and assistance. Your ready availability will reflect how much you really care about your customers.

Stop the customer hot potato. Quit bouncing customers around to different people and departments. Adopt a one-company mindset so that whoever deals with your customer can resolve the issue.

Fix the paperwork rigmarole. Communicate in plain and simple language. Say more with fewer, less complex words. “Write your communications like you’d write a letter to your mother.” Reduce the redundancy, number, duplication and complexity of forms. Deliver understanding instead of jargon and piles of paper.

And finally, spare your customers from having to repeat themselves, provide the same information and answer the same questions over and over again. “Would you make your mom keep reintroducing herself to you?” Show that you know and care about your customers by delivering relevant, personalized experiences.

Do these eight things for your customers and there’s a good chance you’ll turn one-off transactions into long-term relationships.

“To put this in the simplest terms, do you deliver pain or pleasure? Do you make it easy and a joy for your customers to do business with you?”

Through 32 case studies, Bliss shows how companies are treating customers with the same care, attention and respect they’d give to their own mothers or for a dad who’s pulled a ruined shirt out of the wash and needs to make things right with his daughter.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.