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Personalization is a huge aspirational goal for loyalty marketers and represents something that, if executed properly and seamlessly, can drive brand loyalty.
Stephanie Linville, director, market intelligence, quality & training, Wheaton World Wide Moving | Bekins Van Lines, believes that personalization needs to be carefully planned to produce ongoing positive results. Loyalty360 caught up with Linville to talk about personalization and customer loyalty.
What is involved with the challenge of personalization?
Linville: There is a lot of buzz lately about companies providing a personalized experience. To be effective in this, Wheaton | Bekins understands that personalization needs to be planned and coordinated. Random acts of just inserting someone’s first name into a piece of content or an email won’t cut it. To deliver a personalized customer experience, we have to know our customers’ needs and expectations from the beginning of the moving experience.
We have a diverse customer population and our research across our multiple customer segments reveals significant differences in perceptions of our performance, due to the different needs and expectations of our various customer groups. Wheaton | Bekins recently created five customer personas based on research insights as well as customer demographic and behavioral data. These personas are designed to help agency staff, drivers, and corporate employees better understand our customers and the issues that are important to them during their moves.
A one-size-fits-all mentality in our approach to the moving experience and in our communication does not work across these different customer segments. We have to be able to see things from the customers’ perspective and offer a clear path to solving the customers’ unique problem. Doing so allows the customer to see Wheaton | Bekins as a strategic partner (not a transactional service provider) whether that “customer” is a Realtor, the key contact from a national account or an individual consumer. This is the key to driving true customer loyalty.
How does employee Engagement / Loyalty fit into the customer loyalty discussion?
Linville: At Wheaton | Bekins, we know how intrinsically linked employee engagement is to providing an excellent customer experience. Moreover, better training equates to happier employees, improved culture, and an overall positive impact on the bottom line. In fact, this mindset is why my position was expanded in 2015 from a traditional market research and CX role to one that directs training and quality initiatives as well.
I use insights gathered from our VOC research to design the strategies for new training programs for our agents, salespeople, and customer service employees. We’re making these training programs more interactive for the participants by introducing more role-playing exercises that bring our customers’ stories to life and increasing the amount of follow-up and monitoring of results so that we can effectively drive positive change throughout the Wheaton | Bekins network.
What are the biggest benefits you receive and challenges you face with surveying and/or listening to customers?
Linville: There’s a great quote from Zig Ziglar: “You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business.” And that is so true. Businesses today have to find creative ways to engage and nurture their employees for the business to grow and succeed. Employees who feel their good work is recognized and appreciated are much more engaged and perform all that much better as a result and deliver a superior customer experience.
The biggest benefit to gathering customer feedback is not only knowing what went well with a customer’s move so we can repeat that process but to also recognize those individuals involved and to celebrate those who went above and beyond to deliver an excellent customer experience.
In late 2016, Wheaton | Bekins launched a new recognition program called The X Factor, designed to acknowledge those who go above and beyond what is expected of them. We often hear about these remarkable actions from our customers in response to our customer survey, and this feedback now fuels our efforts to recognize these hard-working people who are the heroes of our business.
But we didn’t want to simply limit this recognition program to those who interact with our external customers. All agents, drivers, and corporate employees are encouraged to provide positive feedback about each other and the valuable contributions made to our business on a daily basis. We created a simple to use, online form for nominating individuals for The X Factor award. This program was an immediate success and has resulted in multi-directional recognition being given to all types of Wheaton | Bekins stakeholders for their heroic efforts in making an extra effort to deliver an excellent customer experience.
How do you measure customer experience and customer loyalty? How are you using new media and social media differently today than a year ago, and how do you see it changing over the next year?
Linville: Wheaton | Bekins primarily uses NPS to track and measure the customer experience. We also have internal metrics related to on-time delivery and claims data that we track on an on-going basis. In addition, we track the number of customer referrals online reviews received. Over the past year, Wheaton | Bekins has strategically focused our resources on managing our online reputation and utilizing new technology and implementing new processes to solicit online reviews from our most loyal customers at the conclusion of our VOC survey. This initiative has resulted in a significant increase in ratings on major consumer review sites. We plan to monitor the success of this program throughout 2017 and hope to expand it by encouraging customer reviews across a more diverse set of consumer sites that are key influencers in various strategic markets.
Is there an area that you wish you had more insight or information on? If you had a crystal ball, what is one question would you ask a competitor, a technology provider, or customer(s)? If you could do one thing (feasible or not) to help drive better customer experiences or deeper brand loyalty, what would that be?
Linville: Some of the first questions that come to mind for our customers are, of course: “How can we improve upon the moving experience?” and “What can we do for you that would make this event less stressful?”
But the larger issue relates to, “How can we better set your expectations?” (particularly as it relates to valuation). Customers often don’t know a lot about interstate moving, so there is a lot of information to provide them in order to make informed decisions. In addition, Wheaton | Bekins would love to have the magic bullet for finding a way to get customers to think about choosing a mover closer to the time they are putting their house on the market.
Often this purchase decision is made after the house has been sold and the closing date is near, so there is additional time pressure put on the customer and the decision becomes one based on price and not value because there is little money left for moving expenses. Having these conversations with the customer earlier in the purchase cycle will enable Wheaton | Bekins to deliver the value proposition that differentiates our brands from our competition.
Additionally, I would also love to know from an important stakeholder group – Realtors – “What can Wheaton | Bekins do to better partner with you and make the overall moving experience a positive one for our mutual customers?” Beyond that, I think I would ask Realtors: “What do you see happening in the real estate and relocation market in the next few years?” Having the answer to this question would allow us time to adapt our process now to meet those future needs and take advantage of those opportunities before our competition does.
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