Are there bad customers?

It might sound harsh and bad for any business. But, I think there are bad customers out there. By ‘bad’, I mean the customers that talk or spread information about your business in a negative way. You can call them a ‘detractor’ from an NPS (Net Promoter Score) perspective. Some of them are worse than being a detractor.

I experience this situation myself. There are a few bad customers. No matter what we do, they are never happy or satisfied. They always find something to criticise the company, the product. They spread bad words on social. Their goal is to ensure that other customers get their messages and their opinions.

My way of dealing with them is not ideal. I first tried to assist and provide the best service I could to them, with the hope that I can change their mind. In doing so for a year and they are still the same, I gave up. Now, I only monitor them. I had to remove 3 of them from our social groups.

My thinking process is there are about 99.9% of our customers that we need to look after. We should not spend 90% of our time dealing with those 5 or 6 bad customers. You wouldn’t be able to change their minds no matter what you do. If possible, just let them go.


SEO is overrated

Don’t get me wrong. I believe SEO is important. I google almost everything that I don’t know or want more information. The point I want to make here is that we should write or create content for the benefits of customers. In other words, we create content with customers, not bots, in mind.

If you want to read about what need to be done, SEO wise, you can read this article. There is nothing new there but the first point is clear – good content is still king. I used to read a blog post which was written for an SEO purpose. It was weird because it followed all SEO recommendations to target the bots.

Write for your audience. Offer solutions to your customer’s problems. It may take a little bit longer for someone to notice. But it’s worth it. That’s my SEO recommendations for 2020.


Creating your own ecosystem

Do you have your own audience? If you don’t, you will have hard time as I do. We often want to drive short and long term performance, we normally do this through campaigns or promotions. When we have offers, the next thing we need is who to send the offers to. In my case, we have to pay for other companies’ audience. It’s expensive and is not effective. That’s why we start to create our own audience or ecosystem.

We use Hubspot as a CRM system. We invite customers to join our environment with content. We nurture them with content. And, from time to time, we offer them promotions. We still have a long way to go. Maintaining meaningful and engaging ecosystem is not easy. It requires a lot of things to be right e.g. content, segmentation, etc.

If you are interested to create your own audience, you can start with a Facebook group. It’s free and easy to setup. Please understand though, there are a zillion Facebook groups out there. You must ensure that your group add value to group members.

Having your own ecosystem is rewarding. But, it requires a different thinking. I encourage you to to do it.


Top of the funnel

Seth Godin raised a very good point in his blog today. If you have interesting and valuable content or solutions at the top of the funnel, you don’t have to worry too much about conversion at the end of the funnel. Your content will keep people coming to you, some will be converted. Because of the volume at the top of the funnel, it will take care the conversion by itself. This is the situation that you and I want to be. But, let face it, it’s not easy.

Why is offering valuable content or solutions so difficult? The main reason is that many of us is driven by short term gains. In my case, we are measured on daily and weekly KPIs. Building good reasons or relationships with customers are not in our marketing book. Whether we like it or not, the company has lasted for more than 10 years.

The bad news is the world has changed and it’s hard to know when we will become irrelevant.


The 4 functions in a company

I got an email that made me think about the main functions in my company. More specifically, I am questioning about the role of the customer experience function. Is it the same as the marketing function? If it is not, what does this function do? In my mind, there are 4 main functions in a company.

The marketing function: what marketing (should do) does for a company is to give a ‘reason’ for people and/or customers to consider the company’s product as a solution to their problem. In other words, the marketing function creates demand for the company’s product.

The sales function: the job of the sales people should only be fulfilling the demand created by the marketing function. The scope of the sales team should only be limited to fulfill the demand. This function should not create demand by itself.

The customer experience function: once the marketing function get the demand, the customer experience (CX) team will ensure that the journey from there are seamless and memorable. It means their job will crossover from the marketing function to the sales function and to all the service functions.

The supporting functions: these functions are everything else such as all the service functions, Human Resources, IT, Finance, etc. They are the back office functions. They are important as they ensure that the engine is running smoothly.

The CX function is relative new. It has been seriously talked about in the past 5 or 6 years. In my mind, this function should be a part of marketing. Is it a necessary function? I believe it’s a nice to have function. I believe having a customer centric culture is more important than having the CX function. And, as everyone knows, creating and sustaining a culture must start from the top.


Old vs new economies

I am in Thailand visiting family at the moment. There is a common trend here in the news and social media that the Thai economy is going downward. Some people complain it’s hard to make money and the economy in general is very bad. Is it true?

I cannot say I know the answer of this economic question. Instead of answering it, I ask myself another question. Is the economy bad or does consumer behavior change? I have one silly example. I like to read Japanese cartoon books. I had to go to the cartoon book shops every time I came back to Bangkok. What different this year is I don’t. I now buy cartoon books from a book shop app. It is convenient and I don’t have to carry 10+ cartoon books. I just carry an iPad (with 10+ books in it). I was told later that those book shops were closed.

I still buy those cartoon books i.e. I still spend money. I just don’t buy them in a printed format anymore. Does it mean the economy is bad? Not necessarily. But, one thing for sure is my consuming behavior has changed. If you cannot adapt to the new wave of the changes, you will struggle to earn revenue in the same way.

You cannot blame anyone else but yourself. We are in a different world now.


When I go back to work on 2 Jan

Next year will be a very interesting year for me and for my company. We all know that things will get harder considering that we are a sales-driven and an outbound-based company. It means we care about what we need more than what customers need. That’s why it’s going to be very, very hard.

I have a long list of what need to be done. My mission is still the same. I want to make a difference even though I am just a middle level leader. One key item that I need to do is to change the way we sell our hotel product. Our problem is we have an average, mediocre hotel product with mediocre infrastructure. There is no reason whatsoever for people to care about our product.

What I have in mind is we have to present our hotel product differently. The basic idea is that in the past we use hotels as a selling point and destinations as a supporting reason. The new trend is customers want more experiences. Therefore, we will use the experiences as a selling point, and the hotels will be use as auxiliary. This idea sounds simple but it requires an upside down thinking and execution. We don’t have the infrastructure to do this. And, I don’t know how far I can take this idea to. One thing that I do know is this is the only way to compete in the crowded market.

This is just one item in my list. Next year will be very interesting.


Merry Christmas!

What do you want from Santa? Below is my list:

  1. I wish Santa to give me courage not to do any discount promotions in 2020.
  2. I wish Santa to give me patience to build a good brand story.
  3. I wish Santa to give me wisdom to create the “purple cow” programs and campaigns. I borrowed the term purple cow from Seth Godin. He used it to refer to something remarkable.
  4. I wish Santa to remind me to ask myself many ‘why’ questions such as why should customers care about my content and my product?
  5. I wish Santa to remind me to be strong not to be succumbed into short term gains.
  6. I wish Santa to remind me to stick with my “minimum viable audience” and offer great content, product, and service to them.

And finally, may the Christmas season fill your home with joy, your heart with love and your life with laughter. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to seeing you in 2020.


Online Community Management Tips

I have an opportunity to manage the company’s online communities. I am not sure how I ended up doing it considering English is not my first language. And, of course, most of the customers or the community’s members speak English. Below are what I learn from doing this task for a few years now.

  1. The communication skill is more important than the language skill. I used to worry if I used the right words or if my grammar was flawless. I don’t think about it anymore. The reason I am doing this is to help my customers. As long as I achieve this goal, everything else is secondary.
  2. I cannot get upset or angry, at least customers cannot know that. Some customers are unbelievable (in a bad way). I have to remain professional and hide my true feeling from social media.
  3. All interactions are two way communications. Remember this – those interactions are conversations like when you sit in a meeting room with full of participants.
  4. If bad things happen (complaints, bad news, etc), I have to be quick to acknowledge that I am now aware about those things. I then have to inform the PR team and my management team. I keep monitoring the direction of the conversations. If a conversation goes in the direction I don’t want it to, I need to create a diversion or a distraction.
  5. Mostly importantly, I am dealing with humans. I should expect the unexpected. But, if I genuinely care, customers will protect me.
  6. I have to tell myself everything about the reason why I am doing this job. I have to stay on track and cannot get distracted to whatever force that is thrown at me.

Being an online community manager is not like walking in the park. I have to stay true to myself. It’s not the job that anyone can do it. It helps me learn so much about our customers.


What are the pros and the cons?

Another tip for decision making, create a list of pros and cons. This applies to both the people who make a decision and those who wait for a decision to be made.

When I need a decision to be made, I always offer options as well as a list of the pros and the cons to my supervisors. The conversation is normally like the following – we need to make this decision. We have a few options 1, 2, and 3. The pros and the cons of each option area xxxxx. What do you think?

In the above scenario, I was often asked about my opinion. I offer my thoughts. I prefer option 2 because xxx. And, if worse comes to worst, we can do yyy.

Sometimes, you have to be kind to those who have to make a call. He or she might not be close to the situation like you are. You have to be fair by offering all information you have. It works for me most of the time.