Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scales Make a Difference

There is an article in Quark's marketing Research Review in January written by Kristin Cavllaro. The article is titled "Are global scales as easy as 1-2-3 or A-B-C? The point of her article is that scales make a difference when we are dealing with cultures outside the US.

We normally assume that when we use a survey in a global market, the respondents in the various markets will respond the same as those respondents in the US. According to Ms Cavallaro, that is not true. The article is based on a seven country study which tested the five-point Likert scales in two different manners. The study was performed by Survey Sampling International. The first set of questions used a verbal scale in which all points were described as words. The second set used the same questions but presented the answers as a numerical scale where only the first and last options were anchored or defined. The questionnaire included six different sections; namely,
1. self-comparison to set reference groups
2. women's rights
3. importance of cultures and traditions
4. dependent versus independent thought processes
5. public appearance
6. acceptance/likelihood to purchase a new product concept.

The countries included in the study were the United States, UK, Italy, Japan, China, Brazil and Mexico.

The conclusion drawn by the study are too many to include in this short blog; however, many of the study results are noted in the article. The key result of the study is that the scale does make a difference. Culture has a significant influence on the way people respond to scales. Teh results from Brazil indicate that numeric scales appear stronger than verbal scales. On the other hand Italy, Japan, China and the UK perfromed better with the verbal scale than the numberic. In this case better means a higher score than the data from the numeric scales.

The second major finding was that the difference between the results using the two scales were statistically different. There is a "however" and that is that it is not clear that there is one "best" scale. The validity of the results are not limited ot one scale. In other words, neither scale can be shown to be more correct or true.

The bottom line is the way we use the Likert scale may make a diffrence in the responses on a survey when we are taking measures in multiple cultures. There is no scale that will always out-perform the others. Cultural variations are important and we must continue to accommodate or, at the very least, explain them in any survey that includes other cultures.

The use of scales seems like an automatic and something we should not have to worry about. As it is turning out, the scale may be a new source of error that lead to incorrect solutions. The Customer Institute will continue to follow research in this area.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Putting Personal Concern into a Loyalty Model

In the previous blog a thought model of customer loyalty was posed that consisted of three components; namely, ability, integrity and personal concern. The blog closed with the note that this blog would provide further information about the concept of personal concern.

While there may be many ways to describe personal concern, the following four components are suggested as necessary.
1. In the customer relationship one of the most important aspects of having a personal concern is to be able to restrain your desire to speak. The concept of "holding your tongue" when a customer is either asking a question, offering a suggestion or issuing a complaint tells the customer that he/she is being respected. One of the fastest ways to disrespect a customer is to interrupt when the customer is talking.
2. The second aspect is the idea of putting the customer first. One might call this meekness. By showing the customer that the "the customer comes first" is demonstrable evidence that the customer really is important. Too often, employees will demonstrate their knowledge to the customer in ways that may actually be saying "you are not very smart and you really need me." One of the best approaches to building loyalty is to be humble even though the customer may know very little or may be totally wrong.
3. The third aspect and equally important as the first two is listening. We can often hold our tongue and be humble without listening. Until you focus on listening to the customer you will not really know what the situation is all about and therefore will not be able to provide the best solution to the customer's concern.
4. Finally if you have "held your tongue", remained humble and listened the final step is to help. You cannot provide the best help until you have been successful in the first three aspects.

Each of these four aspects of dealing with a customer builds loyalty because in each step trust is being created and with that trust will come loyalty.

The bottom line is that most loyalty models focus on the first two components of loyalty; namely, ability and integrity. Without the third component the loyalty is built on sand. The rock on which to build customer loyalty is personal concern.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An Interesting Thought Model for Loyalty

I ran across an interesting model for loyalty that makes sense. I am not sure how I would apply metrics to the model but intuitively I like it. It's one of those models that feels good in your gut. The model consists of three components. I am not sure that each component gets equal weight - but that really doesn't matter until we define the metrics.

The three components of the model are:
1. Ability - in order to develop loyalty one must have the ability to provide the product or service. Of course the quality must be adequate for the product and/or service.
2. Integrity - the provider must maintain a high level of integrity. This means the product/service must be provided with honesty and consistently offered on a morale and ethical base.
3. Personal Concern - the provider should show concern for the customer in a personal way. This is nothing more than building a relationship with the customer and showing specific concern for the individual customer.

Most loyalty models seem to focus on one or more of the three questions; namely, overall satisfaction, willingness to repurchase and willingness to recommend. The surveys often will focus on ability of the organization and sometimes will examine the integrity of the business relationship.

The beauty of this model, albeit its shortcoming of not having a clear set of metrics, is the addition of the personal concern component. One of the most often cited concerns of customers is what I refer to as the "big company syndrome". The company providing the product and/or service is too big to be concerned about me. That "me" might be a clerk in a very large organization whose job function is to recommend particular suppliers and yet gets a feeling that the people he/she deals with have no personal concern for him/her. The point I am making here is that the feeling that I am not important can be coming from within a large company just as well as an individual customer.

The bottom line is that most of our loyalty models today focus on ability and integrity but often ignore the personal concern which is one of the three building blocks of loyalty. it is time to add the personal concern factor into our loyalty metrics.

The next blog will focus on how to build the person concern into your strategy.

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