By Chris McNeil, President at Pensarc Marketing
A Checklist for Brick and Mortar Businesses Using the Internet to Support Experience Marketing
A highlight of my favorite Thai restaurant, Basil, in downtown Charleston is the theater of the glass-walled kitchen. The cooks move in synchronized unison like an Indy 500 pit crew with shrimp and vegetables dancing in the air then sizzling in the woks. Seeing the chefs making food magic with nowhere to hide adds confidence like an additional flavor in perfect counterpoint supplementing the already perfect blends of spices.
The transparency of the internet stages customer experience front and center like that glass walled kitchen. to our prospects and customers. How can we rise to the challenge of creating highly charged positive customer experiences displayed in our metaphorical glass kitchens?
There is much written on this already, but it's still worthwhile to touch on and take a quick look at how the intertubes reveal what it's really like for customers to experience businesses.
Online reviews give everybody a handy scorecard to impact others' buying decisions. And impact them they most certainly do. A 2013 study by Dimensional Research found about 2/3 of the responders said they read online reviews: Out of those, 90% said positive reviews influenced buying decision and 86% said negative reviews influenced purchasing.
Also, the stories consumers tell about brands on social media shape brand trust which shapes sales. As per Luth Research, "Shares and recommendations of products or services help increase brand recognition, improve buyer trust, and drive sales. According to Hubspot, 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference." Meanwhile, on the Dark Side, the consulting firm McKinsey discovered negative social media buzz for a telecom client hurt signups by 8%.
So the world's many-sized computers are like an enormous set of windows into the raw, bare, real experiences of customer lurk behind any masks of contrived branding. You can see this as a threat or, better, adopt the mindset that these dynamics are a great opportunity for strategic advantage.
How? From the inside out and the outside in. Experience Marketing is done from the inside-out. Its prerequisite, Experience Design, is done from the outside-in.
Experience Marketing is from the Inside Out
From the inside out means the actual experience of your customers, as honed and refined as it can be, is the basis of the marketing projected out via media to the target audience.
Experience Design is from the Outside In
From the outside in means orchestrating and refining customers' touch points from their perspective as they progressively engage deeper. From this point of view, design experiences to elicit the feelings you want associated with the company and its products and services. It should be not just a journey, but an adventure, like a ride at a Disney theme park.
Internal and external media define and display the company's:
- Intent to align with Timeless Principles as Core Values (for example, principles like empathy, leadership, and innovation).
- Customer experience-centered Mission Statement.
- Consciously chosen Operating Beliefs .
- Statements of purpose, attitude, and direction that become consolidated into a form meaningful to customers as The Service Promise. A Service Promise that is properly built - with the participation of the people who implement it - expresses a vision of distinctive service experience. This is a serious process that takes time so the key people in the company who will implement it open up, contribute, and become stakeholders.
- Customer Journey Map (or, better, "Customer Adventure Map") as a thinking tool to polish touch points to create great states and optimize experience.
- Customer Story as a compelling story of the best journey they can offer a customer, based on the optimized Customer Journey Map an involving an evolution of optimized feelings.
- Service Promise Survey which gets feedback from customers on how well the Service Promise is being delivered over the course of the Customer Story.
- Survey Data which is fed back to the service team as an ongoing stream to help correct course where necessary so customer experience matches intent as closely as possible.
Digital Media supports a customer experience program both inside-out and outside-in in 4 ways:
Digital media is a compass in that it can direct attitudes and behavior of a company's team towards high-level customer experience.
Here are some of the ways digital media can be a compass for Experience Marketing:
- Integrate the Service Promise into a customer story that goes through an evolution of feelings from the worst of the negative feelings a customer might experience to the highest and best, walking through the touch points as the feelings evolve.
- The Mission Statement, Guiding Principles, Values and Beliefs can frame the Service Promise, in close proximity via links on their home on the main website. These can also be framed prominently in the physical business.
- Include at least a summary of these, linked to the full version, in an internal email newsletter.
- Use an intranet for a "fast feedback" system for the team members to recognize each other exemplifying the guiding principles and values; for example, a quick note can show appreciation to a colleague for going the extra mile for a customer.
- Create Client Journey Maps and put them on your the intranet as models for your people to see, give feedback on, and interactive with to understand and evolve the emotion-based customer story.
- None of this media can substitute for the actual behaviors of modeling the values, beliefs, mission, and service promise. Media can reinforce these actions, though, by referencing them as positive examples in social media posts, internal and external email newsletters, etc.
Digital Media is a speedometer for Experience Marketing when it gives clear customer experience feedback for optimization and course correction.
Let us count the ways:
- A Service Promise Survey can get feedback from customers about how your team and systems are doing at delivering on your Service Promise. Each statement of the Service Promise can be ranked on a 1-5 scale of "How true has this been in your experience on a scale of 1-5 where 5 is very true and 1 not true at all?"
- Incentivize the surveys- maybe doing a free drawing for a gift card monthly from a random drawing of surveyees.
- Feed these survey numbers back to your team, seasoning to taste, while keeping the individual surveyees' information private unless given explicit permission otherwise. This should be done in a spirit of everybody participating together to improve the service system as opposed to the less-useful paradigm of "catching someone doing something wrong".
- In reporting company performance, the Service Promise Survey scores, as well as any feedback and ideas from customers on improving experience (including answers to open ended survey questions like "tell us anything you like about how we can make your experience better") should be fed back continuously and regularly to the team. . . and given equal weight with hard performance numbers like sales conversions.
- Point to the Service Promise Survey from the Service Promise section on your website, and in media that reaches customers, such as the signature line of company rep emails.
The telescope function of digital media in Experience Marketing is to zoom in and focus on special experiences that exemplify fulfilling the Service Promise.
- The copy on the website should be heavily weighted towards empowering customers to be educated consumers and focus on the experience you want them to have with the company.
- Testimonials as stories of excellent customer experiences should live in a special, prominent, well-linked home on the website.
- A featured testimonial above the fold on the home page can link to the rest.
- These stories should also be distributed through social media and a company email newsletter, with links pointing back to the full repository.
- They should be shared with the team as well as customers, reinforcing by frequency and focus where your peoples' attention should be directed.
- A cowbell can be rung in the office whenever a new, glowing testimonial that validates fulfillment of the service promise comes in, giving renewed meaning to the office poster of Christopher Walken posing with the Blue Oyster Cult.
Here are some ways you can hand your raving ran customers a megaphone to spread the word:
- Open ended questions on the survey can offer customers the opportunity to sing the praises of your people and their great experiences with questions like "tell us anything you like about your experience".
- You can ask on the survey "do we have permission to quote you" to get permission to place these testimonials on the company's website, email newsletter to customers and prospects, and social media.
- Provide the surveyees links to your company's page on review sites like Google Places, Yelp, and Facebook Reviews. This should be accompanied with clear instructions to make the process simple for those who aren't as familiar with these sites.
With a clear alignment of principles and beliefs to positive customer experience, each interaction can better become a well-designed container for specific positive feelings. The ideal is that the aligned team and supporting media actualize a company's highest values in bringing special experiences to its customers.
Instead of just projecting an image, media reveals excellence like a glass house with an exquisite interior. The right media structure assists in pulling out great customer stories and feeding them back into the loop to creates a "virtuous cycle" of self-reinforcing service excellence.