The customer experience: Do you know the experience you are providing your customers and, more importantly, do you know what your customers are saying about you? If I had a dollar for the number of times I heard a speaker or peer say the word “customer experience” during the 2015 Direct Marketing Association &THEN conference I would be able to buy a really nice pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.
“Customer experience” is certainly a buzzword among marketing professionals in 2015. But this is a buzzword that is not going away. Seminar after seminar. Keynote after keynote. Everyone echoing the same thought. The days of mass marketing and customers following your brand as if you were the pied piper have long gone.
Today’s world is full of opportunities to review and recommend brands. Yelp, Google Reviews, TripAdvisors and more have used little stars to define your brand’s success. Our customers are Siskel and Ebert, but with the power to share their experience to the world within just mere seconds after interacting with a brand. It’s like showing the world your brand’s report card. Some of us are very proud of our brand’s report card. It is our greatest achievement and a sign of true hard work. Others would rather not hang our brand’s report card on our mother’s refrigerator. Marketers in 2015 have become obsessed with shining stars.
Obtaining – and keeping – stellar stars can be accomplished in three ways; consistency, respect and unity.
Consistency is keeping the promises your brand makes. If you set the expectation to your customers that your brand is more than just another label in a closet or a symbol on their car, then you have to meet those expectations. Brands are personal choices and no one wants to feel like they’re making a poor choice. What you promise to one, you have to promise to all. A consistent brand experience is going to keep retention numbers up and draw in new customers by something beautiful: positive word of mouth.
For an example of a consistent brand experience, take a look at the return policy for L.L Bean. The copy in the return policy likens their relationship with their customers to a handshake. No matter what, if you are not fully satisfied with your purchase, you can return your merchandise. If you read reviews on the L.L. Bean brand, there are a lot of green happy faces and 4.5 out of 5 gold stars.
Respect is something not freely given to brands. It is something that must be earned and that starts with the very first interaction your customer has with your brand. Ask yourself, “How are you using your data?” Is the first direct mail piece or email blast you send relevant to your customer or prospect? Is your brand something they have opted into? Does your brand offer some sort of education on a topic that is relevant to them? If you respect your customers, your customers will respect your brand.
Internal company unity is the most critical part of the customer experience. If the marketing department is promising customers one thing, and operations doesn’t deliver on that promise, the entire brand experience is tarnished. No stars. The entire company needs to understand and believe in the brand promise. That’s right. Everyone. From the intern to the CFO, the brand promise of putting the customer first is part of every employee’s job responsibility.
Blake Mycoskie, the CEO and Chief Shoe Giver, at TOMS spoke about company unity during the DMA &THEN conference. Brand critics in 2011 often slammed Mycoskie and his One for One shoe company for not creating jobs in the countries where he was distributing shoes to those in need. His operations department didn’t seem to fit in with the company brand promise and people took notice. It really bothered the shoe giver and he knew he had to put a plan in motion to do something about it. On January 21, 2015, Mycoskie announced the first sustainable shoe industry in Haiti. This monumental moment in the brand’s life provided corporate unity and an even larger philanthropic platform for the brand to stand on.
With consistency, respect and unity all in check, brands can be one step closer toward achieving those coveted 5 stars and a report card worth hanging on any refrigerator.
—By Jennifer Mitchell, VP/Account Supervisor