There is a value to truth; there is value in being honest and upfront with your customers about your product's shortcomings and weaknesses, as well as its strengths. The more forthcoming you are, the more your customers will trust you. The more they trust you, the more likely they'll be to buy your product, right?
(Our mothers were right when they said, "Honesty is the best policy." But unfortunately, not all corporations are managed by our mothers.)
How much truth is enough truth?
Let's look at how two different companies responded to a similar situation where truth and honesty were on the line...
In 1994, Intel testers discovered a division error in their Pentium processor. Intel managers decided that the error will not affect many people and subsequently decided not inform anyone outside the company. This decision ended up costing Intel millions in recalls, and even more in public trust.
When Salesforce.com suffered an outage early on during its existence, it took the take-charge decision to publicly post its up-time statistics on a web site. That transparency has helped to build the public's trust in the company, and the company went on to reach the 1 Billion Dollar mark faster than any other.
Where Intel attempted to minimize its issue, Salesforce used its issue as an opportunity to maximize trust and credibility. Where Intel tried to withhold the truth and paid dearly, Salesforce advanced it, and has profited mightily.
So, how truthful should your company be? As truthful as it can be. And that's the truth.
It's been no secret that McDonald's has had its shared of problems over the past few years. They've been losing customers to competitors, they've closed stores, and revenue has taken a hit. But lately, they've been recovering. And the recovery has resulted in no small part from their customer-focused approach to improving their products.
Let's look at one example: The iconic Egg McMuffin.
Here's why that's a big deal: butter costs nearly twice as much as margarine. When companies are facing financial challenges, they often respond by cutting costs where ever possible. But McDonald's has taken a different approach. Instead of implementing across-the-board cost-cutting initiatives, McDonald's has looked to make changes that would appeal to the customer, and as a result, drive top-line revenue. So far, it's working. According to the Fortune article, McDonald's has seen its first quarterly sales increase in two years.
Here's the point:
When business is down, resist the urge to make across-the-board cost cuts. Instead, look for ways to delight the customer, even if it means increasing costs to improve the customer experience.
Sure, McDonald's has made some cost-cutting moves over the past few years, but not in places that would impact the customer experience.
You might say that customer-focused changes can improve a business "like butter."
The owner of the Thai restaurant stopped by our table the other night, and said, "How is everything?"
Without giving it a thought, I said, "Fine, thanks."
The answer suited the question. Simple, bland questions beget simple, bland answers. Neither of us gained anything from that conversation.
The owner could have said any of the following:
The "I care about you" question:
"I'm really trying to give my customers a better experience, so is there anything in particular that you'd like to see us do differently to make it better?"
The "What are we doing right" question:
"Have you dined here before? What in particular caused you to come back?"
The "What do we need to fix" question:
"I don't mean to be too intrusive, but I'm really trying to improve things for our customers. If you would have me change one thing about the restaurant to make your experience better, what might that be?"
Most customers are not prepared to give feedback, so you need to make it easier for them to give it, by building some "instructions" into your question.
Asking good customer feedback questions accomplishes two powerful things:
1. It helps you find out what you need to do to increase customer loyalty.
2. It shows customers that you genuinely care.
Don't ask bland questions; word your questions like you really care. Because really, you should.
I chew a lot of gum, and it's usually while I'm doing something else; something more complex than walking. It might be driving in a car in 70-mile-an-hour rush hour traffic, riding a bicycle, or anything else that requires two hands.
That's why I like gum that's easy to open, and doesn't leave me looking for a trash can.
Taking a single piece of gum out of the pack shouldn't require much manual dexterity. And it shouldn't produce another piece of trash either. Both of those steps - getting to the gum and finding a place to chuck the wrapper - are steps in the customer journey that just get in the way of enjoying the gum. They're not major, but they don't add value, either.
Dentyne Ice is packaged in a stiff cardboard container that's open at one end just enough to expose the end of two plastic sheets of bubble-wrapped gum. You can pull out a sheet, and push a piece of gum through the plastic, into your mouth. Then you just slide the plastic back into the cardboard container, and you're done.
Here's the point: Customers buy a product to experience the benefits of the product. Every additional step along the customer journey (like removing and discarding the wrapper) removes some pleasure from the experience.
Look at each step in your customer journey, and identify those that do not add value.
Chew on this:
What change can you make to your product, or the processes around your product, to remove the the most pain points from the customer experience?