Be at the start of your customer’s journey
Many customers are starting their buying journeys earlier and earlier and are conducting much of their buying research online. Firms need to realise this and work out how they can help their prospective customers with the early part of their buying journey.
To get started preparing to do that, here are some key questions for you to ask: Where does your customer’s journey start? Are you there at the start of your customer’s journey to help? What are they going to want to know around their purchasing decision, what are their fears, concerns, etc.?
Don’t interrupt customers
Companies are still relying predominantly on traditional marketing methods to build awareness with customers and attract attention despite research that shows that customers think these are often ineffective. So, if your customers are not showing an interest in your marketing communications and you are not getting the responses that you want then review your marketing methods.
To help you get started, you should ask yourself some serious questions: Is your marketing targeted at the right people? Are you just trying to sell them something? Are you interrupting your customers more for your gain rather than theirs?
Develop trust at a distance
Trust is earned and not given. This is just as true today as it’s always been. However, developing trust with customers is becoming increasingly difficult given that many are making the majority of their buying decisions before they have even contacted a company. Firms need to respond and use tools like content and inbound marketing to help them build and develop trust at a distance. To get started building your own ‘trust at a distance’ journey, you need to:
Understand your buying personas. This means that when producing content, make sure whatever you create is targeted at the people you want to attract and engage. Hubspot started selling to two personas and now sell to six or seven.
Successful inbound marketing = content + context. Your customer’s lifecycle stage is your context. Your inbound marketing efforts will be even more effective if you are producing content that is right for your buying personas but is also aligned to where they are in their buying cycle, what jobs they want to accomplish and/or what decisions they need to make i.e. you need to be saying the right things to the right people at the right time.
To really engage you must be willing to fail
Customers want and expect the brands that they trust to innovate and experiment as they continue to deliver value. They also understand that not all innovations will work but their trust in the brand is strong enough to survive and prosper beyond these failures.
Therefore, to maintain and grow the trust and engagement that you have with your customers you must be willing to innovate, experiment and, in the worst case scenario, fail.
The key here is to innovate and experiment in an environment or culture that allows failure, where experimentation in a small way is allowed, where failure is not fatal for the business or anyone’s career and where you can, through your failures, learn how to start doing innovative or unique work. Once you have found or created that environment or culture you will be well on your way.
But, it’s important to remember to start small as it’s only after you have tried to do new things in a small way that you will earn the right to do them in a larger way.
People will pay more for better service
Research shows that customers will pay for a better service or enhanced customer experience. However, charging customers higher prices is often met with internal resistance. A lot of which is driven by fear. Fear that customers will leave if they are charged more for a better service or an enhanced customer experience.
One way to combat this, and to test it out on your customers, is to develop a ‘premium’ style offer that delivers enhanced service for a higher price and sits alongside your normal offer. You never know, the addition of a ‘premium’ style offer may just attract and engage a new set of customers.
Speak my language
It’s easier to talk about your business in the language of your industry. However, for customers that’s not always the easiest way to understand and makes engaging with them harder.
Here are some questions to help you figure out whether or not you are speaking your customers’ language and what you can do about it: Are you operating in an industry that is technical (even a little bit)? Are you speaking in a language that your customer understands? Or, even better, are you talking the customers’ language? If you were to show a sample of your communication with your customers to someone outside your business or industry, your grandmother say, would they understand it?
Remove the grit
From time to time there will be little things in our customer experience that annoy or irritate our customers. These are often overlooked but shouldn’t be as they tend to be the things that customers remember.
If firms want to go about locating and removing the ‘grit’ in their customer experience these questions will help: Ask your customers a question such as: ‘Is there anything that we do, however slight, that annoys you or has annoyed you in the past?’ Ask your frontline staff: ‘What customer issues or problems keep recurring?’
A name not a number
Organising your information and customer data in a way that makes your customer do the work every time they call you may make sense to you and how you structure yourself, but it is not going to help your customer service promise or cause.
Stress test your customer experience by seeing how you respond to a customer who contacts you without their account number or policy number or membership number to hand: Can you locate their information quickly enough? Do you have an alternative route that they can go down? Can you establish and maintain data security? If not, then you should consider re-configuring your systems. Great service starts by treating a customer as a person and not a number.
What drives loyalty?
We know that customer loyalty is about more than a loyalty programme and has large emotional and behavioural elements to it and that loyalty is often not given but it is earned.
Moreover insights offer some broad conclusions for businesses thinking about redesigning or revamping their customer loyalty strategies, programmes and initiatives. In summary, here’s what firms should do: Put your customer, not your business, at the heart of your loyalty strategy and programme. Understand your customer as a person, not just as a ‘wallet’. Realise that your overall customer experience is just as important to your customer loyalty as your loyalty programme is. Like any relationship, if your loyalty programme doesn’t change over time then your customers are likely to lose interest.
Leadership behaviours and customer experience
It’s not enough anymore to tell a good story about customer experience. As the old saying goes ‘Actions speak louder than words’. Therefore, leaders need to understand that if they want to transform the customer experience of their business then they need to reduce the ‘distance’ that exists between them and their frontline employees and their customers.
To understand what they need to do next, leaders should ask themselves the following questions: When was the last time that I was ‘on the tools’ delivering work for my customers or sitting side by side with my employees serving customers? Do I know what it’s like to do the job of my frontline employees? Not intellectually but viscerally? When was the last time I observed my customers? Talked to them directly, without it being a contrived, managed or set-up situation?
Answers to these questions will give you a good idea of the ‘distance’ that exists between your position and role and what you need to do next.