“When you bring people into a physical space, you allow for insights to manifest in a way that you can touch, that you can feel, that you can connect, that you can talk to. It allows one to internalize the information.”
These are the words of Sarah Personette, Head of Facebook Global Business Marketing. Facebook use events to allow customers experience their brand up close and real. They offer the opportunity to connect with social influencers, network with potential partners, and capture the attention of the audience.
By using a method dubbed face-to-face connect they enable the customer experience in events to give customers a feel of what it is like. So they organize regularly, trade shows, conferences, product launches, and/or a combination of social events that act as fundraisers.
During the event, you can gather emails for follow-up drip marketing campaigns, while expanding your brand’s reach and building relationships with your customers and those who influence them.
Your customer experience strategy works well for you if you understand customer pain points intuitively, ensuring that your responses resonate with their concerns. Many claim they have mastered this art yet in practice how many can attest to their responses to customers and claim that ‘navel-gazing’ is not in their DNA? Well, the taste they say is in the pudding.
Your trading results will either vindicate or expose your affinity towards customer concerns. Perhaps a few tips from our experts will help draw some light on how important it is that we put people first in our customer agenda.
Your goal is to win customers that are not necessarily looking for you through various approaches however for our purposes we will focus on the following; leverage technology, think innovatively, building a customer-first culture, engaging your customers, and getting real-time feedback.
Your goal is to create a win-win customer experience. Let technology be your friend and fortunately for you, this technology is in the hands of your customers. Just observing people trade messages and access information at their fingertips is heartwarming.
I suppose it gets frustrating when your colleagues or people close to you would rather spend more time on their phones than with you. Great opportunity though for superior customer service! The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us some very useful lessons in this regard.
I had the personal experience of keeping in touch with my clients during the lockdown period in Ghana engaging with them non-disruptively. I made sure that my communication was not tone-deaf in that I learned to listen intently to my customers, paying attention to their specific needs, and then developing my communication based on that.
Using technology tools such as email, WhatsApp and the almighty Zoom life had never been easier. We held meetings run workshops delivered training and engaged frequently regardless of the distance between us.
Even more interestingly we started a learning platform, DeVictors, and developed a strong network hosting several workshops and engagements aimed at building the capacity of as many like-minded people here in Africa and elsewhere. The effect was amazing. Holding conversations with partners all over the globe without the need to fly was a great experience.
The scope of customer experience is broadening geometrically. A few lessons and takeaways from the covid-19 lockdown include the need to use technology tools to cut internal inefficiencies through the use of analytics and insights.
This allows you access to granular information about your market performance so you can feed this back into your operations. Technologies help us cut down on repetitive tasks and reduce redundancies.
Break the silos culture and integrate your processes thus creating a single version of the truth about your customer’s history and engagements with your brand.
IKEA the Swedish furniture brand has virtualized its buyer’s journey. Customers can view their products, like a sofa or bed, and decide where they would go in their homes to test the look and feel, without even going to an IKEA store. You get the look and feel of the product before you walk in physically to purchase it.
This is about thinking ahead of the customer and managing their expectations before they engaged with your brand. Apple used the advertising slogan ‘Think Different’ to launch a campaign it used from 1997 to 2002 in response to IBM’s slogan of ‘Think’ using it in television advertisements, print advertisements, and several TV commercials to promote Apple products. The effect was profound.
By thinking out of the box they turned their emerging company into a global giant eventually dwarfing the likes of IBM.
By understanding the needs of its customers Apple focused on doing everything differently, changing the way things were normally done from product launch to sales, to packaging, and more.
The Apple brand model is difficult to imitate as many have tried to do so unsuccessfully. The reason is not hard to find. Apple’s soul is in its people.
This is evidenced in their hiring process training where they are taught to engage the brand’s customers.
It uses a very effective communication technique where every employee is trained to walk a customer through five steps that spell out the acronym APPLE.
These are A- Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome, P – Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs, P – Present a solution for the customer to take home today (note the emphasis on taking home today), L – Listen for and resolve issues or concerns and E – End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return. Apple’s strategy here is to personalize the experience of their customers but importantly ensure that this culture of customer-first is replicated internally as employee-first.
A columnist Asim Rais Siddiqui opines that by cultivating influential company culture, however difficult the evidence suggests that the dividends pay off in both cases of employees and customer. Google for example has a strong company culture through which it has become synonymous with the top-notch employee experience. It has set the standard for other companies to follow. It is not helpful if your company’s culture is buttoned up, you end up frustrating your employees. Companies keen on delivering unique experiences need to boldly address shortcomings by having difficult conversations with a desire to address bottlenecks.
Building a customer-first culture
This is our ‘mantra’ for customer experience. As we would say frequently without our customers we don’t have a business. Our goal is the convenience of the customer, their time, their tendencies, their comfort, perception, limited attention span, it is all we strive to address. By doing this better than our competitors we gain a foothold and ultimately outperform them.
Bill Gates (forget his recent storm) articulated his vision years ago to put “A microcomputer on every desk and in every home running Microsoft software.” The rest is history as we speak about the Microsoft brand. Olga Guseva a customer Experience consultant highlights the importance of placing the customer as your top agenda.
According to her corporate leaders are more comfortable managing corporate culture as they are typically prepared for ‘tangible’ things like business processes and products but cannot be stuck with things that don’t have shape, beginning end, or any physical attributes. What gets measured gets managed which begs the question, how do you make customer-centric culture measurable?
Using a tool, the Market Responsiveness Index (MRITM) developed by Dr. Linden Brown you are better able to measure your responsiveness to customers’ needs, competitive threats, and market changes. It allows you to understand the current state of the organization, know where to conduct root cause analysis on issues, monitor progress on improvements and manage expectations of internal stakeholders.
Using this approach you have the benefit of exploring further to understand customers in terms of their wishes and aspirations and to act following this understanding. The ability to understand customer needs now and in the future allows you to develop products or services that will heart in three, five, and ten years.
It is about strategic alignment, thus formalizing the measurement process allows you to bring your employees into the conversation about the customer. To relate effectively with the customer they must be well-grounded in the mission, vision, strategy, and values of the business. According to Olga MRITM is not just a tool. It is a philosophy with a proven correlation to commercial success. By using MRI philosophy, a company can access different aspects of its corporate culture and improve them.
Engaging your customers
How do you develop a better customer experience? The experts advise that the simple solution to this is by engagement. You must be deliberate about this, create customer interactions that produce engagement.
A good example is Microsoft. With a strong presence on Twitter with a dedicated Twitter account to a range of themes encompassing security, development, events, careers, and customer service a platform has been created for customers to interact with every aspect of its brand. Or to cut things to a simple approach you can simply ask questions to start conversations, take quick polls, ask for feedback, and comment on other blogs, chats, and forums.
Ensure that you respond to your comments promptly on social media. By responding quickly, customers are more likely to feel that your business values their feedback and will remember your response. It pays to share user-generated content such as photos or videos of your products through contests or other incentives.
Develop a following to allow your customers to follow your daily activities and participate in conversations revolving around your brand.
Regular interactions with your brand bring you into ‘top of the mind’ focus. Note the consumers’ challenge when they have to deal with an endless array of businesses offering similar products and services, how does your company stand out from the crowd? A personalized, relevant and completely human relationship goes far beyond a single transaction.
Getting real-time feedback
It is said that the way to capture feedback is right after you deliver the service or product. You may employ post-interaction surveys that can be delivered in real-time through programmed tools such as email or phone calls.
Starbucks, for example, often sends an email survey to their customers immediately after a store visit. In it they will normally ask customer service questions specifically for the Starbucks location they had just made a purchase.
In the survey, they ask the customer to rank the friendliness of the baristas and the speed of the service. Using am SMS text messaging AT & T send customer service survey to gather feedback from customers after they have visited their stores.
I need to free myself of guilt here, please ensure that you fill these feedback forms, I am personally breaking the habit of ignoring them as my journey in customer experience progresses.
Please pay attention to the detail and provide feedback to the organization requesting it to help them improve their service. I have weaned myself of this ‘bad’ habit and so can you.
The feedback will usually go to specific customer support teams, as recognizing their contributions helps demonstrate what quality service looks like to other employees. Cadbury launched its first Google+ community, ‘Cakes & Baking – The Cadbury Kitchen’, to generate regular, authentic content for use on other platforms and drive engagement on its original Google+ page.
The outcome was the development of a community’s forum for discussion, and additionally creating an opportunity to gather content for use outside of the community. Cadbury is now one of the top 100 communities on Google+ with over 20,000 members. More than 2,500 recipes have been posted and there is an average of 20 interactions per post.
Developing empathy with your customers requires careful planning and the application of the relevant tools to help you conclude with a relatively high degree of accuracy.
Engaging with your customers deploying tools and interventions to understand and align with their needs is a critical success factor in ensuring that your customer experience strategy brings you the anticipated dividend with the undeniable opportunity it affords you to move ahead of your competition Know your customer, plan for their needs, know them intimately and execute matching strategies however in all this don’t leave out your internal customer – your employees.
|The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing, and General HR Advisory, Training, and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205,|
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