Customer experience is what companies have left as a point of differentiation in a sea of product sameness, QuestBack CEO Ivar Kroghrud told me during a recent conversation on the topic.
But delivering a unique, engaging customer experience in terms of marketing is no easy feat. It starts by gaining a deep understanding of your customers—achieved by taking a comprehensive approach to customer listening, Kroghrud said. “When it comes to listening to the voice of the customer, it’s important to reach customers at the moment of truth, not just through annual surveys,” he said. “Taking this approach will help to build a corporate ‘memory’ of customer interactions, instead of just focusing on one-off problem resolution.”
Kroghrud recommends that marketers use a mix of traditional multichannel surveys to build that memory of interactions. Ideally, those surveys should be triggered based on specific customer actions and interactions. Additionally, marketers should use online communities to gather customer input, he said. These should include forums for peer-to-peer support and for product co-creation and launches. The insight can be used for influencing many parts of the customer experience. General Mills, for example, uses rich data from its online communities to select the right customers to test new products, according to Kroghrud. Doing so had led to its most successful product launch ever, he said.
To encourage participation, Kroghrud recommends hosting access to communities where customer are, instead of hosting them in a separate online location; for example, inviting customers into a private community within the context of Facebook. In fact, he suggests analyzing social data to find ambassadors to invite into customer communities. “You need evangelists, and they’re more likely to advocate for you if you remember them,” he said, adding that marketers also should have a good memory of social data.
Ultimately, marketers need a bit of technology to effectively remember information about customers, say, the way the owners of a local mom-and-pop shop can. Another reason doing so is important: Customers expect the same type of response to an inquiry via social as they would get via the contact center, Kroghrud pointed out. These interactions are an integral part of the brand experience. But many companies can’t access their CRM data effectively to provide those customers with the type of response they might get via the contact center, which can negatively impact a brand. “Customers will be disappointed if you don’t remember what you told them, or what they told you,” he said.
It all comes back to building a customer memory. “Customers expect relevance today,” Kroghrud said. “If you do it well, customers will be pleasantly surprised. But if not, it will leave a negative impression that can impact customers’ likelihood to repurchase or recommend.”
This is where some marketers fall short with their use of customer insight. “Not enough companies have moved beyond the tactical uses of gathering customer feedback,” Kroghrud noted. “Often lost is the ability to use that insight to help build long-term customer relationships.” Part of the problem is that social and CRM data is often disconnected, he said.
But linking that information and building a “memory” of customer interactions is imperative, he said. Doing so it what creates a better customer experience. “If you believe in the experience economy, then taking the pulse of your customers becomes an essential part of doing business. It’s all part of being a social enterprise; one that’s open to conversations with customers and that communicates with timeliness and relevancy.”