Why relying on assumptions is bad for your business

EmilyEVC, Avatar

By Yuri Duncan, WRAP Partner and CEO, Buchanan Creative Solutions

We all know at least one good saying about assumptions, and they’re simply never a good idea.

Making assumptions based on stereotypes will almost always lead to miscommunication and poor relationships.

I recall a visit to the historical West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, Indiana. It was a beautiful day as we wound our way through the giant porch that surrounded the hotel. The hotel was built over a century ago, and the level of craftsmanship was astounding.

While admiring the work that went into creating such a beautiful structure, I overheard the sound of a heated exchange. A pair of younger guests was greatly concerned with the fact that the swastika symbol, largely associated with Adolph Hitler and World War 2, was embedded throughout the metal works that made up the porch railing.

Familiar with the hotel and its past, I pointed them towards a sign hanging near the metal work: “The West Baden Springs Hotel Veranda Railing was constructed in 1915, long before the Swastika Symbol was used in WW II. Many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years utilized the Swastika Symbol to represent Life, Sun, Power, Strength, and Good Luck.”

After learning of this historical fact, the pair appeared relieved and went on their way, presumably enjoying the rest of their stay.

making assumptions about your clients

The danger of assumptions

This small story illustrates the dangers of making assumptions.  Had they not noticed the explanatory note regarding the railing, the guests could have assumed many horrible, and false things about the West Baden Springs Hotel. 

Even worse, they could have shared their assumptions on social media, creating a reputation nightmare for the hotel, and wasting time and resources as well.  In the end, the guests may have found themselves embarrassed to learn the results of their false assumptions.

In the timeshare industry, it’s not just the guests who are in danger of making poor assumptions.  In an environment where managing reserve funds is a science that can make or break a property, making blind assumptions about how best to spend those funds is a roadmap to disaster. 

One would need to understand the ever-evolving technology needs of the millennials, the legacy needs of the boomers, and the nuanced interests of Gen X in order to operate purely on assumptions.  None of us have that luxury.

Feedback vs assumptions

One way that anyone, anywhere, in any industry can mitigate the risks of the deadly Assumption is to simply ask your customers what it is they want from you and your product. 

Gaining feedback directly from “the Sources Mouth” is the single best way to understand their needs and respond accordingly. 

Are you regularly asking your customers what they want and need from your product?

Using modern survey techniques allows your business to solicit and gather customer feedback on their terms, in the mode they wish to interact.  If gathering this feedback isn’t part of your current decision-making process, then the CustomerCount feedback management platform is the perfect solution for you. 

Our feedback collection services ensure your customers are telling you what they need and allow you to gather that data through reporting to provide the concrete evidence to spend reserve funds wisely.

Why choose CustomerCount?

CustomerCount is clearly committed to fostering engagement across multiple channels.

Their survey platform provides a seamless experience for engaging your customers. And their ongoing communication strategy provides viewers with a wide range of inviting and effective video content.

Enhance your feedback management systems across the board by visiting the CustomerCount channel on YouTube

Once you’ve had a chance to watch the power of CustomerCount in action, contact Bob Kobek now for further information about CustomerCount’s survey solutions on +1 317-816-6000.

About Yuri Duncan

Yuri Duncan is an award winning filmmaker and president of Buchanan Creative Solutions, LLC – a video production company specializing in producing affordable and effective videos. His skills and accomplishments as an artist and leader are what drive him to provide high quality services through Buchanan Creative Solutions.

With a proven record in design, illustration, animation, editing, and management, Yuri oversees all projects, no matter how large or small, to ensure the end-result fulfills your vision.


7 things to remember about customer surveys

EmilyEVC, Avatar

Customer surveys are still one of the best ways to get customer feedback and find out what your customers are really thinking.

However, while a well-executed survey is a dependable source of meaningful and actionable customer data, there are a few traps you need to avoid. These costly mistakes can leave you with unreliable data and lead to poor business decisions.

With customer surveys you have to deal with human nature. As such, accept that some people will lie, while others will give inaccurate answers, even by accident. Despite this, customer surveys continue to be a great tool to determine how customers feel about a brand’s products and services.

So, if you are looking to improve your survey results, here are CustomerCount’s top 7 things to remember about customer surveys.

Customer surveys

1) Keep customer surveys short and simple

Find the shortest and easiest way to ask questions by making them clear and concise. You’ll have lower abandon rates and higher completion rates if the questions are simple to understand and easy to answer. And only ask one question at a time to avoid confusion.

2) Cut back unnecessary questions

Does each question have a real reason for being in the survey? Will the data provided add anything to the results you want? If not, remove it. Renowned customer service expert, thought leader and author Jeff Toister recommends using these three questions whenever possible:

  • How would you rate (product, service, experience)?
  • Why did you give that rating (open text response)?
  • May we follow-up with you if we have additional questions?

3) Include different types of questions

Multiple choice questions and Likert scales produce great results, but a few open-end questions like “Why do you feel this way?’ will provide some insightful feedback. Don’t forget to use yes/no questions as well in your survey. They make great starter questions and are easy to evaluate.

Customer surveys

4) Be consistent and avoid jargon

If you are going to ask customers to respond on a scale between 1-5, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree, keep that scale across all your questions. And don’t assume they understand acronyms and jargon. Otherwise expect the answers you receive to be inaccurate.

5) Avoid leading questions

Don’t let pride or fear stop you asking a good question. Remember to be neutral, avoid assumptions and remove emotionally charged language.

6) Get your timing right

Surveys about surveys have found that the highest open and click-through rates occur on Monday, Friday and Sunday respectively. And think about how often you want to send a survey out. Do you really want to wait three months to find out you have disgruntled clients?  Customer service expert and best selling author Shep Hyken recommends surveying your customers within 24 hours while their experience with your business is still fresh in their mind.

7) Think about offering an incentive

Data shows that incentives, such as a discount, giveaway or credit, can increase survey results by 5-20 per cent. CustomerCount president, Bob Kobek, suggests another good incentive is allowing participants to see the results – especially in B2B surveys.  Studies show incentives of any kind are unlikely to detract from the quality of your responses.

Customer surveys with CustomerCount

If you’re unsure of which questions to ask, incentives to offer or assistance in understanding the responses, CustomerCount can help. CustomerCount collects, measures and reports customer feedback through branded, customized online surveys. These surveys are formulated to measure the quality of the customer experience with your organization across three primary touch-points.

With 20 years’ experience in customer feedback management, the team will be able to guide you through the survey process. CustomerCount’s surveys provide detailed and dynamic data gathering with comprehensive reporting. This helps clients make improvements to their process, increase customer and, ultimately, improve their bottom line.

Contact Bob Kobek now for further information about CustomerCount’s survey solutions on +1 317-816-6000.


Reputation Management versus Reputation Marketing

EmilyEVC, Avatar

Guest Blog By Emily Collins, EVC Marketing Communications

Is there a difference between reputation marketing and reputation management? Absolutely.

What is reputation marketing?  

Simply explained, reputation marketing is the ability to prevent negative or digital crisis situations arising through a sustained strategy of positive: content, images, video, comments, reviews, likes, share, mentions and testimonials.

Focusing on the positive at all times is, by far, the most efficient way to spend your time and marketing efforts – and prevents the need for reputation management.

How is reputation management different?

Reputation management is digital or online crisis management.

Bad reviews, negative comments, dislikes, and critical posts can have a major impact on your brand perception, future client contact or lead generation opportunities.

And reputation management matters regardless of your business size, industry sector, location, product or service.

Would you book accommodations with 1-star negative reviews or the 5-star glowing testimonial?

Would you buy online where other purchasers have placed negative feedback?

Reputation management is no longer a nice-to-have-option. It is a pre-requisite of every business. Your brand matters. Your brand reputation matters more.

When you have a crisis or frequent negative feedback, reputation management, as a process, can work to improve your status, increase your positive visibility and counter any negativity.

For example, positive input can push negative posts, comments and content down to page two. Not removed, but less visible and less front and centre on initial searches.

We live in a digital world, which, sadly, includes trolls and cyber-bullying. It is all too easy to be negative behind an invisible persona. Such reviews, posts and comments can often mean the difference between success and failure for many businesses – regardless of size.

There are numerous processes and options to implement a crisis campaign – reputation management is all about accentuating the positive. And the need to act quickly, with a positive brand content response, is paramount.

Negative will not simply go away or disappear. You have to replace with positive.

And that is where a reputation management strategy comes to the fore.

reputation-management-vs-reputation-marketing

Where do you start?

Consider an audit. Where are you now?

Do you need immediate crisis management and, if so, have you enough positive content and planning to respond?

Do you have a reputation marketing plan?

Here’s how to start:

Establish where you are now

  • Find and review all business and/or brand comments, negative, neutral or positive;
  • Set a timescale such as the last six/12 months and review seasonal trends;
  • Use Google; and
  • Look at your brand and key product or service search terms and review the first two pages of Google results.

Trends

  • Are there common themes, comments, sites or persons and so on.

Your brand visibility

  • Do you promote a consistent and accurate online presence?

Brand/key terms ranking

  • If you are not ranking – ask a specialist to find out why;
  • Include existing content, social media platforms and PR within the assessment;
  • Review your website and content SEO;
  • Is your brand a search authority;
  • Are you visible where you want to be on Google; and
  • Is your website and/or content up to the task.

Don’t forget the competition

  • If your competitors are winning the authority and visibility race – find out why; and
  • Develop a strategy to compete.

Social monitoring

  • You may love your company, products and services but what is the customer saying;
  • Do you gain positive sentiment; and
  • Do you consistently listen to your target audience.
reputation-management-vs-reputation-marketing

Remember, reputation marketing companies are not PR agencies.

PR is often about relationships, emotion and brand awareness. Reputation marketing involves more complex tools, strategies and technical solutions. Often working in the background, these techniques quietly promote and share positive content and enhance brand authority and trust without drawing attention to any negativity that PR is often produced to counter.

A good reputation marketing plan should include and embrace PR in addition to positive actions and digital marketing activity.

Your reputation management objectives

Develop trust and authority

People buy from people they know, like and trust. Trust in the digital world is hard won and easily lost. Developing Google authority will increase your trust status.

Open, honest and transparent

Your customers want to see the real you.

Listen to the conversation

You cannot react to negativity if you do not know where, when and why it is being posted. You cannot develop a reputation marketing strategy without knowing your target market and the sentiment values they require.

Don’t ignore – react but in the right way

Don’t argue, respect the feedback and, in a polite and professional way, offer a response.

All statistics show that no response enhances negative sentiment.

A quick response – even one that suggests we do not agree with you – highlights the business/brand perception.

If someone is critical, take on board their point of view and consider a response that leads to a positive position.

Learn

If you have made a mistake – take it on board, learn, act and advise your audience. Provide frequently asked questions to answer key customer service issues.

How to find our your online reputation

One way of finding out what your market is saying about you is through social listening.

RCI’s TravelVUE for the vacation ownership industry monitors brand sentiment, gathers real-time brand conversations and provides insight for marketing teams.

Working in conjunction with CustomerCount’s customer feedback platform, marketers have a solution that can be used to glean important insights that can help dramatically reshape customer strategy.

What next?

If your research has identified an online reputation issue or if you want assistance in developing a reputation marketing plan, then contact EVC Marketing or call us on +1 239 444 8176 or +44 (0) 208 123 9273.

With over 25 years’ timeshare marketing experience and our connection with CustomerCount, we have a range of tools, techniques and strategies that will repair and increase your brand authority and trust – and maintain and grow your brand’s positive online reputation.


11 ways to encourage customer feedback

EmilyEVC, Avatar

Guest Blog By Emily Collins, EVC Marketing Communications

Encouraging customer feedback is like being faced with the question (or one like it): “Does my butt look big in this?” The questioner wants to know the truth, but they’re dreading the reply.

The same goes with asking your customers for their opinions. You know it’s important. You know it’s going to give your business direction and knowledge. It highlights issues you might not be aware of. It can even give you the opportunity to improve your practices and develop better products and services.

But no one ever wants to hear negative things about themselves or their business.

Well, just as you have to accept, that yes, that outfit is doing nothing for your figure; you need to know what your customers are saying about you.

But how do you encourage customer feedback? How do you overcome apathy and perceived inconvenience? Most importantly, what are you afraid of?

The key, of course, is making it easy for them to share their experiences with you.

The good news is that it’s now easier than ever to hear the voice of your customer. There are a range of professional survey options, that keep you out of the feedback business and in the guest satisfaction business. These services encourage customers to respond with both the good and the not so good.

They are easy to set up, scalable and simple to analyze. And you’ll get results fast. You can add them to emails, your website, SMS text messages, chatbots and even your printed communications.

Remember our top tips for surveys:

  • Keep them short
  • Know what you want to find out
  • Use simple language and short questions
Ways to encourage customer feedback CustomerCount

Top 11 ways to encourage customer feedback

1 Website Feedback Forms

This is a great option for those with minor grievances who don’t want to contact customer services or support teams.  These are the complaints that you might otherwise miss, but are still important. Make sure the form is easy to find, easy to fill in and include all the necessary data protection and legal compliance information.

2 Email

The most popular method for customer feedback today offers a number of benefits:

  • You can follow up after any client interaction;
  • Clients are more willing to give honest reviews privately;
  • Automated systems give great consistency;
  • Easy to manage and reply to responses;
  • Reviews can be distributed to include portals such as TripAdvisor; and
  • The review is authenticated to the user

3 Offer Live Chat

Being available in real time to answer questions, comments and grievances through instant chat is a great way to improve your customer service. Not only can you respond immediately to issues, improving your response times, it provides a personalized experience your customers will be appreciate.

Not available 24/7? It is perfectly acceptable to limit live chat to your resort’s office hours – as long as there’s an alternative system for out of hours.

4 SMS surveys

This is becoming one of the most powerful and increasingly popular channels for feedback with high open rates. A “click” on the link and the survey invitation is there for the convenience of the guest.

5 Telephone them

If your audience is more baby boomer than millennial, picking up the phone and asking for their thoughts is often overlooked. Yes, it is resource-heavy, but it builds relationships, provides great insight and increases customer advocacy. Be aware though, this method requires significant training.

6 Ask them on site at the resort

OK, an obvious one, but giving your customers the opportunity to give feedback at the point of use is invaluable. They know you are taking them seriously. How about a comment and feedback area in reception? Or a business card with feedback options left in their unit or an onsite online option.

Ways to encourage customer feedback CustomerCount

7 FAQ feedback

We all know that Google likes a website to have an FAQ section. That’s why so many sites now have them. But how good are your answers? Find out by getting your customers to rate them. If your answers aren’t hitting the spot, you’ll soon know and you can amend your content.

8 Monitor your social media

Don’t just post and forget about. Read the comments and you’ll find valuable feedback in the form of questions, complaints and praise. And let your fans see you responding to the good and the bad. They’ll appreciate the engagement.

9 Add a feedback request to your Wi-Fi network

If you offer free Wi-Fi to your owners and guests, ask about their experiences while they’re online using the service.

10 Interview them

Want to find out what a particular segment of your customer base is thinking? A more formalized interview, where they are made to feel special and their views truly appreciated, will give you valuable feedback.

11 Offer an incentive

The hospitality industry enjoys significant affinity with their guests, so incentives are generally not required.

Under special circumstances, many of your customers will be apathetic or skeptical about your request for feedback. Some just won’t have the time. So why not offer an incentive in the form of money, discounts or just access to service or product they wouldn’t normally have?

The more ways that you ask for feedback, the more you are going to receive. But make sure that you do something with the data you receive. Look for trends and then dig deeper.

At CustomerCount our WRAP partners can offer a range of services to give you greater insight and help develop reputation-marketing strategies if there are issues.

To find out more about CustomerCount’s survey solutions, give Bob Kobek a call on 317-816-6000 or email him. Alternatively, why not follow CustomerCount on LinkedIn for all our latest news.


Trending: It’s Hard to Argue with History

Matt Morris, Matt Morris

Picture of Marc Carlson small

Trending: It’s Hard to Argue with History
By: Marc E. Carlson
CustomerCountSM Business Relationship Manager

Whether conducting trend analysis on sales, social media, stock price, or the business intelligence received from your customer feedback program, it’s amazing what you can find. I was contemplating where the next good opportunity for me to develop a relationship was and I decided to take a look at my prospect database history to identify what type of message resonated with my prospect(s). Then I took a look at our marketing communications schedule and the results achieved within the world of social media. When overlaying the graphs, a picture began to develop showing me what was working, how it was working, and most importantly why it was working. The same thought process can, and should, be applied to any sized organizations’ customer feedback.

Take a look at the historical data from your Voice of the Customer program and I bet you find a trend, good or bad, that will give you insight on how to position you, your department, division and corporation for continued market penetration. For example, you will see how your customers are changing in the way they want communications from your organization. What marketing messages resonated with particular customer populations and how did they want to buy your services? Were there particular industry events that your business development and sales organizations had success in developing and securing relationships? Consider using trending in your due diligence during strategy planning to support your findings. It is hard to argue with history.