Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 | 7 min read
Imagine yourself walking down a street surrounded by digital billboards. As you pass one, it becomes personalized to you – mentioning you by name, telling you about the latest safety testing on a set of cars that you have been researching online. Another one offers new tips for getting your youngest to eat their veggies, the organic kind. There’s also the one that tells you there’s a big sale happening this weekend on ski gear at your local sports store.
Imagine yourself walking into your favorite clothing store and being greeted by name by a new salesperson. She knows your name because the iBeacon in your smartphone alerted her on her iPad as you entered the store. She mentions a sale on jeans, noting that there are only a few left in your size, and offers to help you pick some out to try on.
You make a few purchases and as you are leaving the store, the salesperson whispers that you should plan to come back in a couple of days, because there will be a big sale on thermal undergarments that would be perfect for that ski trip you are planning.
Okay, so this is a slightly new take on “Minority Report” that might make Tom Cruise proud. It’s a super-personalized customer experience that will make some consumers happy and completely freak out others. It does sound nice to be able to walk into a store and get that kind of personalized treatment, or to be surrounded by advertising that you can relate to, but the reality is… we just aren’t there yet. And to be honest, that’s a really good thing.
We’ve been having this discussion about what the best customer experience really is for a few years now, if not more. But great customer experience is really hard to define, because it’s so personal to every customer and prospect you have. There are few, I suspect, that see great customer experience as the personalized billboards or a salesperson knowing your skiing plans without you even telling her. I think most, though, are looking for something much simpler, and that is where brands need to focus.
The beginning is really your business strategy, and one hopes that you have aligned that strategy with the needs of your customers – they go hand-in-hand. Now that you know what you want to do and how it aligns to the needs of your customers, it’s time to start monitoring social media for keyword mentions so you can reach out to customers and prospects, right? Slow down.
You’re aiming directly for the end before starting at the beginning. First things first: get your entire organization on the same page. Develop a holistic view of your customers. Figure out what the initial profile is that you need to build to get a good view of your customers and their needs. It doesn’t have to include everything – it’s a beginning, something you can build on as you access more data and learn more.
To do this, think about the customer’s journey through the buying process, from need to actual purchase. Use that journey to start developing the customer profile. Pull in data sources used at each point in the journey, and start to build a picture. As you continue to add more data sources, learn how to filter out the noise and keep only the important information. This won’t happen overnight, take the time to get it right.
Keeping a customer is much easier than gaining a new one, but if you don’t bring together the entire organization’s view of your customer, losing that customer is pretty simple. As you build that holistic profile, remember that the customer life cycle goes long past the point of actual purchase.
Connect the dots between marketing, sales, and service and support. Everyone in your organization should know a customer across every touchpoint, using that knowledge to grow the relationship.
This holistic view of the customer also enables you to develop a consistent message across all your communication and engagement strategies. Everything you do with social media, content marketing, communications, and support should be consistent and usable across marketing, sales, customer service, and more. Having a single consistent voice from your organization is as important as having that holistic view of your customer.
You hear it every day – there’s no time to waste. If you want to be successful, you have to begin doing great things for your customers, offering great customer experiences. Personalize. Mobilize. Socialize. Localize.
Every brand is in a rush to be the best, offer the best, to personalize the experience across every channel, online and off. But there’s a reason why the tortoise won the race over the hare. He took his time. The hare, in his rush to win, didn’t pay attention, and in the end he paid the price. I’m not suggesting you slow down to a crawl, but I am suggesting you take the time to do things right from the beginning. Building a holistic view of the customer across the entire customer life cycle and presenting a consistent voice across your organization – these things are what will help you win the race, and no matter what technology you use, they won’t happen overnight.
As for that salesperson knowing about your skiing trip, or what size jeans you wear? Wouldn’t you be just as happy if she was polite and helpful and offered you the same deals you get from that store’s online shop? Wouldn’t it be nice to shop on your smartphone on your lunch break, and continue that shopping experience on your tablet at home later that night? Wouldn’t it be nice to receive an email or a tweet from customer support letting you know that if you need any assistance with that product you just bought, to feel free to reach out?
Great customer experience is not a race, it’s a journey. And the best customer experiences pay respect to the entire journey, not just the destination.
About the Author: Barb Mosher Zinck is a content marketing strategist/digital experience analyst. She is the Editorial Director of Digital Tech Diary, a new online resource for digital experience practitioners. She spends her days learning how to build better customer experiences, providing actionable strategies for her clients and practical guidance for her magazine audience.