five strategies for developing the optimum customer experience.

  The touchpoints. Be remarkable Manage emotions. Create insiders Personalisation    CUSTOMER-CENTRIC MARKETING To be ethical, marketing and business more generally must be customer-centric. There are few things less ethical than trying to shove a product – that is not wanted or needed – down the throat of an unsuspecting consumer. To maximise profitability and […]

 

  • The touchpoints.
  • Be remarkable
  • Manage emotions.
  • Create insiders
  • Personalisation 

 

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC MARKETING

To be ethical, marketing and business more generally must be customer-centric. There are few things less ethical than trying to shove a product – that is not wanted or needed – down the throat of an unsuspecting consumer.

To maximise profitability and performance more generally, business and marketing, in particular, need to be customer-centric. Customer-centric marketing is the key to maximising sales, margins, the average sale per customer, repeat business rates and referral rates.

The customer experience should be entirely customer-centric. A customer experience that meets customer needs and exceeds customer expectations will contribute significantly to maximising every customer’s lifetime value. 

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Customer experience, or CX as the ‘in crowd’ call it, has been one of the most written about aspects of marketing over recent years. This is not surprising given the potential impact of the customer experience on sales and, more broadly, the lifetime value of each customer. There is evidence to suggest that the customer experience is more critical today than it has ever been.

My philosophy on customer experience might be summarised as follows:

  • The customer experience is central to the success of most marketing strategies and, in some, is more important than the product being purchased.
  • The customer experience can be, and in some notable cases (in Apple and Bunnings stores, for example), can represent a powerful point of differentiation.
  • The customer, not the business or brand, ultimately defines the optimum customer experience.

 

DEFINITIONS

There are 5 concepts central to discussion of customer experience. They are:

  • Customer service– The support provided to customers before and after they buy a good or service. 
  • Customer experience– The totality of the interactions with a brand’s employees, systems, channels, or products) when going through the process of making a purchase.
  • Optimum customer experience– the customer experience that most drives the average lifetime value of each customer, thus maximising return on investment.
  • Customer journey– the pathway to and sequence of actions the customers take before and after making a purchase.

 

Key points here include:

  • There is a difference between customer service and customer experience, with the latter involving the totality of the experience.
  • The importance of identifying the optimum experience that has the potential to maximise ROI.
  • The importance of the customer journey and each touchpoint n that journey in developing the optimum customer experience.

 

 THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

No purchase is made in isolation. Every purchase, offline or online, involves a customer experience, and that experience directly impacts on:

  • Conversion rates.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Customer loyalty and repeat business rates.
  • Advocacy and referral rates.

 

 To quote Hubspot – ‘A remarkable customer experience is critical to the sustained growth of any business. A positive customer experience promotes loyalty, helps retain customers, and encourages brand advocacy.’

There are times, especially when the products are roughly equivalent when the customer experience is more important in driving a purchase than the product itself. Some brands have built their business and created a strategic competitive advantage from customer experience.

These research findings highlight the importance of customer experience:

  • 73%of consumers love a brand because of helpful customer service.
  • 73%of customers agree that customer experience helps to drive their buying decision
  • 86%of customers will pay more to get a better customer experience.
  • 74%of customers can switch brands if the purchasing process is too difficult for them.
  • 32%of customers “break up” with a favourite brand after one poor customer experience.
  • 67%of users say their standard for a good customer experience is higher than ever.

 

 FIVE REQUIREMENTS

Requirements for developing the optimum customer experience strategy include the following:

  • Understanding
  • Mapping
  • Culture
  • Consistency
  • Mindset

 They contribute to maximising return on investment; the optimum customer experience must meet customer needs and exceed their expectations. To do this, it is essential to understand those needs and expectations. Some form of market research is essential, and co-creation is desirable.

The customer experience starts at the beginning of the customer journey and is impacted at each touchpoint, even after a purchase. It is first necessary to understand the journey and identify the touchpoints to address all touchpoints.

Delivering the optimum customer experience is ultimately the responsibility of staff working within a business. To ensure that staff behave optimally, it is essential to develop a culture that reflects the brand and will ensure the optimum experience is delivered.

Delivering the optimum customer experience once is rarely enough. A strong brand is only established when the optimum customer experience is delivered consistently over an extended period – ideally, the lifetime of the business. Highlighting the importance of consistency are the following research findings:

  • 65%of respondents would become long-term customers of a brand if they can provide positive experiences throughout the customer journey.
  • 42%of consumers say a seamless experience across all devices and channels is a top expectation, while only 11% of decision-makers see seamless, omnichannel experiences as the most important factor when delivering quality experiences.

 

 Developing a customer experience mindset involves understanding the importance of customer experience and embracing the fact that the customer defines the optimum customer experience.

FIVE STRATEGIES

Books have been written about, and journals have been filled with strategies businesses should adopt to create the optimum customer experience. This missive touches on just five of these strategies – all of which are customer-centric and all of which are central to a truly customer-centric business.

THE TOUCHPOINTS.

It is very difficult to define and create the optimum customer experience without first mapping the customer journey and identifying each point along that journey in which the customer or potential customer interacts or potentially interacts with the business or brand. Every touchpoint is a part of the customer experience and the customer’s takeaways from that experience. Touchpoints can include:

  • Google search – how good is your search engine optimisation?
  • Website review – how easy is it to find critical information on your website?
  • Phone enquiry – how efficient user friendly is telephone engagement?
  • Brochure review – how informative and accessible is your brochure?
  • Store visit – how long are customers kept waiting?
  • Purchase process – are the products to be purchased in stock?
  • Delivery – do you offer a precise delivery time?
  • Follow up – do you follow up with customers to secure feedback?
  • Aftersales service – how well do you look after customers after a purchase?

 

 All of these touchpoints, and the others, are important. They must be addressed as part of the customer experience strategy, forming a critical component of the overall marketing strategy. Understanding and addressing the customer journey and the touchpoints are central to consistency. The strategic planning process needs to identify and directly address each touch point in the customer journey to ensure an optimum customer experience.

It is not hard or expensive. It just takes time and a deliberate process.

BE REMARKABLE

We all struggle to remember the mediocre experiences in our lives, and if we don’t remember experiences, we are less likely to repeat them or talk to others about them. Remarkable experiences, however, tend to be well remembered and frequently discussed, potentially enhancing both repeat business and referral rates. A remarkable customer experience can also be a potential competitive advantage.

These research findings highlight the importance of a remarkable customer experience:

  • 61%of consumers will pay at least 5% more if they know they’ll get a good customer experience.
  • 56%of consumers feel that the quality of the customer service they receive has a higher impact on how positively they view a brand than any other criteria.

 

Establishing the nature of the remarkable customer experience that meets the needs and exceeds the customers’ expectations requires an in-depth understanding of customer needs and expectations. Developing this understanding requires research. Developing the optimum customer experience will be aided by an approach involving co-creation – or working directly with customers to create the customer experience that will drive conversion rates, margins, the average sale per transaction, repeat business rates and referral rates.

While what constitutes a remarkable customer experience depends on the needs and expectations of the target market, some characteristics are common to remarkable customer experiences. They are almost always:

  • Engaging – connecting with as many senses and positive emotions as possible.
  • Unique – or at least distinctly different from competitive experiences.
  • Personalised – make the customer feel that the experience was created just for them.
  • Surprising – incorporates elements or interactions that are completely unexpected.
  • Repeatable – executed using prescriptive methods to achieve consistency and excellence.
  • Easy – the easier it is to make a purchase, the better the experience.

 

The optimum customer experience is almost always remarkable. A customer-centric marketing approach is central to developing the optimum customer experience. Work with your customers to develop a remarkable customer experience.

MANAGE EMOTIONS.

While a range of facts and events during the customer journey impact customer satisfaction, ultimately, customer satisfaction is an emotional response. In creating the customer satisfaction that will drive repeat business and referral, it is essential to deliver a remarkable customer experience and ensure the customer connects emotionally with the experience and outcomes.

Creating a positive emotional response includes appealing to the senses, which impacts feelings and emotions. The optimum customer experience addresses as many senses as possible, paying particular attention to that sense most relevant to the product. The optimum customer experience is often an iconic sensory experience – like the exceptional one offered by The Body Shop, IKEA, and Zara.

Considerations in creating a positive emotional response include the expectations of customers in terms of customer service and especially – personalisation, privacy, access, response times, delivery times, delivery costs, support, follow-up, manners and courtesy. Most importantly, creating a positive emotional response is difficult unless the customer feels the experience is designed for and focused on the customer. Phrases like – ‘that is against firm policy’ – must never be uttered. The focus must be on making customers feel that they are the centre of the universe.

When encouraging an emotional response, it is important to:

  • Be specific about the emotions that need to be evoked. How do you want them to feel?
  • Understand and specifically drive the emotions that will ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Measure the important customer emotions and adjust the strategy based on the data.
  • Directly design an emotional component into the customer experience.
  • Train the staff and create a culture that generates a positive emotional response.

 

The facts pertaining to the customer experience are important, but emotions are more important. Use the optimum customer experience to drive a positive emotional response.

CREATE INSIDERS

Nothing creates brand loyalty more than clients feeling like they are insiders – friends of the business, people the business or brand considers significant and worthy of their time and resources. Significance is one of six drivers of consumer behaviour. Connection is another of the six drivers of consumer behaviour. Feeling connected with the brand is also important during the customer experience.

The optimum customer experience:

  • Embraces significance, calling customers by name and remembering relevant personal information.
  • Connecting with customers in a way that makes them feel important and part of a brand community.

 

These two points highlight the importance and potential of:

  • Co-creation – that guides strategy and makes customers feel significant.
  • Brand community – that provides insights and connects members of the community.

 

The other four drivers of consumer behaviour are – certainty, variety, connection, growth, and contribution. These can also be addressed in the customer experience, further enhancing the feeling of being an insider. Also helpful in making customers feel like insiders can be:

  • Personalisation – which also boosts the sense of significance.
  • Going above and beyond – in ways that might only happen for friends.
  • Displaying obvious empathy – listening and showing an understanding of the client.
  • Responding quickly and generously to issues as and when they arise.
  • Following up customers when there is nothing apparent for the business to gain.
  • Prioritise face-to-face communication – rich in body language and nuance.
  • Engaging customers on social media – directly or through a community site.
  • Demonstrate genuine appreciation – for the custom and the relationship.

 

Make the customer feel like an insider, and the customer experience will be significantly enhanced.

PERSONALISATION 

When I was new to the business, I met with the CEO of a client in the client’s boardroom. I commented on the lack of bragging material (in the form of images, customer names and logos) in their offices – despite such material being commonplace in an advertising agency. The client CEO responded by telling me that when he has a client in his board room – he wants that client to feel that they are the only client the agency works with. This CEO understood the importance of a personalised experience.

A personalised customer experience is all about – businesses understanding customers’ unique requirements and preferences and engaging with them as individuals rather than customer types or segments. The optimum customer experience is personalised to the needs and wants of the customer.

Personalised customer experience refers to developing products, services, and interactions to meet your customer’s unique and individual requirements, from greeting them by their first name to designing offers that meet their likes and interests. Personalisation has the potential to not only develop an optimum customer experience but also create a brand differentiator. 

These research findings evidence the power of personalising the customer experience:

  • 70%of brands that rely on advanced personalisation secured a 200% higher ROI.
  • 63%of marketers observed that personalisation increases customer interactions and better conversion rates. 
  • 80%of consumers are likelier to buy from a company that provides a tailored experience. 
  • 72%of customers will only engage with personalised messaging. 

 

Developing a personalised customer experience might involve:

  • Developing and maintaining customer profiles.
  • Developing and implementing a customer-focused vision.
  • Ensuring that customers can choose the channels that suit them.
  • Engaging with customers in their language and without jargon.
  • Asking questions, listening to the answers, and behaving accordingly.
  • Gathering and responding to customer feedback and staff insights.
  • Utilise the growing range of technologies to facilitate personalisation.

 

 Personalising the customer experience is emblematic of and facilitates customer-centric marketing.

INSIGHTS

  1. The optimum customer experience – requires a profound understanding of the client.
  2. The optimum customer experience – requires precise customer journey mapping.
  3. The optimum customer experience – requires a culture that causes staff to deliver.
  4. The optimum customer experience – requires consistency online and offline.
  5. The optimum customer experience – requires putting the customer at the centre.

 

 ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

 

RECOMMENDED READING

 

TIPS

  1. The optimum customer experience – addresses every touchpoint on the customer journey. 
  2. The optimum customer experience – is remarkable for customers to talk about. 
  3. The optimum customer experience – impacts the emotions – establishing a connection. 
  4. The optimum customer experience – creates insiders – embers of a brand community. 
  5. The optimum customer experience – is personalised to address individuals, not segments. 

 

QUESTIONS

  1. Given that 86%of customers will pay more to get a better customer experience – what strategies are you implementing to develop the optimum experience?
  2. Given that 74%of customers can switch brands if the purchasing process is too difficult for them, what are you doing to make the experience as easy as possible?
  3. Given that 72%of customers will only engage with personalised messaging, in what ways is your marketing messaging personalised?
  4. Given that 80%of consumers are likelier to buy from a company that provides a tailored experience, how are you tailoring the customer experience?
  5. Given that 42%of consumers say a seamless experience across all devices and channels is a top expectation, what is your omnichannel strategy?

 

STATISTICS

  1. 73%of consumers love a brand because of helpful customer service.
  2. 86%of customers will pay more to get a better customer experience.
  3. 70%of brands that rely on advanced personalisation secured a 200% higher ROI.
  4. 72%of customers will only engage with personalised messaging. 
  5. 67%of users say their standard for a good customer experience is higher than ever.

 

Return on investment in marketing is maximised when the customer is at the centre of the strategic planning process. Many businesses claim to be customer-centric, but few are – resulting in higher marketing costs and a lower average customer lifetime value.

A customer-centric business understands the needs, wants, and expectations of its target market – why members do what they do – and how best to cause members of the market to behave in a way that maximises performance. 

I work with clients to understand customer needs, wants and expectations; and develop strategies that leverage the power of consumer behaviour to maximise return on investment while at the same time embracing the ethics of customer-centric business

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