Goal Setting Continued… Goal #2: Excellent Customer Experience

smiley face LEADING THOUGHTS Welcome back! Last week, we wrote about the importance of goal setting for your engagement strategy, as it relates to social media in this particular example. What you do on the social web, just like any other business activity, can’t be haphazard. Social media is fun and exciting, and I fully understand the temptation of doing it for the sake of doing it. However, it’s a business activity, and you should approach it as such, with a plan for execution and measurement, metrics appropriate for your goals, and maybe even its own P&L.

Last week we talked about increasing awareness as a goal. If you don’t increase awareness, you won’t increase the number of unique users, and without that, you won’t grow your revenues (which is, or at least should be, your #1 goal). Sure, you could live off strong awareness for a while, getting everyone to try your product, maybe even buy it once. However, if your product doesn’t deliver what you promised it would, no one will want to repurchase or purchase after the trial runs out. There’s a word for that — hype. You don’t want to be one of those. You will risk turning off your loyal early brand champions, possibly resulting in bad word of mouth. For revenue to sustain and even happen at all, you need to tend to goal #2: customer experience.

Why is customer experience important? Is it more important now than before? If not, then why’s everyone talking about it? Customer experience has always been important, or at least it should’ve been. I presume that it’s been gaining an increasing share of conversation lately because social media has this way of grabbing everything and putting it under a microscope and then displaying it for everyone to see. Word of mouth isn’t new, but WOM enabled by social media is like WOM on steroids. Needless to say, tales of bad customer experience aren’t only told over the dinner table, but are aired out on Twitter, blogs and discussion forums. Take a peeved customer and add a dash of creativity, and you get videos that go truly viral (United Breaks Guitars has its own Wikipedia entry!). And now the companies have to respond. Some will retaliate  and make excuses to explain their way out of a mess, losing the battle for the public’s hearts and wallets. The smart ones, however, will admit to the snafu, apologize humbly and do whatever they need in order to make amends. The really smart ones, the winners, do the above and make changes (and maybe even cultural adjustments) in order to improve the customer experience.

I’ve written about the expanded touchpoints that contribute to a customer experience here, and frankly going into a lot of depth could yield a book (and is undoubtedly going to be a subject of longer-form publications from Nimble) — so here’s just a brief overview of the major touchpoints that contribute to customer experience:

  • Marketing and thought leadership: online, website, social media, in-person events, online events, thought leadership, blogger outreach
  • Sales: maintaining relationships, researching client needs, listening at the point of need
  • Product performance: how closely product performance aligns with expectations, how well it addresses a customer need (make sure it’s not a solution looking for a problem).
  • Customer service: how prompt and effective your support is, how many (or better: how few) repeat issues there are
  • Product intelligence and design: indirectly through better listening, analysis, distillation of insights and more direct methods of inviting key persons behind the scenes (online and off) to help you create better products.

As a first step, task yourself with evaluating the entire process from a customer’s POV in all of the above interactions. Would you buy your own product or even try it, if you were them? Just as importantly, examine why your non-customers aren’t buying you / no longer buying you. Were they interested at first, but got turned off by high-pressure tactics? Did they purchase, but the product didn’t perform? Did they have an issue, but your customer support was inadequate? Did they become a loyal customer but you never bothered to listen to their ideas?

How do you know your customer experience efforts are paying off? Listen to what they are saying! While this answer is simple, it’s not easy to really hear, internalize and enact change if you don’t like what you are hearing. To start, you should be tracking the number of positive and negative mentions across relevant channels. Take a look at trends; your goal should be to increase positive mentions and decrease negative ones. Take a look at how that compares to your industry and competitors; you goal should be to be the best. Don’t get caught up in numbers; make sure you take some time to dive into why people feel they way they feel. Ask them. Be proactive. Read their blogs and engage with them.

Make sure that with every step, you are moving the needle on solving a customer problem, while listening, engaging, and never overselling your capabilities. If you do all that, and approach each customer interaction with respect, humility and an individualized solution, you will provide an excellent experience through and through. If you increase awareness, while astounding with such an experience, you will turn trial into purchase, purchase into repeat purchase, customers into champions and critics into advocates.

Next time we’ll discuss increasing revenues and profits as goals for your engagement strategy. Until then, the comments are yours! Tell us how you provide excellent experience for your customers, and how your suppliers/vendors do it for you.

Photo credit: alancleaver_2000