Which marketing strategies lead to a decisive advantage in extremely competitive markets? Only a costly few. In the age of word of mouth, the rules are in any case different. The only key to success is the customer.
Basically it is simple: Happy customers are returning customers, in the best case they share their positive experience and so perpetuate a positive brand image. The opposite is the case when consumers are confronted with a low quality product or an unsatisfactory service. That is common sense. Nobody would eat out at a restaurant where the waiters are impolite, the food is bad and the service unsatisfactory. And that’s not the end of the story: Some people would submit a negative review on Qype, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+ etc., others would warn friends not to eat at that restaurant. The more frequently this happens the worse the reputation of the restaurant will become. This reputation is considered to be more trustworthy than the best advertising; consumers trust consumers more than marketing departments. You can use this fact to your advantage. The magic words are Customer Experience Management.
Why Customer Experience Management has become so important
Customers’ expectations of quality, price and service are higher today than they were 50 years ago. Back then demand outstripped supply. Companies didn’t have to put much thought into their quality, service or customer satisfaction – there was simply less competition. Today, the circumstances have changed: The supply is very diverse and higher than the demand. Products and services are arbitrarily interchangeable. Only through courting the customer and inspiring with products, performance or services can a company gain a lasting positive image.
In the age of social networks, word of mouth becomes increasingly important. Unhappy customers publish and multiply their negative experience on a multitude of forums, consumer websites and social media platforms. In the worst case this goes viral and a widely feared shitstorm is unleashed. Companies are challenged more than ever to not only fulfil their customers’ expectations via all interfaces, but to offer more than expected. Because only those who delight their customers can be sure that they will be praised. The experience must be exceptional to be talked about on social networks. News of bad or disappointing experiences spreads quickly. If customers manage to excite others, they become brand ambassadors. Through this you implement the best marketing department in the world.
Putting it into practice
So far that was the theory, but how do you put Customer Experience Management into practice? First and foremost you must define all of the points of contact that the brand has with the customer, from pre sales, sales, use of the product or service, to after sales. The second step is creating interfaces that ideally are directly aimed at the customers’ needs. What must we do to enthuse a customer at every point of contact with our company? Why are our clients not currently satisfied with a product or service? What is going well and where do difficulties in the chain of relations occur? These questions should be asked and answered in depth.
Usually, courting the customer ends with the purchase. The sale is secured and somehow the customer will be satisfied. Here is where the challenge starts. Reaffirming the buying decision! Be prepared to solve problems and answer questions quickly, politely and knowledgeably via every channel (telephone, e-mail, chat, social media). Solve problems as exactly as possible and convey the impression that you consider their problems your problem. With this strategy you will strengthen the positive image of your brand and a one-time buyer will become a regular buyer. Ideally the regular buyer will become a brand ambassador.
Just thinking about a growing number of brand ambassadors makes every marketing executive’s heart beat faster– and quite rightly: If you think about how much money is invested in debateable advertising campaigns and the effect customer satisfaction has, it becomes quite obvious: Even the best advertising campaigns can’t replace service and excellent communication with the customer. Just think about what sticks longer in your memory – the billboard at the bus stop or the emotional statement of a friend about the surprisingly satisfying customer service experience he had with a new smart phone.
Perfectly planned services tailored to the needs of your target are an investment in your brand account. Every cent is well spent and will return many fold. The world’s most successful brands pursue this strategy vehemently. Don’t wait until your competitors upstage you in the area of Customer Experience Management. Your customers are your most valuable assets. Enthuse them! Then your customers will be enthusiastic about you.
To be continued…
Jochen Haselhofer, Sales Manager SELLBYTEL Group
Picture: TierraSierra/Flickr. com