10 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers

I recently published a blog series called 50 CX Tips: Simple Ideas, Powerful Results. While all 50 are valuable, here are the 10 most pertinent ideas for marketers.

Help customers achieve their goals

Don’t push your products and agendas on customers. Instead find out what they want and create experiences that fit your company into their journey. USAA does this.

“We want to create experiences around what members are trying to accomplish, not just our products,” says Wayne Peacock, EVP of member experience at USAA. “If a member is buying a car, then we would historically see that as a change in auto insurance. We are changing that to an auto event—to  help the member find the right car, buy it at a discount, get a loan, insurance, etc, and do that in any channel and across channels. There’s enormous value for members and for USAA if we can facilitate that entire experience.” 

Regularly refresh your brand promises

Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz once said, “Customers must recognize that you stand for something.” While most organizations start with a clear brand promise, focusing on short-term goals can easily push them away from delivering on it. Decisions across an organization may seem reasonable in their immediate context, but they can collectively nudge a company off its course.

“Once an organization loses sight of its brand promise it will often spiral out of control. That’s what happened to Starbucks in 2007. Shultz returned to the company in early 2008 to help restore the brand promise. His assessment of the situation: “We lost our way.” Starbucks closed more than 7,000 stores on one day for a three-hour session to re-instill the brand promise in their employees.

Rather than waiting for the painful recognition that your organization has lost its way, examine your brand promise at least once every two years. Even if nothing changes, the process of reaffirming your brand can be powerful. Make sure that your brand promises are recognizable, believable, compelling, and well-understood by both customers and employees.

Start your brand marketing internally

Brands need to be understood and “owned” by the entire organization. It’s therefore critical for companies to invest heavily in communicating the brand value to everyone in the organization. Before BMO Financial Group’s new brand went live the firm launched an internal campaign, “Brilliant at the Basics,” which identified eight actions that every employee could take, including “our heads are up, not down,” “everyone pitches in…titles don’t matter,” and “help in choosing, not choices.” Employees were given a brand book that covered the brand principles, including a breakdown of what differed “tomorrow from today.” The launch kit for leaders and branch managers included a DVD and materials covering key messages, talking points, and anticipated questions and answers to prepare them to lead discussions with their teams.

Bring customers to life with design personas

What makes Jennifer such an important customer to retail store chain Big Lots that CEO David Campisi would mention her several times on a single earnings call?  As it turns out, Jennifer isn’t really a customer, or even a real person. She’s a design persona, an archetype that represents a key customer segment.

Good design personas share these characteristics:

  • Represent a key customer segment. It’s not a random description; it represents the core characteristics of a segment.
  • Are based on research. The elements of a design persona aren’t just imagined. They come from solid research, often requiring qualitative or ethnographic studies.
  • Create a vivid description. The artifacts for a design persona should create a crisp picture of a person that is so compelling that people actually think they know him or her.
  • Provide information for decision-making. Just knowing generic information about a customer segment isn’t good enough. Design personas must include key information about that person’s needs and requirements for interacting with your company.
  • Are widely used. Design personas create value when  put to use, so it’s important to get different groups across the organization to embrace them. It’s a good sign when the CEO is referring to one of the personas by name.

Map your customer’s journey

BMO Financial’s approach to customer journey mapping includes both the customer view and the internal view. This way the company ensures that the customers’ reactions are represented for each touchpoint, and that the impact of internal policies, training, measures, and targets for each interaction are also factored in. Internal stakeholder interviews and employee focus groups provide the view of “what we think happens,” while external research identifies customers’ needs and wants as part of mapping the ideal experience.

Continuously test your value proposition

Samuel Palmisano revitalized IBM during his decade as CEO. He led the company using a framework based on four questions that he used to focus thinking and prod the company beyond its comfort zone:

1.       Why would someone spend their money with you — what is unique about you?

2.       Why would somebody work for you?

3.       Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?

4.       And why would somebody invest their money with you?

Remove jargon from customer communications

BCBS of Michigan’s “Clear and Simple effort makes the business easier to understand and do business with. BCBS of Michigan’s Customer Commitment guides the way the organization serves its members. It focuses the company on being easier to understand and do business with in every aspect—from language to business practices. The “Clear and Simple effort, which involved more than 375 employees, generated more than 50 requests from across the business to help different areas become clearer and simpler.

Innovate around customer lifecycle events

Sovereign Assurance NZ’s research shows that many new parents don’t have time to review their life insurance, even though owning life insurance right after having a baby is more important than ever. The company developed a program called “Choose Precious” that offers new parents $10,000 worth of free life insurance up until their baby’s first birthday. New parents just need to register at chooseprecious.co.nz before their baby is six months old. The company also rolled out its ‘Breathing Space’ offering. Recognizing that buying a home is a big deal and that it’s difficult to get the attention of home-buyers, the company offered home-buyers $25,000 worth of free life coverage for 90 days. This provided them with interim protection until they’re able to evaluate their long-term protection needs.

Make your brand values explicit

Based on customer research, Safelite AutoGlass identified five brand values: trustworthy, reliable, safe, innovative, and helpful/approachable. These values have changed the way that customers are  treated in a variety of ways, from how Safelite’s contact center associates answer the phones to their field technicians using the“5 Ts” to highlight their helpfulness and approachability:  1) Time: Call customers in advance to notify them of arrival time. 2) Touch: Shake hands, make eye contact, and engage the customer. 3) Technical excellence: Do it right the first time, every time. 4) Talk: Tell the customer what you’re going to do and do it. 5) Thanks: Show appreciation for choosing Safelite.

Measure yourself against your brand promises

Intersil, a semiconductor manufacturer, regularly surveys customers to measure how successfully its meeting its brand promise to be “Simply Smarter.” If the company finds that it’s not living up to its brand promise, the organization uses a formal process to review the results and take action. In one survey Intersil found that customers were having a hard time finding information on its website. The company determined that this broke its promise to be “Simply Smarter,” so it invested in updating the usability of its online experience.

  Bruce Temkin, managing partner and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting company. He is widely viewed as a leading expert in customer experience.
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