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Customers Have Been Talking, and Companies Are Finally Listening

Via LinkedIn : When I think about the state of my industry — customer experience and loyalty— I can only smile.

Sure, not a week goes by without some bizarre story of a poorly handled service call that leaves a customer irate or in tears, but overall, companies are getting better at listening to their customers. Perhaps the rise of crowdsourcing or social media or the wider use of simple customer service metrics is behind this delightful trend. Companies across all industries are seeing the benefits of loyalty and trying harder than ever to foster a dialogue with customers. And best of all, companies are listening.

A recent example from my colleague Rob Markey’s Net Promoter System Podcast stands out in my mind. It comes from the online razor company Harry’s.

This company is taking on the razor giants by selling razors and grooming products through online subscriptions. Customers simply indicate how often they shave, and Harry’s sends them the supplies they need at a reasonable price.

Harry’s keeps a tight watch on the quality and cost of the razors its German factory produces, but one of the best product improvement suggestions came from a customer. This customer, an engineer, wasn’t satisfied with the locking sound the blade cartridge made when it attached to the handle, so he went in his garage and improved the design so that it gives a more reassuring click to let you know it’s secure. He sent the company pictures and drawings of his new work, and the company’s founders were thrilled.

“Needless to say, he has free blades for life,” Harry’s co-founder Andy Katz-Mayfield said on the podcast.

Airbnb offers another great example of a company using customer feedback to drive ever-better customer experiences. This online juggernaut gathers Net Promoter feedback for all of its hosts so that hosts know when they deliver a great experience and how it could be even better. Airbnb brings hosts together at local events so that they can share best practices and creative solutions and achieve even better results for future customers.

Uber, the company revolutionizing the car service industry, requests that customers rate their last driver before booking another car. The feedback function is built into the app, making it easy for customers to share their thoughts. This real-time feedback lets customers know which drivers they should use and lets drivers test out different service strategies (with quick feedback to guide their innovation experiments).

The evidence of progress in customer experience is all around us. Everybody I know has a few companies with which they really love doing business. One of my friends won’t buy shoes anywhere except Zappos. Another always stays at a particular hotel in San Francisco. Several will go out of their way to fly on JetBlue. Nearly all these folks will talk up their favorite company whenever a conversation turns in that direction. In Net Promoter parlance, these customers are promoters.

Promoters bring countless benefits to a firm. Not only do they generate a lot of repeat business but their order sizes are larger than average and they tend to increase their spending over time. Not only do they provide word-of-mouth referrals — the best form of advertising — but they also tend to offer helpful suggestions about how to improve a product or service. Promoters are typically less price-sensitive than other customers. They cost less to serve because their buying patterns are more predictable and they lodge fewer complaints. Employees enjoy doing business with promoters, which fosters engagement and raises morale.

How does a company create more promoters? It starts with listening to customers, understanding them and taking action that improves the customer experience. It’s as simple as that. More businesses are doing that, and both the companies and consumers are better off for it.

Think of a company with which you love doing business. What makes that company so great? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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