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Posts tagged with ‘Customer Centricity’

The Gospel of Customer Centricity

Customer centricThe price of a product, the brand value and the other pillars of marketing are no longer the most important factors in a consumer’s selection process. At a certain level of affluence the “absolute value” of experience, a company is likely to deliver, becomes the pivotal point in making the selection. Global trends point to a dramatic growth of consumers who are reaching, or about to reach, that level. Therefore, customer-centric companies are likely to outperform their competitors, who’s leaders cannot see beyond the next quarter’s financial results.

Customer centricity starts with realization that your company cannot deliver a superior customer experience to everybody who wants to buy your product or service.

 

Customer centricity is about:

 

  • knowing who your best customers are – beyond demographics and persona definitions.

Regardless of the type of business – B2B, B2C or any other combination of letters, it is people who decide whether they had a good experience as your customers or they should try someone else. These people share their opinions with others, like they always have. However, now these opinions have as much, or more, impact on shoppers as advertising.

  • knowing WHY your best customers buy what you are selling.

According to Peter Drucker -

“The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him”.

It is critical to understand what “job” they “hire” your products to do. Go beyond sketchy marketing requirements, and deliver the ultimate simplicity of experience to perform that “job”.

  • exclusivity – it may not be politically correct or culturally easy to accept, but a company cannot deliver a top quality experience to any customer – only to those it is best focused on to serve profitably.

That means it is better for such a company’s culture, it’s employees, it’s target customers, and the consumers at large to clearly communicate what type of customers it will not serve, because it cannot deliver the quality of experience they deserve. The best example I know is USAA that leads every chart as the top customer experience provider, but will not take your business if you are not a member of the military family.

Enterprises deliver operational efficiencies through departmental silos that can easily lead to fragmentation of customer experience.  Business intelligence data warehouses can integrate internal data flows to produce a holistic view of the enterprise performance, in terms of growth and efficiencies. However, without connecting it all to customer’s perceptions of their experiences, the enterprise’s sustainable effectiveness cannot be measured.

 

Customer centricity is not a project or corporate initiative. It may or may not involve investment in technology and if it fails, it is an ultimate failure of the company’s leadership and not IT, Customer Service or any other of its departments. Customer centricity is a cultural transformation that leads to embracing a customer into the inner circle of the company’s stakeholders. Without customers, employees and shareholders – there is no company.

 

3 Questions for the Author of “Hooked on Customers”

2014-07-05_130104Last week I had the opportunity to ask Bob Thompson, the author of the book “Hooked on Customers”, a few questions. Bob  is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.

CX-IQ.COMBob, many industry observers, as well as practitioners, agree that a culture and politics of organizational silos negatively impact experience of the customers. Have you encounter in your research any specific practices of customer-centricity leaders,  that allow them to overcome this challenge? Can you share it/them with our readers?

Bob Thompson – People often blame organizational silos for customer experience dysfunction, and for good reason. But the answer is not to “bust” silos, because they also serve a purpose: specialization. However, you can’t expect silo managers to cooperate on their own without encouragement from their boss. Having shared metrics and rewards can help. For example, if one team is responsible for the web experience and another the call center experience, management can encourage cooperation by setting up metrics and rewards that focus (and reward) both groups on the overall customer experience. Sprint used this technique, and also rallied around an internal metric that drove the business case: cost.

CX-IQ.COMIn your book’s “Habit 1 – Listen” chapter, you shared lessons for managing VoC from perspective of different companies. Some of these lessons mention benchmarking of the company metrics against their industry averages obtained from 3rd party providers. There is a debate in CXM community about methodological integrity, and therefore a value, of comparing a company’s numbers with the ones produced externally. How critical, in your opinion, is a benchmarking practice for an improvement of customer experience?

Bob Thompson - I agree that it’s difficult to benchmark, but it’s important to understand how one company compares to another in the customer’s mind. Customers make decisions based on what is different between options in their consideration set, not the absolute raw scores. I would recommend benchmarks produced by an outside firm to ensure it’s an apples to apples comparison.

CX-IQ.COM – Bob, you quote Jeanne Bliss “human duct tape” role definition of CCO. I am a big fan of duct tape – for a quick repair that needs to be done right later. As you point out through your book – customer-centricity is not a destination, it is a journey. How long can a “ship” sail, patched together with a duct tape? Isn’t a CCO only needed where CEO and CMO have failed?

Bob ThompsonAny change requires specialized help, and customer-centric change is no different. An effective CCO can help bridge the gaps in the short term while implementing systemic reforms that, eventually, will mean the CCO is no longer needed.

CX-IQ.COMBob, thank you very much for the great book and for sharing with us the lessons you have learned in your research.

For more information you can visit HookedOnCustomers.com.

Beyond Buzzwords – 4 Keys to Effective Action

I don't always use buzzwordsA few weeks ago I attempted to provide a clear distinction between customer experience and customer support in this blog post. Since then, the post was re-published on a number of customer experience and service websites, was shared by many readers and drew some very interesting comments. The subject clearly hit a nerve.

While obviously not everyone agrees with the definitions proposed in the article, the discussion itself serves a purpose in solidifying the important concepts in our consciousness.Clear and practical definitions of terms have tremendous implications on the formulation of business strategies, and help us to communicate constructively. One of the reasons it is so difficult to gather support and to obtain financing for customer experience related initiatives is the perception of “squishiness” which is a by-product of fuzzy subject definitions.

I would like to propose a draft for a short dictionary of terms related to customer experience subject matter. The word draft is used purposely to indicate that you are welcome to offer any constructive suggestions for improvement. These definitions are borrowed or re-constructed for the sole purpose of achieving further clarity:

  1. Customer-centricity -  a value based belief system or philosophy.

Like many other “religions” customer-centricity is (supposedly) easy to understand, but difficult to practice – according to Micah Solomon. In my own experience in the context of business, the things that are easily understood and sincerely accepted for their value, are not very complicated to practice.

According to Bob Thompson in his book  Hooked on Customers – it is “a management approach to executing business strategy of delivering the total customer value that drives genuinely loyal customer attitudes and behaviors in a target market”. Bob also states that customer-centricity is not a destination, but a journey.

Of course there are many more definitions, like this one “placing the customer at the center of a company’s marketing effort, focusing on customers rather than sales” that sounds good, but is not particularly actionable or accurate, in my opinion.

The best distinction between customer-centricity and product-centricity was offered by Don Peppers in this article.

My own understanding of this term also requires the clear choice of including the company’s customers into the circle of the company’s stakeholders AND excluding share traders from that circle. There is a difference between investors and speculators. This choice re-defines the focus of management decisions from importance of quarterly earning per share results to a long-term sustainability of the business.

  1. Customer Experience – a perception your customers share about the totality of their experiences of doing business with your company. A more commonly used definition is

 “Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”

While its completeness and inclusiveness are open for a debate, I do not see any critical omissions or contradictions which would negatively impact any specific business initiative. The real debate is whether customer experience can be managed or measured.

  1. Customer Service/Support – for the full context it is best to go to the original post.

Many agree with Chris Zane that

“The Customer Support starts when Customer Experience Fails!”

The most damaging thing about the confusion of Customer Service with Customer Experience is that it makes it all too easy for some to change their title and a shingle on the door,  and pretend that nobody noticed – well, customers will.

  1. In e-commerce and other internet businesses, Customer Experience is often confused with User Experience.

(UX) involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.

The UX surely is another element, attribute or subset of Customer Experience, but the confusion makes it easy to take your eyes of the ball when it comes to fulfillment, support, and other processes that impact the experience of your customers doing business with your company. Consider that some of your  customers may love their User Experience, but hate their Customer Experience. The opposite is not likely.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if these distinctions are not understood a measurable change in your customers’ experience is not likely to materialize.

Customer Engagement is a Double Edge “Sword”

Inside the mind of the consumer-funnyEvery week I get at least two invitations for webinars exploring various customer engagement technologies.  Apparently brands are really interested to engage consumers. At least technology vendors think so, and provide them with powerful tools to do just that. The problem is – nobody seems to know whether the consumers want to be engaged with the brands. Neither the technology vendors nor the brands ever bothered to ask the consumers this question. They just charge ahead and expose consumers to practices that often create negative customer experiences.

A recent online purchase from a well known retailer triggered an immediate avalanche of emails begging me to rate their performance well before the item I purchased was delivered. It was mildly irritating at first. It became outright annoying when the merchandise was not delivered on the promised date. When it finally arrived, I had a chance to experience it sufficiently and respond to the rating request. While the rest of my customer journey was quite smooth, the untimely attempts to “engage”  me, resulted in less than a favorable rating.

While shopping for a kitchen appliance in a well established brick and mortar store, my wife and I met a major brand’s ambassador who gave us very informative product demonstration. Upon completion, she asked for our emails to “continue the engagement”. Unfortunately, the brand did not supply her with any meaningful information about why and how this engagement will be conducted. We chose not to provide our email to the brand. I asked the ambassador about her rate of success in getting email addresses, and her answer was 0%.

I am not suggesting that consumers want no engagement with brands, or that a use of technology for engagement is a bad idea. I do suggest that marketers should ponder on the following questions before they attempt to deploy any technology for customer engagement:

  • What is a value of engaging with your brand from a customer’s perspective?
  • Can your brand benefit from attempts to emotionally engage with consumers? Presumably, brands want to engage with customers to foster loyalty, and consequently grow their sales. Consider that customers may buy your products because of their reputation and not because of brand loyalty.
  • If upon considering the above, you decide to deploy a technology, please think of the details – what type of information, when, how, and how frequently you want to attempt engagement. Think about these from the perspective of a recipient, not the perspective of your brand. Small and easily avoidable errors in deployment can completely de-rail customer engagement initiative – even if the value conditions (first two points) are met. For example, the online retailer described above, could easily trigger their request for  a performance review with the shipping company’s delivery notification. That would avoid alienating this customer with a premature request. Instead they multiplied negativity with repeating the error with an unreasonable frequency.

The most important thing to remember before you start planning a customer engagement campaign: we no longer sell products, services or expertise – we sell experiences.

Can’t Buy Me Love or Superior Customer Experience

Oneness of CXSuperior Customer Experience cannot be delivered without the well orchestrated cooperation of all departments of a company. Yet, this cooperation is very difficult to achieve. The primary reason for the existence of organizational silos is operational efficiency that allows companies to scale their growth. The opposite side of the coin is a lack of unified vision and, as a consequence, the inability to work toward a common goal. This problem has caused many calls for “breaking down the silos“, but I would like to discuss a more constructive approach. Revolutions rarely produce positive ROI for anybody, but their instigators.

There are two approaches commonly discussed to a solution of this problem – heroic leadership act of salvation or/and buying more technology. Neither approach is likely to yield a significant change, in my opinion.

Buying an exercise machine does not improve your health – change of your lifestyle will. Buying marketing automation or big data technology does not improve your company’s prospects for long term profitability growth – delivery of superior customer experience will. Change, before you have to.

Modern organizations are managed by metrics and the dreaded silos are so efficient because they are focused on measurement of isolated sets of results. To continue with the health analogy – measuring blood pressure will not prevent a heart attack unless, the patient is prepared to balance his diet and physical exercise. Similarly, measuring customer satisfaction will not prevent erosion of the company market share, unless the company is prepared to balance it’s operational KPIs and holistic customer experience metric.

The impact of each department within an enterprise on overall customer experience is often neglected and poorly understood. While each one has established metrics to measure its performance, only Customer Service/Support departments are obsessed with measuring customer satisfaction. However, even Customer Service rarely gets it right:

  1. Their obsession is not about holistic customer experience, but about customer satisfaction with customer service.
  2. Their operational KPIs are often cost efficiency focused, and in direct conflict with customer experience goals.

That makes Customer Support department metrics largely irrelevant to the other departments of the company.

A Customer Experience metric is a single measure of how customers perceived their overall experience with the company. However, there are multiple reasons why that perception has formed in their minds. Discovery and measurement of these underlying attributes of the customer experience offers an opportunity to link these attributes to those departments which impact the attribute scores. Below is a crude illustration of the concept.

Link CX with departments

Samples of verbatim used by the customers should be examined to make the linkage more relevant and accurate. Additional sources of internal relevant information such as product returns and customer support ticket volume/complexity would be critical for triangulation on the actual impact of the attribute on the overall customer experience.

This approach is not limited to B2C companies. Just ask your business clients to describe their experience doing business with your company. Let them do it in their own words and resist the temptation of introducing surveys or other company bias inducing formats. The analysis of their unstructured feedback could produce similar charts. The key is to record multiple experiences of your customer’s employees from different departments. Their experiences could be quite different about different attributes of your relationship.

Breaking the silos is an undesirable and unattainable goal. Alternatively, re-examination of operational KPIs of every department for their impact on delivery of superior customer experience will bring the change we seek.

CRM, Omnichannel and the Quest for Customer Intimacy

Once upon a time, before consumer markets became dominated by large corporations and big box stores, customer centricity was a relatively common practice. Small manufacturers and shop keepers could not do it any other way to attract and retain the relatively small number of customers who were financially capable to support their businesses. The real, personal relationship often existed between people who worked for the companies and people who consumed the products and services these companies provided.

As population and affluence grew exponentially, companies followed by scaling their growth to satisfy the needs of their markets. They largely succeeded in building efficient organizations to manage their growth, but at the expense of the “personal” relationships they once had with their customers. During this process of scaling “George” and “Gladys” were replaced by customer persona, segments, demographics, etc. 

I am not waxing nostalgically over the “good, old days” and have full appreciation of the progress that made our lives a lot better in many ways. However, as a customer I do miss the experiences associated with a personal relationship.

Once or twice a week I frequent a funky coffee shop (French Hotel), in the heart of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. The other day I was standing in line to order my cappuccino, ready to give a barista my order. Before I had a chance to open my mouth, the barista gave me a cup made up exactly they way I usually order: with a smile and “hello”, and “how are you doing” to follow.  This kind of experience you can only get in a place where the same 2-3 people work all the time and a transaction is very simple. Can it be re-created in a place like Starbucks? Best Buy? Comcast?

The technologies capable to create such a transformation have been available for over two decades. The enterprise culture, designed for unlimited scaling, did not find the motivation to leverage technology for re-focusing itself on its customers. It has used these technologies to reduce the costs of doing business instead. Organizational silos bring efficiencies to operations, but they also create a broken view of the customer, as each silo has it’s own perspective on how a customer looks: “innovator” or “slow payer” or “support hog”. To make it worse each department thinks that their perspective is the complete and accurate picture.

CRM has promised to create a complete, holistic view of the customer, but failed to break organizational silos and to deliver better customer experience. Now, different technologies make similar promises again. Should we take these promises seriously this time? Let’s look at mega trends to help answer this question.

  • The trend in global population growth is not slowing down. Therefore we cannot expect a stall in the market size growth to moderate the enterprises’ appetite for scaling.

World population growth

  • The affluence of consumers, appears to have moderated in the developed countries, yet continues explosive growth in the high population developing economies of the world. Given the global reach of modern enterprise, the higher demands for better customer experience from a less important customer base, is not likely to force corporate management to review their fundamental propensity for use of technology as a primary cost cutting tool.

Global trends in consumer Affluence

  • During the last decade we witnessed the shift in balance of influence on consumer behavior from brands (enterprise) to their customers. That shift was powered by the proliferation of social media technologies and its adoption by millions of consumers in the developed markets. There is a strong evidence that this mega trend is growing in the developing markets as well.

Affluence and absolute value

The social consumers influence in China is over 50 points below that of the US and Britain. However, if it continues to grow, the enterprise would be forced to review it’s historic strategy and start to compete on quality of customer experience instead of the traditional 4 pillars of marketing.

 

 

Customer Experience is the “New” Marketing

customer experience is the new Marketing Sincerity and competence are the currencies of customer interaction. Consumers may sometimes engage with a brand after seeing clever commercials or hearing a catchy jingle, but they are not very likely continue to be the customers after they encounter indifference and incompetence

Nowadays brands wrestle with the challenge of engaging customers, but they fail to deploy the most powerful weapon in their arsenal – their employees. Instead they employ slick campaigns and technology to shield the employees from the customers. I infer they do it to save cost, but considering the expense of their marketing activities and questionable results they often produce, an investment in quality employees may be much better choice.

I wrote before about my customer experience with Nissan, the brand considered by many to be a competent marketing player. Every time Nissan marketing attempted to engage with me, they created a desire to severe my relationship with the brand. Every offer for service they mailed was accompanied by frustration with my inability to make an appointment without a switchboard hassle. The new “loyalty” program email, outsourced to a “specialist” company and signed by its president, sent me through another phone tree hell. You really do not need an expert to figure out that an email with do-not-respond return address is NOT a great way to grow loyalty! All these marketing shenanigans drove me to do my car service at any place but the Nissan dealership that paid for them.

Recently, my car keyless car entry dongle started to lose its power and I needed to replace the battery. The auto parts stores and a garage, where I went to do an oil change, could not help me. I stopped by the dealership to setup an appointment and was blown away with their sincere desire to help and the competence of the people I met there. When I recall all 3 interactions I had with the dealership employees over the years of my relationship with Nissan, every one of them was extremely positive. Next time I am there, I should explore an opportunity to remove my name and address from their marketing list. If this is possible, I may consider buying my next car there.

This is only one example, but this problem is not limited to Nissan. Our analysis of customer reviews  shows traces of this problem experienced by customers of many other brands.

Technology can be a very powerful weapon, but if it is used by a company to shield its employees from its customers, it will backfire, as both the customers and the best employees will leave the company in frustration. Marketing is about trust and the companies that hide behind technology will not be trusted.

 

Do not confuse Customer Experience with Customer Service

CX is not CSThere are too many people who use the customer experience and customer service/support terms interchangeably. Even well respected authors and customer centricity consultants, like Don Peppers, occasionally slip into this ambiguous trap. Here are some basic definitions found on the web with a simple query:

 

“Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”

 

“Customer Service is the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services. “

 

Customer service is just one of the attributes that comprise customer experience, but it is most definitely not the same thing. For some businesses it could be the most important ingredient, and for others in could be completely inconsequential one.

 

Here are some examples to make the distinctions a little more clear:

 

• You can have great customer experience without the participation of the customer service department at all, but sometimes even the best customer support efforts cannot salvage overall customer experience:

o The most attentive waiter can’t improve a poorly cooked dish, but a scrumptious meal can be remarkably experienced in self-served establishment.

o Expertly installed TV cable service does not guarantee quality entertainment.

o Customer Success Managers can only help to retain customers for a short period of time if the software does not perform as expected.

 

• A product plays the leading role in delivering customer experience, not efforts of customer-facing employees. If a product sucks, no heroics of the front line personnel can deliver excellent customer experience. From this perspective it is difficult to understand how product managers, and even more so product marketing managers, manage to avoid the customer experience responsibility spotlight. These are the people who interpret customer needs and wants into a product design. It is a best practice to have them handle customer support lines on a regular basis to learn firsthand how accurate were their interpretations.

 

• Marketing is the group that creates customer expectations, and when these expectations do not meet reality of a product, customer experience suffers. Classical marketing is supposed to “learn” what customers need and translate this learning to product designers and advertising messages that attract the “right” customers to the “right” product. Instead, marketing is too often focused on “pimping” products designed by engineers overseas without any connection to actual consumers. Focus groups and survey are designed to figure out how to sell what they have got, rather than to make what customers want. No wonder the distinction between “market research” and “marketing research” is so blurry. Customer service can be very helpful to facilitate the return of an unwanted product and deliver great product return experience, but it cannot deliver a great customer experience.

 

Confusing customer service/support with customer experience puts an unfair and unbearable load on the shoulders of an organization that already is the second most stressed group, after sales, in the company. Even though its performance has relatively limited ability to influence delivery of customer experience, it is measured, dissected and optimized completely out of proportion. When you see that happen, it is the first sign that the company is focused on financial engineering – not on their customers.

 

Top 5 Reasons why Customer-Centric Efforts Fail

 

Customer CentricityCustomer Experience Management is a holistic discipline involving all functional departments of a company (see examples here and here). However, many companies treat it as a set of “initiatives” limited to customer-facing units of the organization. The use of the term “initiative” often disguises a lack of commitment to the customer-centricity strategy and hints at the ephemeral nature of these efforts.  While even these tactical campaigns can generate positive ROI, the long-term impact on sustainability of the enterprise is not meaningful without commitment to an overall strategy of transformation into a customer-centric organization. 

 

Most business leaders are receptive, if not enthusiastic, about the customer centricity concept. Some even think that they are leading their companies toward that goal. How successful they really are in pursuing this goal can only be assessed by their customers. However, most companies talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Here are the top 5 reasons why customer centricity is such an elusive target: 

 

  1. Lack of Customer Intelligence –  knowing How many customers one has, how many times they visit or buy, and how much money they spent over a period of time are operational data points, but not intelligence. You have to learn and measure who your customers are, and why they selected to do business with your company—then correlate this information with the operational data points.
  2. Optimization for operational efficiency first (i.e. cost reduction) instead of effectiveness (i.e.  customer lifetime value growth) – you have to adopt an outside-in perspective and design every step of the customer journey to make your company the first and only choice for your selected customers.
  3. “Shotgun” Marketing – mass marketing is going away with mass manufacturing. When you leverage your customer intelligence to design products and services that are simple to understand and simple to use by your selected (chosen) customers, the customer journey stops being a challenge. The best customer-centric companies do not distinguish customer support from marketing. Practice simplicity and prevention.
  4. Marketing designed for churn – everybody knows that a repeat customer has more value than a new one. How do you think an existing customer feels about the promotional offers you advertise for new customers, but then you exclude them? Practice Trust Marketing and remember that loyalty is a two way street. 
  5. Short-term perspective – leaders have to practice what they preach when it comes to priority of customer experience as a long-term strategy. That involves a fundamental change in belief system from a focus on quarterly profit targets to the long-term sustainability of the business. Contrary to popular belief there is no inherent conflict between the interests of customers and interests of the shareholders. However, there is an inherent conflict between the interests of investors (shareholders and customers) and share-traders, who demand quarterly improvements in sales and profits regardless of how harmful it may be for long term health of a company. “Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align,” says Jeff Bezos in a letter to Amazon investors.

 

 

B2B Customer Experience Management – a story from the trenches

B2B Customer Experience Management – a story from the trenches

You may have noticed that most publically available research into Customer Experience is   focused on consumer products and companies. There are a few good reasons why this happens:

 

  1. We all are consumers, and it is easier to write and to relate as a reader to examples and ideas that involve consumer related issues and experiences.
  2. The evolution of social customer affords greater transparency – consumer goods/services customers are rarely limited in their capacity of sharing their experiences (customer feedback) publically. Corporate customers are severely restricted from doing that, limiting the opportunity for open analysis and discussion of specific examples and practices. We, humans, learn best from stories.
  3. B2B Customer Experience Management practitioners often limit their ambitions to Customer Satisfaction and User Experience areas of the discipline. Tim Carrigan explored the set of beliefs in this excellent article – B2B versus B2C – Debunking Five Customer Experience Myths.

It is important to design the research based on outside-in perspective because poorly focused B2B CX inquiry can miss business targets entirely and discredit a CEM initiative.

Outside-in perspective

Here is an example.

A couple of years ago we were working with a medium-sized B2B software company that was relatively well known to business community in its market segment. The company engaged with most of its sales prospects via their website, where visitors could learn about the products and download a free copy for evaluation. While the site traffic and the rate of downloads were reasonably healthy, a conversion from freemium to paid use license was miserably low. Two possible hypotheses were developed to explain this problem:

  1. Download and installation complexity may have prevented users from experiencing the value of the products. We could measure a number of downloads, which was reasonably good, but not how they were installed, configured or used.
  2. The paid product lack of valuable functions and features compared to the free version and did not provide sufficient motivation for users to convert.

Marketing launched a survey initiative to validate the first hypothesis and designed a 5 question form that was emailed to the visitors a few days after they downloaded the free version of a product. Despite a very low participation rate (below 1%) the survey responses overwhelmingly rejected the first hypothesis as 89% of respondents had no negative experience with download and installation.

The second supposition proved to be much more difficult to tackle. Survey questions about product functionality yielded even lower response and provided no clear guidance. A focus group was presented with a list of functions and features considered for future development which participants were asked to prioritize. They were asked if inclusion of these high priority functions into the paid version of the product would help them justify conversion from the free copy, and the majority gave the positive answer. However, upon the new version release the conversion rate did not improve at all, and corporate management was coming hard on Marketing, who pointed a finger on Engineering who pointed it right back – the blame games began!

 

I will continue with the conclusion of this story next week.