Customer Experience Strategy: Who Are You Talking To?

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When this question popped into my mind, I had a flashback to one of my parents scolding me for an impertinent comment. But seriously, as a marketer, who do you think you are talking to?

While this may seem a very basic question, in a recent Razorfish study of marketing executives only 38% said they could distinguish between a customer and a prospect. Yet in this same study 58% considered themselves capable of targeting experiences to segmented groups.

Historically segmentation and targeting have been effective tools of marketers in general, and database marketers in particular. Intuitively most of us know that a relevant and timely message is more effective than the plethora of irrelevant messages we receive on a daily basis.

The collision of mobile technologies, the Internet, and numerous social platforms has created a whole new marketing landscape; a landscape where the customer experience can mean the difference between profitability and extinction.

In fact, this new space significantly changes the answer to the question posed above. In the past, targeting experiences to segments was the best we could do; this is no longer the case.

In the current environment, creating engaging relationships with all stakeholders can add significant value to the bottom line. In order to create engaging customer experiences we have to consider multiple factors. In this post I’ll provide some scenarios to illustrate the point.

So Where Should One Begin?

We begin by thinking differently. Our mindset must be helping and serving; this applies to internal and external stakeholders. First, we have to know who we are helping. We begin with basic questions:

  1. Who are our customers?
  2. Who are our best customers?
  3. Who are our prospects?
  4. How do we keep our customers?
  5. How do we sustain a relationship with our customers?
  6. How can we convert prospects to customers?
  7. What social platforms do they use?
  8. How do they want to interact with our brand?

Building a strong foundation

Segmentation allows us to know about our customers. In order to engage our customers, we have to know who they are. Creating personas based on the insight gleaned from data brings segments to life. Personas are fictitious representations of segments.

The most effective personas provide a complete view of the entire customer experience. These profiles are built on the solid foundation of a data strategy. This data provides the raw materials for insights, answering the questions: what, why, how and when.

All too often companies don’t think through their data strategy. They simply collect data because someone thought it might be useful to have the data, or worse there is a proliferation of data and very little useful insight. Ask questions like:

  1. What data do we really need?
  2. How will we use this data?
  3. How will we ensure this data is useful?
  4. When and where will we collect the data?
  5. How will this data allow us to serve them?
  6. If you are already collecting data, have you created personas?
  7. Do you have a data strategy?

Now that we have our focus on the customer, let’s move on to explore their experience.

The Customer Experience Dimension

Delivering value to empowered consumers requires a whole new set of questions. It isn’t enough to know who we are talking to; we must also know how to connect.

What kind of information, communication, and connection do they want? Increasingly customers and prospects want more control over the experience. They are demanding an experience that incorporates and respects their preferences.

Now we must move beyond the basics of identity and probe deeper to understand behaviors. A customer-centric view is the most effective approach.

Customer centricity begins with observing and listening. There are a number of free tools that allow brands to observe and listen to customers and prospects.

  1. Are we talking to customers who are focused on saving time?
  2. Are they asking questions? Complaining? Offering suggestions?
  3. How are we making it easier for customers to do business with us?
  4. Are we paying attention to what they are saying?

A Customer Journey map is one of the best tools for exploring, probing and understanding the customer experience.

Mapping the Customer Journey

A journey map is one of the most effective techniques for monitoring and connecting with prospects and customers throughout the entire experience.

The insights gleaned from the mapping process can guide content development strategies, expose process or product deficiencies, and illuminate product development opportunities, to name a few of the benefits.

Here are a few scenarios

As a marketer, think about the implications of who you are talking to in each of these scenarios. These are only sample questions; there are many other questions.

Loyal Customers

  • Do we know their preferences? Are we honoring them?
  • Are we acknowledging their status? For example, American Express has “member since XX” on the front of their cards.
  • Can we coordinate their buying experience across all our platforms?
  • How are we making it easier to buy and use our products/services?
  • Are we effectively using what we already know about this customer?
  • Have we asked for feedback?
  • Are we showing appreciation? Do we thank them? When is the last time we surprised and delighted them?
  • Do we make it easy for them to share their experience?

New Customers

  • Are we doing everything possible to welcome and encourage them to use our products/services?
  • Are we following up to ensure they don’t have questions or comments?
  • Is there a way to proactively answer key frequently asked questions?
  • Are we sending a survey soon after their purchase?
  • Is there a methodology in place to monitor early activation and usage?

Existing Customers

  • What about the other customers, those who may not be in the top 10%?
  • Are there opportunities to provide more products or services?
  • Are there questions or issues that need to be resolved?
  • Is there a satisfaction survey plan in place?

Lapsed Customers

  • Why have they stopped interacting with our brand?
  • Is there anything we can do to restart the relationship?
  • What can we learn from this experience? Are there processes or service improvements we need to make?

Prospects

  • How can we help?
  • Are offering education resources?
  • Is our content available on the right social media platforms?
  • Are we effectively using images and video to inform and educate?

Next Steps

So where is the best place to begin? I would suggest assembling a representative team of stakeholders from various functional areas in your company and create a customer journey map. Then identify a list of questions for some basic scenarios like I described above; tailor these for your unique businesses.

Identify persona based on the insights extracted from the data you have. Most important, the new landscape is rapidly evolving so continue to monitor and tweak the process as necessary. Delivering differentiating customer experiences requires collaboration and alignment across the organization.

Relevant and engaging customer connections don’t just happen; they grow when the right message reaches the right audience at the right time. Thinking about the audience and their journey first, placing the focus there, will move your brand toward deeper connections that add value and create experiences worth sharing.

What are other ways to know who you are talking to?

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