Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

5 Steps for Physical Product Brands to Stay Relevant

5 Steps for Physical Product Brands to Stay Relevant 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

The people who handle “complaints” about your company’s branded products are full of useful info. We always thought of customer service as customer intelligence, or “customer intel,” rather than “complaint resolution”.

But if you operate in a top-down structure, it’s easy to see how you can miss out on this critical information. If you think that your product design comes first, then the marketing team comes up with a sales plan, then your salespeople implement that plan, then customer service handles complaints—that’s top-down. With this structure, you certainly wouldn’t want any challenges to your product crawling back up.

The effectiveness of customer service in many companies is actually judged by how few (or how many) complaints come back up the ladder.

In an attempt to address complaints at the customer service level, these companies are preventing the key communications that should crawl back up—they have the potential to improve your packaging, marketing, product, and even your confidence. When everyone working for you knows that your brand is relevant, current, and receptive, they are more likely to stay. Not only that—they are proud to be part of a business that values customer feedback, and quickly replies to keep them happy. This is how you stay ahead of the competition.

Use these 5 steps to make the most of what your customer service people know:

  1. Change the Plumbing. Install a permanent and formal “pipeline” between your “Customer Intel” and your Production, R&D, and Marketing folks. Make it required that any customer feedback received by Customer Intel is top priority. Actually, bring any new initiatives to them (and Sales) first, to get their input. This will prevent expensive failures in the marketplace.
  2. Change the Name. As we mentioned, calling it “Customer Intel” describes its function, and reiterates that nobody in your company outside of your sales team knows more about your customers’ experience than they do. And don’t keep this a secret! Make sure everybody knows it, and respects their crucial relationship with your customers.
  3. Change the Direction. Chose bottom-up instead of top-down. Put the customer on top! Entrepreneurs who started in a garage know that the customer is always at the top. It’s simple—if they don’t make sales, they’ll be out of business. So, it’s not how you get the entrepreneurial spirit—it’s how you lose it. And you lose it when products are pushed down to the customer.
  4. Change the Schedule. Every quarter, schedule a brainstorming session between Production, Marketing, and R&D on the one hand, and with Customer Intel and Sales on the other. Create an open forum where everyone can discuss customer comments, recommendations, and complaints; and where everyone can discover and implement ways to improve your marketing and products.
  5. Change the Conversation. Encourage Customer Intel to gather information about your customers’ experience that doesn’t have anything to do with their comment or complaint, but everything to do with making their experience better. They should ask: Where did you find our product? Was it fully stocked? Do you go to that store often? How was the price? Do you buy this product often? Does it meet your expectations? Did you get a good value for your money?

Make these changes today. Don’t let your customers complain, “It used to be my brand!”

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