After Steve Baxter left his posh software position, his job for the next year was to wake up in the morning and read.
The idea was to identify a business problem and then solve it. This was about the same time the Web 2.0 concept was starting to emerge, he says, and the buzz was all about businesses having a two-way conversation with their customers.
One of the myriad theories he came across while researching was “The Strength of Weak Ties,” which advocates asking people outside your circle of friends and family to help you find a job – i.e. people who wouldn’t normally be on the look-out for you. Baxter wanted to find a way to apply that “weak-ties” theory to business. “MySpace was popular at this time and I could see that conversation taking place in a social setting,” he says.
Another idea came from the book, “The Ultimate Question,” which explained how companies could find their “net-provider score,” but didn’t tell how to go about improving that score. Net-providers can be broken up into three categories: promoters, passives and detractors. But without knowing what to do to move the last two categories into the promoters category, “it was like a rear-view mirror view,” he says – only in this case objects – or objections – may not appear larger than they actually were.
With the popularity of social media, customers opinions about a company’s service or products found a much larger audience than just their circle of friends and acquaintances. A bad review posted on a Facebook page, or any of the thousands of blogs, websites and online comment pages, could potentially affect the entire chain, not just the unit where it occurred.
Baxter’s “problem” morphed into: How can businesses not only keep the customers they already have, but get them to do word-of-mouth marketing by telling their friends about their products and/or services? And, even more important: Once companies know what their customers think of their wares, how can they turn more customers into promoters and derail complaints before they make it online?
His solution: Systino.
Systino, which is a Greek word meaning “to introduce or recommend,” is a platform designed for franchisors to introduce to their franchisees. Franchisors receive detailed information on every stores’ scores or ratings, and franchisees can log on to see how their individual store’s customer scores measure up to the rest of the system. And, even better, what the problems, as well as the praise, actually are.
Baxter introduced the privately held software company to the franchise community in 2008 and has been flying under the franchise radar – as far as publicity, not clients go – ever since. He has doubled the number of clients every year since he started. And if promoters are the objective, then Baxter has his own high score.
PostNet provider scores
“We’ve always valued customer feedback, but we used the passive approach,” says Brian Spindel, PostNet’s COO. That approach was a website address at the bottom of the customer’s receipt, and it only garnered about a 2 percent response rate – most of which were complaints or product adjustments. Another downside was that the survey asked around 14 questions, and took more time to answer than most people wanted to give.
With Systino, customers are emailed a link with one question worded similar to: How likely (on a scale of one to 10) would you be to refer us to your friends and family?
If the person answers nine or 10, the follow-up question asks for more info on why they like them. Seven or eight answers draw the question, what can we do better? Six or below, and the question becomes: What did we do wrong and how can we fix it?
“It’s very slick,” Spindel says. “I buy a lot of different technology (for PostNet), but this is one of the best (values) I’ve bought.”Using Systino’s system, PostNet now receives feedback from 25 percent of its customers. System wide it has a net-promoter score of 87 percent, which includes positive feedback the company can post on its Facebook page and use as testimonials. Plus, franchisees are able to log onto their separate pages for individualized results.
But it doesn’t stop there, Spindel says. The software can detect when key items are mentioned in a positive and negative way. For instance, PostNet corporate was able to determine that the No. 1 customer concern was high prices on shipping and packing services. Armed with that insight, Spindel says they were able to go to their marketing department and figure out a way to answer the concern – which didn’t involve lowering their prices.
The solution was to explain that their prices were aligned with their competitors, but their printing prices were actually lower. A coupon for printing services was included in the email reply. The customer may never use the coupon, Spindel says, but it’s all part of a proactive way to address unhappy customers.
PostNet’s customer comments – “the good, the bad and the ugly” – are all posted on its Facebook page on a live feed, also via Systino’s software.
Not limiting feedback on a company’s website or social media pages to only glowing reviews is something Baxter advocated when he demonstrated his system to the franchisors attending last year’s FranDev conference in Phoenix.
No one will believe the positive feedback, if there isn’t negative included, he says. It’s impossible for a company to please everyone all the time. And the way a company addresses problems can be a positive thing.
The good, bad and ugly makes it real. And with today’s focus on transparency in business, it’s better to address the perceptions up front, rather than try to hide them, Spindel contends.
What do you want to know?
The software can slice and dice the information any way executives want to see it. For instance, Baxter says, you can see what your new customers are saying about you versus your long-standing customers.
When he decided to focus on franchising, “we wanted to design the best system for seeing the big picture at a micro level,” he says.
Why is the voice of the customer so important? Baxter gives this example: Say you’re a handyman franchise and your theme is “on time, done right,” but your customers are communicating that their service provider was late, didn’t show or didn’t fix it right the first time.
“You can look at how you’re living up to your brand promise,” he says. And since businesses all define their brand promises differently, those unique items can be programmed in.
“Every person we’ve sold to has in place a survey system, a secret shopper (program) or a call centre,” Baxter says. “But the world has changed on them.” Now there’s Yelp and Twitter. And a business’ response to a customer has to be as quick as that customer can post online.
PuroClean, a 300-office property damage restoration franchise, uses the information from its Systino dashboard to cement their franchisees’ relationships with insurance companies, their customers, and recruit new franchisees.
The system’s internal name for the program is PACE: PuroClean Achieving Customer Excellence, says Marci Kleinsasser, vice president of marketing.
By opening up the “home tab” on her computer’s dashboard or display, Kleinsasser can see all her information in real time. For instance, she can see that 5,047 requests for feedback have been sent and that the company has 29 current distractors. A franchisee can pull up the information and see which of his technicians received the negative reviews, and then address it.
PuroClean has a net-provider score of 93 percent and a 45 percent response rate. The reason the response is so high, she explains, is because their technicians tell the homeowners that they’ll be following up so they can report back to the insurance company.
Like a lot of things in life: If you don’t ask, they won’t tell.
Original article: http://www.franchisetimes.com/content/story.php?article=02082