“How likely are you to recommend our products/services?” – asking customers to rate the likelihood that they will recommend you, on a scale from one to ten, has become the standard way to determine customer experience and loyalty or Net Promoter Score (NPS). However, if you take a step back and look at this question again, you may detect a slight flaw.
Logically, there is nothing stopping customers from giving your competitors the same score.
I’ve recently read a blog by customer experience expert Steven Walden on this very topic. As he puts it: “Your firm does not sit in isolation; it is always set in market context……One way to deal with this is to simply ask a question of preference; to what extent do you prefer company x over the competition?” This, he suggests, could create an Emotional Preference Score (EPS), which measures how likely your customer would be to choose you over your competitor.
Emotional preference is more complex than measuring customer service. The reasons why we are loyal to a particular brand are difficult to define and appear to transcend other decision-making factors. But let’s look at this more closely.
Emotional preference always seems particularly strong when it comes to cars. We all know people who always insist on a Volkswagen, for example, or a Volvo. My emotional preference is for an Alfa Romeo and, I admit, it’s down to preference to the brand rather than superiority for the product or even from the customer service I receive from the local garage.
But that’s not to say that the service isn’t good. It’s as attentive and thorough as I’d expect – but so was the service given when I drove a Volkswagen. These days every business wants to build value through excellent customer service and so it ceases to differentiate them from the competition.
Brands are often thought of as marketing territory, rather than sales. However, brand loyalty is certainly a factor that sales people need to take into account, even in complex B2B sales. Often in a business sale there’s conflict with a C-level decision maker who has a strong emotional preference for a particular brand, whereas the end-user knows the market has moved on and would prefer a different product. Or the user may have a high emotional preference for a brand they have always been successful with, but the procurement team want to decide on price. The answer is different selling strategies for each.
This harps back to the whole issue of customer service. When I wrote on this topic previously, a reader sent me a link to an interview with Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School. Frei talks about the “exhausted mediocracy” that occurs when organisations try to be everything to all their customers.
She gives the example of Apple computers, renowned for their aesthetic, streamlined appeal. Yet, the “laws of physics” as she puts it, dictate that designers have had to sacrifice other factors such as memory space.
These same “laws” apply to customer service. It’s unlikely that any business has the resources to “go the extra mile” for every customer. But by carefully investigating and analysing what your core customers really desire you can make well-informed decisions as to what you are going to excel at and what you are going to let go.
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