Browsing articles from "June, 2017"

Is Amazon’s New Patent Terrible or Brilliant for Customer Loyalty?

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on Is Amazon’s New Patent Terrible or Brilliant for Customer Loyalty?

Amazon was recently awarded a patent that has caused quite a stir amongst consumers and retailers. The patent, originally applied for way back in 2012, details a method for “redirecting, or otherwise controlling customers’ attempts to comparison shop on their smartphones when using a store’s Wi-Fi network. The system would identify when a customer is trying to access a competitor’s website and take action. According to the patent description, it could block the action outright, redirect it to the retailer’s own website, or distract the customer with a coupon or a salesperson’s attention.”

This has caused much debate as Amazon just recently entered into the physical retail sector with new bookstore locations and the purchase of the Whole Foods grocery chain. There are many opinions out there ranging from those that claim Amazon is hypocritical to those that consider its recent moves outright evil.

Why so much controversy? Because, up until now, Amazon has probably been the largest beneficiary of showrooming. Many consumers visit retail stores then price compare against Amazon. Many use retailers as physical showrooms for products and then turn around and buy the merchandise on Amazon. This has forced retailers such as Best Buy to start price-matching Amazon.

The masses are asking why Amazon would want to utilize price comparison blocking software in their own stores which disallows people from the very activity Amazon itself has benefited from for years. In fact, some people are so incensed that they call Amazon evil for simply owning this patent. Is Amazon threatening to harm their brand loyalty by rolling out this technology in stores? Would consumers get irritated if they were blocked from price shopping other retailers with their smartphones while in Amazon’s stores? Most definitely.

So why does Amazon want this patent?

To answer that, we need to begin by asking the most obvious question:

Why, in 2012 when Amazon was a purely digital retailer, and showrooming wasn’t even a buzzword, would it apply for a patent that prevented in-store consumers from price shopping the competition when Amazon was the primary beneficiary of that activity? Do you think it was because they had this psychic ability to predict that they would be entering the retail space? Even their logo means they sell everything from A to Z and consumers should be happy about it. Has their grand plan always been to dominate the planet?


They applied for this patent in 2012 to PREVENT ANY OTHER BUSINESS FROM USING THIS TECHNOLOGY to block consumers from price comparison shopping Amazon while in another retailer’s physical location.

They were protecting the most lucrative activity for Amazon — conquesting sales from their physical retail competition.

By owning this technology patent, no retail store can use this technology against Amazon to prevent price comparisons – say on – without violating Amazon’s patent and opening themselves up to a lawsuit.

But they have bookstores now — what about those? First, in 2012, Amazon didn’t even know it was going to open physical bookstores. It was in fact putting those out of business. Second, the bookstores they do have only contain 100 or so of the most purchased books on Amazon, which they maintain at the lowest price on the market. In addition, the bookstores are used more as a showcase for their ancillary products such as the Amazon Fire tablet and Alexa, similar to Microsoft’s retail stores.

When you’re faced with a complicated puzzle, typically the simplest answer is the correct one. In this case, in 2012, technology was getting to the point where competing retailers would soon be able to block price comparisons on Amazon for shoppers in their stores. Amazon was WAY ahead of the game and beat them to the punch.

Evil or Brilliant? It’s all a matter of perspective but, in the end, Amazon wins and, hopefully, consumers do as well.


The End May Matter More Than The Beginning 

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on The End May Matter More Than The Beginning 

The business world – and the automotive industry – has started to see just how important customer experience is to loyalty and retention. New and improved technologies are regularly released that help streamline the buying process and further enhance the customer experience. 


However, a customer can have an incredible experience in the beginning – perhaps it starts online then transitions to the store – the customer starts incredibly happy with the service, deal and everything else, but then one piece of that experience goes bad and it sabotages their whole perception.  

Take, for example, this story relayed by Forbes from a writer who wrote about how she had a great experience buying – until she met with the finance manager. According to the writer, even after politely declining F&I products, the manager continued to be pushy and aggressive to the point where she almost wanted to leave and never come back.  


The article points out that, according to Forrester’s CX Index, automotive customers who have had a positive emotional experience are seven times more likely to recommend the dealership. In fact, 91 percent who had a positive experience are likely to recommend the dealership, whereas only 13 percent of those who had negative experiences would. This impact extends into service as well with 85 percent of those having positive experiences recommending the dealership for service.  


The author’s point is that for many consumers how a transaction ends dictates the entire purchase experience. Everything can go smoothly throughout most of the process, but ending on a negative note can cause the customer to perceive the entire experience as negative.  


I’m pretty sure that many sales managers and salespeople have had, at one point or another in their careers, a customer blow out of finance and watched that “sale” drive away.  


Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not in any way blaming finance managers for negative experiences. The negative experience can happen anywhere in the buying process — not just in the finance office. The point is that any mishap or friction along the way can define the experience for the customer. Ensure that all of the processes involved in selling a customer a vehicle focus on what experience the customer will have. By so doing, you can increase customer satisfaction simply by ensuring that customers leave your store completely satisfied with all aspects of the process – not just some of them.  


We’ve all heard the saying that the happiest customers are typically the ones that the dealership made money on – and these are also the ones most likely to send their family and friends to buy from the dealership. If all it takes to create brand advocates, increase gross and referrals, is to ensure a positive customer experience, every dealership should be scrambling to ensure that the experience they offer is a great one! Focusing solely on moving metal can lead to volumebut may hurt loyalty and retention. Focus on the customer and everything else will take care of itself.  


What’s Your Company’s Fidget Spinner?

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on What’s Your Company’s Fidget Spinner?

The most popular “thing” on the market right now are fidget spinners. In case you don’t know what fidget spinners are, they are little spinning toys that you hold between two fingers and… well… spin. Sounds like something similar to playing with a cardboard box, right? And some people think that’s about right. However, many people claim these “toys” have benefits above and beyond simply being a distraction. Some say they help children with ADHD by giving them something to do with their hands. Some say they reduce anxiety and are beneficial for relaxation. Regardless of whether you believe any of these things or not, fidget spinners are, for the moment, the pet rock of our time.  


Fidget spinners could be looked upon as the type of success every company should strive for. Why do I say that? Because fidget spinners are popular with everyone – kids and adults alike.  


All businesses, at some time, endeavor to get their employees to latch onto some important company idea and… well… love it. If employees buy in to your company’s mission statement, culture and ideals, your business should perform much better. But do you know what your company’s fidget spinner should really be? 


Your customers! 


If all your employees were crazy about servicing your customers and wanted to interact with them because they enjoyed it, your customers would return the sentiment! You see, we are all people persons at heart. Stick a person in a room alone for months and many go crazy from lack of human interaction. Humans are social beings and need that interaction to survive.  


But how do you get your employees to embrace and enjoy your customers just as much as society has embraced fidget spinners? 


That’s actually fairly simple. Just as your customers enjoy positive interaction, so do your employees. Positivity quickly spreads. When your employees treat your customers as welcome guests and humans, rather than just numbers or nuisances, your customers will also start treating your employees in the same manner. This will create a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits both customer experience and employee engagement.  


“How do I start?” You may ask. I can’t exactly tell my employees to treat my customers like fidget spinners?” 


Baby steps. Take the popular fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A as an example. One of the non-negotiable actions that an associate must follow is this: If a customer says, “Thank you,” the associate MUST say “My pleasure.” It may seem like a simple thing and, while a small gesture, it at the very least encourages civility. Associates who don’t follow this simple mandate cannot work for Chick-Fil-A.  


You’d be surprised how much patrons appreciate this small gesture. It also reinforces the value customers have to employees and creates an environment that’s customer-centric. Perhaps “My pleasure” could even be called Chick-Fil-A’s fidget spinner.  


Your fidget spinner doesn’t have to be some huge customer experience protocol. It could be as simple as “My pleasure.” Having something similar in your dealership can dramatically improve customer experience, employee engagement and company culture. And that’s a fidget spinner that every business should want.


Make Sure Your Customers Complain

By Mike Gorun  //  Uncategorized  //  Comments Off on Make Sure Your Customers Complain

An interesting title for a blog, I know. But an article on CustomerThink got me thinking, as it warns businesses they should be concerned if customers are NOT complaining.


The reasoning behind this is that if customers aren’t complaining, businesses assume everyone is happy when, in fact, that’s usually not the case. The theory the author posits is that customers could have simply given up on the business and may already be in the process of finding an alternative solution. In addition, not receiving complaints stifles a business’s ability to improve its operations and customer’s needs.


In the automotive industry, many dealerships rely on manufacturer survey results as the prime indicator as to how their dealership is performing in the area of customer experience. But all too often the survey results are misleading and not every customer completes the survey. Those who do tend to either rate the experience as perfect, or horrible. And, while manufacturers frown upon – and often prohibit – dealerships from “coaching” customers about the survey, that is frequently exactly what happens.


As bonuses and paychecks tend to be tied to these survey results, it becomes too important for salespeople not to discuss the survey with the customer in some way. There are dealerships who go as far as actually putting a filled out perfect survey on every salesperson’s desk, or in the finance offices, which the customers can see while waiting. Even if the salesperson doesn’t directly talk about the survey, the customers are influenced by what they see and so understand how the dealership would like them to respond when they receive the survey. If the experience was mostly positive for the consumer, many times they’ll acquiesce and reward the dealership with that perfect survey, even if the experience was in fact less than perfect and things need correcting.


The flip side of the coin is the upset customer. Those customers fill out the survey sometimes as an act of revenge. Of course, there are also times when customers are simply being honest and truly want to share their negative experience with the dealership, hoping that someone will care and the dealership will change.


With CSI surveys filled out this way, dealerships that rely on these manufacturer survey results to judge if they are doing a good job are seeing a picture that is far from accurate. As a result, mistakes, that could easily be rectified, are not being addressed as many customers choose to remain silent and give a perfect score.


Most dealers are looking at extremes – perfection (that may or may not have been perfect) and customer dissatisfaction. The truth is that most experiences don’t fall into these extreme categories, but rather someplace in the middle. Customer satisfaction isn’t black and white… it’s mostly gray. Without accurate feedback, dealerships will never be able to improve their experience. By not evolving or fixing problems, customers simply go away and the dealer never knows why.


If you want an accurate picture of how you are doing consider starting your own in-house feedback program through surveys sent from your dealership. These surveys can be of varying lengths – from a few simple questions to more intricate ones. They can be easily distributed via e-mail using transactional data in your CRM.


You can determine the ideal length by completion percentages – if the percentage is low, decrease the number of questions, or consider incentivizing completion through a drawing for services or a gift card.


The bottom line is that dealerships need to receive regular and honest customer feedback on their operations and customer experience across all touchpoints, in all departments. This feedback can provide you with an accurate picture of how your customers felt about their experience and give actionable data to make any needed changes.


These surveys can also provide information on employee performance when it comes to customer interactions, allowing you to identify employees who are engaged and customer-centric, along with those that are underperforming in areas.


In the end, customer feedback is essential to your dealership’s growth and survival. As the article states, “…when everything is going fine, something is not right.” Don’t get lulled into complacency with the illusion that everything is fine by relying solely on manufacturer surveys. If you do, you may well discover that everything isn’t fine – and by then, it may be too late.

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