Customer Experience Strategy: got one?

9 Nov

Vintage exploding cigars and joy buzzers illustration

The last holdouts to the push-theory of marketing are waiting for something that will not happen: their customers will never give up the ground they have gained to control the relationship through digital channels.

So what’s a business to do?

As you continue to innovate and improve the product or service you offer, you move increasingly towards customer-centricity.

This not only makes sense from a sales-model perspective, but from a competitive one as well. The experience a customer has with your brand at all your touchpoints can be a strategic differentiator. For good or bad!

But in order not to make a hash of things, you need to evaluate your customer’s experience with you. Not once, not twice, but on an ongoing basis – much as you would test your online content – to optimize the relationship.

Customer Relationship Optimization

I had never even heard this term until I just wrote it, so I did some googling: It’s out there! It makes perfect sense that this should become the next big buzz-phrase in marketing, and here’s why:

Constant evaluation of the experience your customer is having with your brand ensures you’re making the most of your opportunities and creating loyalty and advocacy, thereby extending the duration – and I would suggest, intensity – of your customer lifecycle.

Simple. Not so simple is how you do it.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

Create a Customer Experience Strategy for your company. This strategy should be built around two phases:

1. EVALUATION

Evaluating your customer’s experience effectively means both research and mapping.

RESEARCH  You build customer feedback into your existing channels to encourage a steady-flow of insights about what your customer needs. For example, all your outgoing communications (email, paid media, invoices) and in-bound channels  (website, social media pages etc.) should include a survey link (Survey Monkey works nicely), asking what your customer is looking for, and how well you’re providing what they want and value. This helps you to create your gap analysis.

MAPPING  This process evaluates the journey your customer takes when she engages with your brand. It allows you to walk in her shoes and see your business from her perspective.

How does your website hold-up to a customer’s actual needs? What is the experience of interacting with your call centre? What’s the first impression of your selling environment? How do you handle complaints? What does an email from your business feel like? How quickly do you respond to social media mentions? Obviously, there’s a lot going on.

Customer experience lifecycle

If your business draws a mindmap that includes every potential interaction between the customer and your brand during the customer lifecycle – starting with researching the category (search), through investigating the product, point of purchase, post-purchase, loyalty and retention programs, all the way to advocacy – you will end up with a blueprint for a comprehensive audit of your touchpoints.

There’s much to be said for hiring an outside consultant to do this for you: they’re faster, have better processes, know what they’re doing, bring objectivity to the task and are able to deliver a suite of recommendations on the back of it. They can also cost a whack of dough.

But you can scale down the scope and do some of the lifting on your own with methods you’re already familiar with but not putting to use, like secret shopping, both online and off.

2. IMPLEMENTATION

The step that closes the loop is implementing the tactics that narrow the gap between what your customer wants and needs, and what you’re delivering.

There will be quick wins out of the gate and long-term have-to-do’s. Your research should help you understand what’s urgent and what can wait.

Because this is an optimized process of gathering insight, evaluating and implementing changes, your work is never done! Such is  the life of a customer-centric business…

Ideally there will be a mindset shift within your organization towards customer-centricity. The process of implementing tactics to improve your customer’s experience is not just for the customer but also for you and your staff. Defining the required internal cultural shift could have a seismic impact on your business. You may see staff turnover, as those unable to make the leap leave, but you will also begin attracting the right sorts of people to your business.

Does it all seem too daunting? Start small with a single evaluation, such as a website audit. The agency I work with, Redbird Communications, can give you a killer audit. Then implement the recommendations. Commit to a second evaluation. Implement. And so on.

Delight your customer. Win her loyalty.

Make her the most powerful marketing tool you can have: a screaming fan for life.

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5 Responses to “Customer Experience Strategy: got one?”

  1. Andrea November 9, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Killer Post! Feedback: This reader loves posts packed with great tactical recommendations. Thank you!

    • Doug Brown November 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

      Hey thanks Andrea! That was nice to read. I genuinely believe there is something in this area for every business. Touchpoint mapping just makes so much sense to me.

  2. jkramp December 3, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Awesome post, Doug! I love the term “customer relationship optimization” – it makes so much sense!

    Like you, I’m a fan of ongoing customer journey mapping. I think it’s one of the best ways to get an in-depth understanding of a customer experience and strategically analyze our operations from an outside-in perspective. If done correctly, this type of mapping can help us see our businesses in a fresh, new way & understand what’s working & what’s not, & what drives value for our customers & business. But, like you said, the concept of mapping is easy to grasp, yet actually doing it is another matter.

    The company I work with, Touchpoint Dashboard, has a web-based journey mapping/touchpoint analysis tool that really streamlines the mapping process, yet provides an incredibly detailed analysis of the overall customer experience – more so than what a linear map on paper can provide. It allows users to efficiently map all of their touchpoints & related customer & operational data on an ongoing basis. It’s designed to help companies visualize & understand their complete customer experience & identify the touchpoints that work well & the ones that need improvement. You can test drive the tool at TouchpointDashboard.com – we’d love to get your feedback.

    Thanks again for your great post!

    Jennifer Kramp
    TouchpointDashboard.com

    • Doug Brown December 3, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      Nothing like getting to test drive a mapping tool Jennifer! I look forward to that. Thanks for the comment and the introduction to TouchPoint Dashboard. I’ve always imagined that mapping makes most sense as a web-based offering. Cheers!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Horse. Water. Drink? #marketing #advertising #customerrelations | TV Amanda - November 9, 2012

    […] how to create and maintain amazing customer relationships then read Doug Brown’s latest blog post. If anyone could get a horse to drink, I bet it’d be […]

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