Jan 10, 2013

Invest in customer experience, not in marketing!

Wow, that might be a provocative thought for some marketing and sales executives. Growing your business by spending less on marketing? Well, kind of. It’s just a different perspective on marketing – delivering exceptional customer service and a great customer experience is the new marketing. It keeps existing customers loyal and attracts new customers through referrals. Many studies have shown that:
  • It costs many times more to sell to a new customer than to an existing customer
  • Word of mouth and referrals are the most effective marketing
There are many success stories of this approach (e.g. Zappos.com), and it seems obvious that the “sharing culture” of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc.) makes the focus on customer experience more crucial than ever. So, how do you create a great customer experience? It’s simple: Set the right expectations and then exceed them with your product and service offering. Or in other words: Under-promise and over-deliver! Of course, the challenge is to identify (and manage) the customer expectations, and then package and deliver a product / service combination that actually exceeds those expectations. Here are some ideas:

How to set and manage customer expectations:
  • Better understand customer needs, challenges and behavior
  • Evaluate emotional factors (urgency, anxiety, etc.)
  • Listen to customers and their comments and expectations (Twitter, Facebook, sales/service calls, surveys, etc.)
  • Document your findings! Include “expectations” into you marketing planning and strategy process.
  • Communicate the right story. Make sure your marketing/sales communication to customers doesn’t over-promise or set the wrong expectations
How to meet and exceed expectations with your offering:
  • Step into the role of a customer and evaluate what they “experience” when doing business with you – think about every touch point. How do they learn about your product? How and where do they buy? How do they pay or get invoiced? How do they get your product/service delivered? How do they use it? How do they get help and support?
  • For every important touch-point, you should identify (and set) the customer expectations and then align your services/products to match or exceed those expectations.
  • Design a more customer centric process and culture. Encourage the whole organization to “work for the customer”. Give your employees the freedom to “wow” the customer (discount, free shipping, special treatment, etc.)
  • Evaluate if you are targeting the right segment (If you offer a high-price, high quality product and you target the “low-price” audience, you won’t be able to exceed their expectations)
As you can imagine, there are endless possibilities of detailed research, human behavior analysis and other scientific methods to optimize customer expectations and experience, however, the goal of this blog is to simplify things. 1. Make your organization aware of it; 2. Focus on customer experience as part of your marketing strategy; 3. Start evaluating the various customer interaction touch-points and better align expectations with your product/service delivery.