You need to best the competition, but how? You might seek to add a million new features to your product or develop an innovative ad campaign. In many cases, however, the trick to setting your brand apart is providing a quality customer experience.
The Art of Customer Experience
Quality customer service has always been important, but in today's connected climate, word-of-mouth marketing means everything. If customers have a good service experience with your brand, they'll keep buying. If they don't, they'll let you and their friends know. With the click of a button, anyone with a phone can declare to thousands of followers that the experience your company provided was laudable or laughable.
Through praise or criticism, any customer can become an influential advocate for your product or a repellent against new business. Providing the best customer experience takes planning and efficient execution, but it's well worth the effort. By taking the right steps, you can create a positive experience for each of your consumers and increase your brand's reach through their advocacy.
1. Frame your customer experience vision.
The phrase "customer service" might conjure an image of the McDonald's drive-thru window, a uniform-clad teenager holding out a bag of steaming hot french fries with a smile on her face. While that's certainly a part of quality customer service in that scenario, the customer experience encompasses much more than timely and accurate order delivery. A brand distinguishes itself by going beyond the minimum service expectations because every competitor is already doing the minimum.
Consider the McDonald's customer experience vision statement: "Our customers are the reason for our existence. We demonstrate our appreciation by providing them with high-quality food and superior service in a clean, welcoming environment, at a great value. Our goal is quality, service, cleanliness, and value for each and every customer, each and every time." The company's service goals extend far beyond supplying fast food to addressing the motivation that should underpin each customer interaction: to show appreciation.
2. Use technology to streamline communication.
A strong vision statement merits the technological wherewithal to realize that vision. Outdated software can mean missed connections and unmet customer expectations. The good news is today's technology is so advanced that you can create an appropriate communication solution to improve customer engagement at every point of contact.
Application programming interfaces enable customization of contact center software to facilitate interactions between agents and customers that are productive, scalable, and cost-conscious. APIs let you get creative about the best ways to reach your customers and build the right implementation solution. Twilio, a leading cloud communications platform, suggests adopting API-based, multichannel contact centers to "use what you know about your customers, from all of your data sources, to create an experience that anticipates their needs and provides the right service."
Whether messaging, voice, or video is best for your consumers, you can streamline your communication channels and provide a more personal customer experience.
3. Use video to address common customer concerns.
Personalizing connections with your customers doesn't mean you have to write paragraphs answering each of their questions individually. For general issues or questions frequently asked by customers, consider engaging with everyone at once through video.
Hope Horner, CEO of Lemonlight Media, recommends implementing customer service videos as a "personal and authentic way to tackle customer pain points collectively and continuously." Eyewear designer Warby Parker created a YouTube channel for this very reason. Some of its most-viewed videos are simple comparisons of different frames, which the brand correctly anticipated would be its customers' most likely need during the online shopping process.
And videos aren't just a convenient way to answer questions. They provide a face for your brand and a personal interaction that will help you connect with your customers and remind them that you value their experience.
4. Enable ongoing customer feedback.
Just as there are innovative ways to answer customers' questions, there are myriad options for soliciting feedback. Maybe some of your customers want to reply to an email survey, while others would rather submit a form on your website. Some will call you, and others will prefer to tweet at you. You might even follow Slack's approach and forward tweets about your product into your own messaging system, so you'll know your customers' concerns the minute they arise.
"You have to have access on a constant basis to your customer, and understand what their needs are and what their challenges are -- and what they're trying to achieve," says Kelly Watkins, Slack's global vice president of marketing.
Tapping into a variety of feedback channels ensures that every customer is able to give you constructive criticism. What's more, inviting direct comments and addressing them quickly can reduce the social visibility of negative criticism.
Crafting a compelling customer experience isn't easy. It requires a deep knowledge of your consumers and a long-term commitment to meeting their unique needs. If you pull it off, your customers will sing your praises, and their promotion will make the difference between becoming a McDonald's or a Burger Chef. (Ever heard of it? Didn't think so.)