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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

In-Person Surveys Can Help Improve Customer Relationships

Last week, FEI marketing whiz Marka taught savvy salesperson Zoot about the value of customer surveys. This week, Marka explains to Zoot and Org how in-person surveys can help businesses uncover useful information and strengthen customer relationships. Remember, fire = print.

Org found Marka and Zoot in the conference room. “Question for you two,” he said. “Last year our top 20 clients made up almost 70 percent of our business. How do we know how satisfied these customers are? What are we doing to keep them satisfied?”

“They must be pretty satisfied,” Zoot said. “They aren’t complaining.”

Marka rolled her eyes. “Zoot, are you really that naïve? Most of our customers are too nice to complain about anything until it becomes a major issue—and by that point, they might be half a step from leaving us. Org’s right. We need to ask our clients what they like about working with FEI, and what they would like to see improved. Then, we must take action based on what we learn.”

“That is definitely a good idea,” Zoot said. “But many of our top customers are scattered across the Olympian countryside. It’ll take weeks or months to visit them all. We could distribute a survey via O-mail, but…”

Marka snapped her fingers. “Got a better idea. Fire Expo 4567 BC, the fire industry’s premier conference, is coming up. Most of our best customers will be gathered there. Let’s survey them at our booth.”

“I’ll call up our top 25 customers,” Zoot said, “and ask if they’re willing to spend 15 minutes at Fire Expo to help us improve their customer experience. How could they say no?”

“It’s a plan!” Org agreed, clapping his hands together in excitement. “Zoot: get on the O-phone. Marka and I will work out the questions.”

Marka’s survey plan was a success—22 of FEI’s top 25 customers met with Zoot at Fire Expo to take the survey. Zoot recorded everyone’s responses, with their permission, of course, so the FEI tribe could review the answers later.

The day after the FEI tribe returned from Fire Expo, Marka pored through the recordings and analyzed the responses. She condensed what she found into this file:

  • Friendly people.
  • Very reliable and trustworthy company.
  • Well-made products.
  • Excellent customer service.
  • Zoot is a joy to work with

  • Price point could be lower on several products, notably the RT1 and RT4 torches.
  • TS4 line of matches have quality issues (e.g. stick breaking off match heads, not enough friction on matchbox to light matches, etc.).
  • Runners and delivery people are sometimes rude

“What a surprise, our customers are complaining about price!” Numo said when he saw the first criticism. “Discounting is a slippery slope. We’re keeping prices right where they are.”

“What we could do is find a way to reward our most loyal customers with rebates, cash back or some other incentive,” Marka suggested.

From the seeds of that discussion grew FEI’s first Customer Loyalty Program, which improved sales among top customers by 12 percent the next year.

Based on the second criticism, FEI upgraded the materials it used to make the TS matches. The new, improved product sold 45 percent more in the first year than the old one. To combat the last criticism, Org led a day-long customer service seminar for his runners and delivery people. Within days, he noticed a change in their demeanor.

“Amazing,” Org said to Marka over a hot grog chocolate one day. “All this valuable, actionable information was right in front of us, but we never would’ve known about it if we hadn’t asked.”

“And don’t forget that customers appreciate being proactive,” Marka added. “Nobody likes having to complain, but everybody likes a company committed to discovering complaints and taking appropriate action.”

“Hear, hear,” Org said, raising his grog chocolate.

Today’s FIRE! Point
Is there a trade show or industry event coming up that many of your customers attend? Consider using this as an opportunity to survey existing customers about what you could be doing better. The answers they provide may give you actionable information that you can use to improve your business.

FIRE! in Action: The Startup Expert Uses Intelligent Customer Surveys to Grow Revenue
Tommi Wolfe, president of an entrepreneur coaching business, asked clients and prospects to take an email survey in exchange for a free copy of one of her e-programs. The feedback allowed Wolfe to grow her company’s revenue by 600 percent in a short time.

Next week: Marka discusses developing intelligent questions for customer surveys.

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