5 Pain Points for sales and marketing in B2B businesses

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In the competitive B2B environment where commoditisation is the norm, understanding the true voice of the customer is crucial for our success.

5 Pain Points for sales and marketing in B2B businesses

By Nathalie Schooling

In the competitive B2B environment where commoditisation is the norm, understanding the true voice of the customer is crucial for our success. In a landscape where products or services can easily be seen as interchangeable, the key to differentiation lies in listening to and acting upon the needs, preferences, and feedback of our clients.

Here are the reasons why the true voice of the customer holds such significance in our sales strategy:

  1. Tailored Solutions –  by actively seeking and listening to the feedback of our clients, we can gain valuable insights into their pain points, challenges, and specific requirements. This enables us to customise our offerings to meet their unique needs, providing solutions that address their concerns directly.

 

  1. Competitive Advantage – understanding the true voice of the customer gives us a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. By aligning our products or services closely with what our clients actually want, we differentiate ourselves from competitors who may be offering generic solutions.

 

  1. Building Trust and Loyalty – when clients feel heard and understood, it fosters a sense of trust and loyalty towards our brand. Establishing strong relationships based on genuine engagement and responsiveness to their feedback solidifies our reputation as a trusted partner who values their input.

 

  1. Innovation and Improvement – customer feedback is a goldmine of ideas for innovation and improvement. By listening to their suggestions and pain points, we can identify areas where we can enhance our offerings, introduce new features, or streamline our processes to better serve their needs.

 

  1. Retention and Referrals – happy customers are not only likely to stay with us but also to recommend our services to others. By prioritising the true voice of the customer, we can increase customer retention rates and benefit from positive word-of-mouth referrals, driving further growth and success.

In conclusion, the true voice of the customer is the guiding beacon that steers our sales efforts in the right direction. By actively listening, incorporating feedback, and demonstrating a genuine commitment to meeting our clients’ needs, we not only strengthen our relationships but also position ourselves as a trusted partner of choice in the competitive B2B landscape.

Nordy of Nice? A Tale of True Customer-Centric Culture

This tale is not just about being customer-centric. It’s about the power of fostering a truly customer-centric culture within an organisation. Nordstrom makes it their mission to engrain this ‘Nordy’ culture with every new hire.

Nordstrom makes it their mission to engrain ‘Nordy’ culture with every new hire – that culture is one that is truly customer-centric and willing to always go the extra mile.

A tale of truly customer-centric culture that is engrained throughout a company

By Nathalie Schooling

 

Have you ever heard of ‘Nordies’? It’s what the well-known USA luxury retailer, Nordstrom calls their employees. Not unique by any stretch of the imagination, lots of companies have ‘nicknames’ for staff that speak to the company’s brand. For example, Disney theme park employees are called ‘cast members’, Apple Stores refer to their staff as the ‘geniuses’, and Subway calls staff ‘sandwich artists.’

 

It seems to be a more common practice in American companies, and while it can be fun and enduring, it actually plays a big role in how the internal culture of a company operates.

 

The Importance of Customer Experience

 

Let’s go back to ‘Nordies.’ For those in the customer experience game, you may already know about the legendary Nordstrom tire story that dates back almost 40 years. One day, at a store in Fairbanks, Alaska, Craig Trounce, a store associate at the time, noticed a customer rolling a pair of tires into the store.

 

When he asked how he could help, the customer said that he would like to return the two tires, and insisted that he had bought them at that very location with a guarantee that he could bring them back to the store at any time. 

 

But Nordstrom never sold tires? The retailer did, however, in 1975, purchase three stores from a company –Northern Commercial of Alaska, which sold everything from towels and linens to automotive supplies, which included tires. When Nordstrom took over the locations, it narrowed the merchandise mix to apparel and shoes. 

 

Instead of turning the customer away, Craig wanted to do right by the man who had just driven more than 50 miles to return these tires. He didn’t know much about how tires are priced, so he called a local supplier to get a rough idea of what they would be worth. He then gave the customer the estimated amount, took the tires, and sent him on his way. Wow! 

 

And that’s just one of many Nordy stories that get told. There’s also the one where a ‘Nordy’ ironed a customer’s wrinkled shirt because the customer was running late for a meeting.

 

Talk about going the extra mile!

 

Customer Experience vs Customer Service

 

For me, that’s really what excellent customer experience comes down to. It goes beyond good service, being ‘nice’ or accommodating. That part of the job is implied. It’s expected.

 

It’s about going out of your way to make your client or customer’s day better! It’s doing the unexpected, leaving customers with the feeling that they have to come back and do business with you. Better yet, they have to tell their friends, family, and colleagues about their experience. Why do you think these Nordy stories continue to do the rounds, even decades later? Because the staff made an impact.

This tale is not just about being customer-centric. It’s about the power of fostering a truly customer-centric culture within an organisation. Nordstrom makes it their mission to engrain this ‘Nordy’ culture with every new hire.

 

Your employees are your greatest ambassadors, so always start there. It’s the classic inside-out approach that never fails.

Dishing the Dirt on DSTV

Why does it feel like Multichoice and DSTV, a once-loved legacy brand, is hell-bent on becoming a cautionary tale in poor CX?

Is Multichoice “enriching our lives” or just wasting our time? It is starting to feel like Multichoice is becoming a cautionary tale in poor CX.

Why DSTV keeps pushing our CX ‘buttons’

 

Why does it feel like Multichoice, a once-loved legacy brand, is hell-bent on becoming a cautionary tale in poor CX?

 

Bad press of late hasn’t done them any favours, like DSTV (owned by Multichoice) billing customers for things they didn’t ask for (Disney+) – not once, but multiple times, or their once-off R19.95 deal during last year’s Rugby World Cup which left customers trapped into a 30-day cancellation policy.

 

It’s been a bit of a PR nightmare for the company, but they keep making themselves an easy target. The thing is, as a brand, DSTV has some good ideas, but the marketing team is always working against some sort of relentless clock. Everything is rushed and underdeveloped which unfortunately ends up negatively impacting their customer experience, time and time again.

 

A colleague of mine recently forwarded me an email he got from Multichoice. As a subscriber, he was asked to complete a survey so that they could gather his views and opinions. Sounds fair enough! As players in the CX game, we always delight in hearing of businesses making an effort to gather customer insights (credit to DSTV here).

 

The problem, however, is that the mailer was riddled with wishy-washy communication, offered a frankly, ‘embarrassing’ incentive to participate (R50 voucher), and even asked the subscriber to sign what can be likened to an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). But the cherry on top has to be the fact that the email was addressed as ‘ Dear Valued Customer’ – an absolute no-no in customer experience! If you are truly a valued customer, you would be greeted by name at the very least.

 

‘Enriching lives’ or wasting time? 

 

The well-known Multichoice slogan ‘enriching lives’ is another example of the company’s ability to come up with some truly good stuff, but sadly, with no follow-through. The slogan hits all the marks of a well-positioned brand promise. It inspires, offers value, and paints a clear picture of what we as customers can expect.

 

In our CX Masterclasses, one of the CX areas that we unpack is the importance of both knowing the value you as a business brings to the table, as well as making sure that you are consistently delivering on this value. And a big part of this is getting the language you use to engage with your customer right.

 

This is where DSTV fails. They sometimes nail the language, especially when it comes to attractive promotions, but they fall short in offering the value.

 

In the case of the survey mailer they sent out, they failed in both the language and the value. My colleague couldn’t even get passed the first few survey questions because he didn’t agree to their very vague NDA terms. He spent time reading through the exhausting mailer copy and decided to do the survey, only to be told he couldn’t continue. It ended up being a complete waste of his time.

 

To summarise my point, here are three CX lessons we can thank the Multichoice mailer for:

 

 

Let’s hope Multichoice gets their CX act together, and soon. With younger, more agile streaming services scooping in, they HAVE to do better!

Five steps companies can take to retain top talent

Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where I believe leaders can step up in 2024.

Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where leaders need to step up in 2024.

Retaining your top talent is more important than ever in 2024

 

The Great Resignation made numerous headlines in 2021 and 2022, followed by the ‘Silent Quitting’ phenomenon which continued into 2023. But while recent data shows this pandemic-era trend is now tapering off, there’s still a serious concern amongst CEOS about retaining top talent. 

This was evident in our research with CEOs and executives last year. When we asked what they feel impacts their customer experience the most, retaining the skills needed to keep customers satisfied was a recurring theme.

But why is it getting harder to retain talent? Well, with things like remote and hybrid work, the rising cost of living, and work-life balance priorities, employee expectations are changing and evolving.

 

The employer-employee relationship reset

 

The traditional employee-employer relationship whereby the employer has all the power is no longer the case. Although this shift was already manifesting pre-COVID, the pandemic was the tipping point for workers to re-evaluate what they really wanted out of their jobs and to make drastic changes where necessary.

The driving force behind this shift is the concerning trend in the decrease in employees who feel connected to their company’s values and purpose, In fact, the millennial labour force, who make up the largest generation in the workforce, are said to quit their jobs due to a lack of meaning in their work, rather than leaving for more money.

Meaning and purpose in a job should come from the top down. If we look at the customer experience strategies we develop for companies, a big part of what we do is assess how the employee experience is having a positive or negative impact on how an organisation’s workers interact with customers.

And what we have found, is that more than 50% of the time, the feedback we get is that leadership is responsible for employees feeling demotivated, disengaged, and unsatisfied in their positions.

Staff are looking for more than just a paycheck, they want to feel valued and be engaged in their work. This is where I believe leaders can step up in 2024.

 

Here are five steps companies can take to retain top talent:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone Scammed Your Customers? Now what?

Scams are nothing new. People have been pulling the wool over each other’s eyes for centuries. But in today’s digital realm, it feels like consumers need to be extra careful and vigilant before they click on anything!

Scams are nothing new. But in this day and age consumers need to be extra careful and vigilant before they click on anything!

Your customers have been scammed but it wasn’t your fault. Now what?

Blog by Nathalie Schooling

 

Scams are nothing new. People have been pulling the wool over each other’s eyes for centuries. But in today’s digital realm, it feels like consumers need to be extra careful and vigilant before they click on anything!

In the business world, scams are a serious threat to a company’s reputation. And the worst part is, most of the time, it’s the fault of a third party with whom a company has absolutely no affiliation. Add to this advancing technology, and scamming customers is only becoming easier and more commonplace. 

For me, what it all boils down to is TRUST. How well do your customers or clients know and trust your brand? How safe do they feel doing business with you? When the wheels come off and your business is the victim of a scam or a zealous hacker, is your brand strong enough to survive it, and your customer loyal enough to be wise to it? 

Something doesn’t smell right 

Let me give you an example. Over the December holidays, I spotted discounted cooler boxes from Filedbar across various websites. Fieldbar is a premium brand that makes and sells hand-crafted outdoor products. I’ve always been a fan of their offering, so when I saw their products marked down on other retail sites, it immediately raised a red flag in my mind. Turns out, I wasn’t crazy for thinking they were being overly generous with their slashed prices (even during the festive period, it still seemed odd), as a few days later I received a mailer from Fieldbar explaining that it had been a scam.

Although it appeared to take them a while to ‘catch-on,’ or be alerted to the scam, kudos to them for handling the issue so proactively. Blasts of communication went out on all their social platforms, together with direct emailers as well as a notice on their website informing customers about the scam and confirming their list of authorised resellers.

The real praise, however, is in acknowledging the strength and integrity of the brand. As a customer, I knew something wasn’t right as this didn’t look like or sound like the business I know and trust, so I steered clear. Sadly, however, the poor unsuspecting souls who had no previous dealings with Fieldbar would not have been so lucky. This brings me to my next point.

 

Can’t touch (point) this! 

Existing customers are far more likely to know something is up since they have frequent dealings with your company. So how do you get around ‘new’ or prospective clients falling prey to an unwanted scam at the expense of your brand name? The keyword here is touchpoints.

If you can identify each and every current (and potential) touchpoint where a customer comes into contact with your brand, it’s easier to ensure that safety and security measures are in place, especially on the proactive side of things (NB!). This requires a lot of planning or customer journey mapping, but the effort far outweighs the risks.

Just last week a friend of mine forwarded me an email she got from ‘Netflix’ to say that her account was on hold. Apparently, they had noticed that there was an issue with the previous month’s payment on her subscription and that to continue the service she needed to update her payment details within the next 24 hours or her membership will be lost. All sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? Anyway, no surprise that the email was utter nonsense. With an email address ending in freshworksmail.io, c’mon, you have to give us customers a little more credit than that?

 

Netflix Scam Email

 

My point, however, is that email is an extremely powerful customer touchpoint. This friend of mine is not even a Netflix subscriber, ( i.e. could potentially be a future customer) but it does create some doubt to know that the brand’s name is being used to fool innocent people, even if they aren’t directly involved. It would serve the streaming platform to stay on top of these sorts of scams and issue relevant communication about such cons across their platforms. As a subscriber myself, I have yet to hear from Netflix warning about any fraudulent activity on their behalf.

 

In closing, here’s a brief checklist of things a business can consider to help mitigate the risk of getting caught up in a scam:

 

 

Weather the cost of living crisis with good CX

Weather the cost of living crisis with good CX

By Nathalie Schooling, CEO of nlightencx

In South Africa, we don’t do things by halves! While consumers and businesses in many countries are dealing with the dual global crises of Cost of Living and Supply Chain, we’ve added two of our own to really stretch our tenacity and resilience: the Energy Crisis and the Water Crisis, making for year-round stormy seas.

While all these issues feed into each other, our in-house research has revealed that it’s the cost of living crisis that is the most crippling for local businesses right now.  This is not surprising because if your client or customer is out of pocket, chances are, so are you. Unfortunately, this year has had a significant impact on the wallets of South Africans, who are actively taking steps to change their spending habits and save where they can.

 

Anchor in CX to Avoid Shipwreck.

 

Looking at the bleak performance of Black Friday this year it’s a clear indication of just how cash-strapped South Africans are.  Media reported that the crowds in malls across Johannesburg and Cape Town this past Black Friday were particularly thin, with no queues outside stores – unlike previous years.

With limited cash to go around, how can businesses ensure that they are the ones that customers and clients will part with precious pennies for?

Well, since we can’t fix the economy overnight, one of the best ways for businesses to differentiate and survive, especially now as retailers head into the festive season and B2B companies look to renew annual contracts, is with a good customer experience.

The recent 2023 Ask Afrika Orange Index, published by research company Ask Afrika, found that companies that focus on CX  typically exhibit increased revenue, are more profitable, have more engaged employees, and have customers who are willing to pay up to 18% more for products.

This is significant because businesses can invest in understanding what their customers are facing at the moment, empathise with them, and then create solutions to reduce those pain points. If we look at the likes of how Shoprite Checkers, and the  Discovery Group are coping, they’re not closing the doors and turning off the lights; they’re fighting back by putting themselves in their customers’ shoes to understand exactly what they need. In doing so, they’re winning client trust.

 

Smooth waters never made a skilled sailor.

 

Companies weathering the storm best are those that don’t focus excessively on cost and being the cheapest. Sometimes easier said than done.

However, if your strategy is simply to be the cheapest offering, then when your competitor matches or beats your price, your only option is to lower your price again. It becomes a race to the bottom until the company runs out of profit margin. And no profit means you’ll soon be out of business.

Rather, the winning companies in the Cost of Living Crisis are those that focus on a good customer experience and customer-service excellence.

As businesses we can’t control the economy, the markets, the supply chain and interest rates. But we do have an element of control when it comes to how we treat our customers, the level of service we offer, and how we empathise with them.

Now is the time to meet the customer where they are at. It’s tempting and seems counterintuitive, but do not obsess over price. Rather focus on how you can give your customer real value for their money.

Marketing smoke and mirrors – a recipe for a CX disaster

springboks supporters

“Brands need to remember that when customers are upset, especially if there is money involved, their emotions are heightened. A quick resolution will go a long way.”

Three CX lessons for marketers 

 

Rugby World Cup fever has been dominating the lives of South Africans for the past six weeks, and for some brands, it’s been a prime opportunity to capitalise on the local gees with clever marketing tactics and promotions. Unfortunately, though, not all brands who jumped on the Springbok wagon got it right. The recent nightmare experienced by DStv customers is one such example.

 

MultiChoice gave South Africans the opportunity to watch the 2023 World Cup Final on Saturday, 28 October with a special once-off R 19.95 deal on DStv Access streaming packages. A generous offer and deserving of a pat on the back to the marketing guys who used the R19.95 price point as a play on the year 1995 – the year the Springboks first won the Rugby World Cup.

 

Marketing brilliance aside, the promotion quickly fell flat when the customers who signed up for the deal realised that they were now locked into a 30-day cancellation policy.

 

“This happens all too often. Brands take a knee-jerk reaction because they don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity to news jack. But they don’t always think it through. It’s a communication breakdown between departments. The marketing team and operations aren’t aligned, and this can cause a massive problem for the holistic customer experience,” says Nathalie Schooling, customer experience specialist and CEO of nlightencx. 

 

Getting back up after being knocked down

 

Schooling highlights that although mistakes happen, and Multichoice did apologise for their faux paus, it’s how a company handles the error that can make or break the brand in the eyes of the customer.

 

“Brands need to remember that when customers are upset, especially if there is money involved, their emotions are heightened. A quick resolution will go a long way. In the case of Multichoice, they did apologise for their mistake and provided an email address for people having problems cancelling their subscription. But is this enough? I think a better course of action would have been to proactively reach out to all who signed up to resolve any issues, rather than just providing a generic email address. This shows genuine customer care and a commitment to fixing the problem as quickly as possible.”

 

What can marketers learn? 

 

According to Schooling, marketers cannot separate their marketing campaigns from the customer experience. As the saying goes, the customer always comes first. “Today’s customers have very high expectations and an appetite for speed and efficiency. Marketers and brand managers need to become champions of CX if they want campaigns to succeed and stand out from competitors.”

 

Below Schooling shares three critical CX lessons for marketers: 

 

  1. Don’t work in silos – it’s no point coming up with a great marketing idea if operations or the technical team can’t ensure smooth implementation of the idea. Instead of rushing things, marketers need to ensure the relevant departments are briefed correctly and that all potential issues or pitfalls of the campaign are addressed.

 

  1. Map out the full customer journey– putting yourself in the customer’s shoes should be a critical part of any marketing campaign. Questions to ask include, how will the marketing message be received or perceived? Is the communication clear? What’s the step-by-step logistics process for the customer?

 

  1. Deliver on your promise– following through on what’s been communicated and essentially ‘promised’ to the customer is where the real test lies. Making big claims for short-term glory is going to end up being detrimental to the brand’s reputation if these claims or promises are not kept or delivered in the way the customer expected.

Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

What is the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience

What’s the difference anyway, and does it really matter in the long run? These are three of the subtle but fundamental differences between Customer Service and Customer Experience.

 

As the leading CX Agency in Africa we feel that it would be worth helping you understand the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience. While neither operates in a silo and can be seen as different rooms in the same house, there are subtle but fundamental differences in these two business areas.

 

What is Customer Service?

 

So, let’s start by looking at what Customer Service is. Customer Service is, by definition, the old-school way of doing things. It is one-dimensional and transactional. A customer comes to you with a need, you find a solution, and the customer goes off with a big smile (hopefully). They might come back when they have another need, or you might never see them again. That’s the nature of the beast.

 

What is Customer Experience?

 

Customer Experience, on the other hand, goes much deeper than ticking boxes of individual customer needs. CX delves deep into the emotions, taking your interaction from a once-off to an entire journey. While Customer Service might be needs-based, CX is relationship-based. It focuses on the whole gamut of human emotions to positively impact your customers’ behaviours and what drives them to come to you first and then keep coming back.

At the most basic level, Customer Service is a single interaction. In contrast, Customer Experience is the sum of all your interactions with your customers and how they perceive you. 

 

These are the three most clear distinctions between Customer Service and Customer Experience:

Reactive vs. Proactive

Customer Service is Reactive while Customer Experience is Proactive

 

In Customer Service, you are reacting to your customers’ needs as they come to you. With Customer Experience, there is a constant analysis across all customer touchpoints to create an improved experience that has your customers in mind and will keep them satisfied.

 

Transactional vs. Entire Journey

Customer Service is Transactional while Customer Experience covers the entire customer journey

 

While we are on touchpoints, Customer Service is just one point of contact your customer has with your business during their holistic Customer Experience Journey. The joy of CX is that the Customers’ Journey is mapped out, right from becoming aware of you to leaving and returning. This helps you to understand your customers’ needs and emotions at each step of their journey and allows you to create moments of magic that keep them coming back.

 

Front-Facing vs. All-Encompassing

Customer Service is comprised of front-facing staff, while Customer Experience takes all staff into account.

 

It all comes down to ownership. While Customer Service is primarily handled by Customer Service Managers, front-facing staff, and contact centres, Customer Experience belongs to the whole business. From the CEO to the sales team, the distributors, and the guy in the back office who fixes your email issues and always tells you about Lord of the Rings – Customer Experience is the whole team’s responsibility, and everyone needs to take ownership of it. CX understands that no matter your role, what you are doing will impact a customer’s experience of your company.

 

So what’s the bottom line? A well-executed customer experience will work hand-in-hand with customer service and enable you to create authentic interactions that grow your client relationships and retain your customers.

Why you can’t ‘wing’ tourism recovery

Why you can’t ‘wing’ tourism recovery

SA tourism needs to look inwards to truly thrive

By Nathalie Schooling

South African tourism has been in the spotlight recently, as the country celebrated tourism month in September. While it’s encouraging to see the industry enjoying a better-than-expected post-Covid recovery, with international arrivals more than doubling versus this time last year, I think we’d be remiss to think we are anywhere near sustainable long-term recovery.

The issue I’ve always had with SA tourism, is that strategy mostly seems to be rooted in short-term thinking. One has to remember that short-term recovery can very easily be derailed by toughening global economic conditions, increasing competition from other destinations, and internal challenges such as load shedding. Therefore, the local industry needs to put in place long-term fundamentals.

These should include increased on-the-job training for tourism industry workers, better opportunities for formal qualifications in tourism, an acknowledgement that an ‘inside-out’ approach is what’s needed to enhance the overall SA tourism product, and a change in mindset that regards tourism-industry employment as low-paying ‘McJobs.’

Unfortunately, we can’t bank on SA’s beauty alone. Abundant wildlife, breathtaking scenery and clever destination marketing are not, in themselves, sufficient to ensure long-term tourism success.

Where the rubber hits the road

Tourism is essentially a customer-facing industry, so it makes sense that customer experience is truly where ‘the rubber hits the road’ when it comes to tourism products and services. Yet it is one of the things that local and foreign tourists most complain about when they visit the country.

Just pay a quick visit to  review sites such as Tripadvisor, LekkeSlaap, Booking.com, Afristay and others, where poor customer service is our Achilles heel. As a country we have so many good things to offer visitors, but we frequently fall down on basic customer service.

Customers may put up with bad service out of necessity in some industries, but in tourism their spend is discretionary and they expect to be looked after – especially when it comes to business travellers – so they will quickly take their money elsewhere. And they will tell many others through word-of-mouth and online reviews.

Having one visitor once is not a good strategy; the most cost-effective business is repeat business, and you need those satisfied customers to amplify your brand and your marketing efforts.

Why you can’t ‘wing’ tourism recovery

 

A study published in July 2023 in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing shows clearly that in the hotel industry, for instance, pricing and positive online reviews of a guest’s stay are the two most important drivers of business.

If you can balance both, you have a winning formula. In the local airline industry, for example, there’s a school of thought that it’s all about the price of a seat. It’s important, of course, especially for local leisure travellers. But if price is your only point of difference, when a competitor matches or beats that price then you have nothing else to offer.

Better to be an Airlink and have a superior on-time record versus your bigger competitors, or a LIFT airline that offers better customer service. A good experience will be remembered long after the cost of the flight is forgotten.

All aboard the employee train’ing programmes

The same principle applies to all tourism products and for this reason it’s important even for budget-focused operators to spend time and money on staff training – whether this is on-the-job or in specialist training environments such as colleges and technikons.

It’s also essential to reward employees appropriately and create a supportive environment where they feel valued and can progress in their workplace.

Too often, tourism jobs in South Africa are not seen as career paths and are mere ‘fill-ins’ until something offering better pay and opportunities comes along.

Demotivated employees give bad service. Bad service devalues your product. Even budget customers have a right to expect friendly and efficient service, as well as effective product delivery.

Local is Lekker

Motivating all roleplayers in the wider SA tourism environment – including the general public and those working in transport, retail, government, law enforcement and border control – should be a key part of making the country more tourist-friendly.

I was pleased to hear that Toni Gumede, Manager in the office of the CEO of Brand South Africa, had told an international marketing conference in early September that tourism branding should be ‘inside out’, with a focus on achieving buy-in from people and business within the country.

“If local people are not happy with their tourism product, then you have already lost half the battle,” Gumede said.

This is music to my ears. South Africa is a brand, and each region is a brand. The people living there are a part of that brand, even if they don’t work directly in tourism, because they interact with visitors regularly in some way.

So, they need to be made aware of the importance of tourists to the country – and the critical role that they can play, even if it’s just a ‘hello’ and a smile or a wave.

South Africans are naturally friendly and outgoing people. They can contribute more to a great visitor experience than paying millions to Trevor Noah to be a brand spokesperson, or being a sponsor of an English Premier League soccer team.

Thanks, but no thanks.

companies need to heed to the intensified pressure to make product return policies as quick and easy as possible for customers.

Companies need to heed to the intensified pressure to make product return policies as quick and easy as possible for customers.

Why online purchase returns should be an easy part of the customer journey

Blog by Nathalie Schooling

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely landed up keeping unwanted items you’ve purchased online out of sheer resignation to the uphill battle of returning it. Why do they make it so hard!?

But as e-commerce grows in popularity and competition increases among online retailers, companies need to heed to the intensified pressure to make product return policies as quick and easy as possible for customers.

With global research showing that returns by online shoppers are rising year-on-year by around 40%, a slick and effective ‘reverse logistics’ capability is just as important as competitive product pricing and fast delivery.  Current figures show that compared to the cost of goods sold, returns from customers account for an average of 7-10% of sales revenue.

As online shopping matures in South Africa, the expectations of consumers increase too. They demand convenience from every aspect of their online shopping experience, including easily returning the goods they don’t want. So, e-tailers wishing to remain competitive need to take this part of the customer journey seriously.

No’ takesiesbacksies’  

Companies should be focusing their energy on effective returns management

Companies should be focusing their energy on effective returns management

Unfortunately, some local e-commerce platforms regard returns – part of a process known as ‘reverse logistics’, in which goods go back along the supply chain to the original supplier and then onwards from there – as a costly and unwanted burden.

Consequently, customers are sometimes charged for returns, or the process has been made unwieldy and complicated to deter shoppers, which can lead to major frustration.

But buying online often means returns are sometimes inevitable.  Research cited by courier company DHL, for example, indicates that half of all clothing items bought online are returned.

This isn’t unreasonable, given that online shoppers can’t try them on in a changing room before they buy. But if the process of sending back the clothes they don’t want isn’t hassle-free, they either won’t shop online again, or they won’t shop with that e-commerce platform.

So effective returns management shouldn’t be a chore or a cost centre for the business; it must be seen as a critical part of a customer acquisition and retention strategy. It must be a core customer experience competency that will ultimately grow the company. Consider that, according to a survey by Deloitte & Arvato,  a well-managed reverse logistics process has the potential to reclaim up to 32% of original product value.

Minding the ‘gap’

So, how can a business implement reverse logistics cost effectively and in the best interests of their customers? Technology such as automation, AI and machine learning should be harnessed.

To truly streamline the returns process, businesses need to be gathering ongoing customer insights to find out where the customer concerns are, as well as understanding bottlenecks in the logistics process, and technology is a great enabler for this. In fact, we are seeing an upward trend in companies using machine learning to increase visibility and predict supply chain disruptions.

We are also noticing the benefit of  advanced technologies in breaking down silos and communication barriers across the supply chain ( and for those who read this blog regularly, you know how I feel about silos!)

Closing communication gaps in this process , I believe is the ultimate source of effective returns management, and where businesses should be focussing their energy. The most important communication gap to close is with the customer. They are the ones you need to be empathising with throughout the ‘ often frustrating’ returns journey.

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