Customer Experience_Oct16

What 21,000 Emails Taught Me About Customer Experience

As many of you know, I have spent the last two years in a rigorous two-year MBA program at UC Irvine. I graduated with my MBA this past June.

While the grand result of my MBA studies was a degree, there was another result, an accumulation of more than 21,000 emails of various content types in my inbox.

Therefore, I had a choice – I could either focus on reading an average of 1,000 pages weekly for my MBA classes or focus on reading the plethora of content in my inbox.

I figured those emails would be waiting for me after I graduated and so they remained.

This summer I spent reading those emails and tackling the content.

I learned a lot about customer experience in those emails.

If you have visited my Linked In profile, heard me write or speak or followed me on Twitter, you know that I am passionate about customer experience, and I am not shy when it comes to giving shout-out’s to the good and calling out the bad and ugly.

Knowing your purpose as it relates to your customers is the key to everything Click To Tweet

Customer Experience Bad Habits

Unfortunately, I have to report that many brands – some well known and some not – have resorted to bad customer experience habits.

Social Media is not a Substitute for Double Opt-in

I found myself appearing on email distribution lists of brands who I had connected with on social media but who never asked me to join their community or distribution list.

News flash – Social Media is not your get-out-of-jail-free pass on double opt-in. Double opt-in is still a must.

Lead Generation? The Latest Vanity Metric?

I saw a lot of emails marketing to my title within my company instead of the person behind the title.

Sometimes the C-suite does a disservice to the organization.

The C-Suite is so busy focusing on growing the business that they forget to grow the business.

The C-Suite wants “fast action” and that sets a perpetual motion of sales and marketing falling down the rabbit hole, cutting corners and thinking that any lead into the funnel is a good result.

This creates a lot of false positives on the lead generation front.

Those leads probably won’t result in conversions and you will have to go back to the drawing board and do a better job to ensure that good MQLs and sales leads align better for conversion sake.

Thus, “fast action” turns into “slow action” because you have to take many steps back. Your lead generation numbers have just become another vanity metric like Twitter follows and Facebook and Instagram likes.

Your lead generation results do not amount to anything unless you have a sound strategy to back them up.

Barbarians At the Gates

I received a lot of emails to download a free white paper or e-book. A number of these content pieces didn’t even speak to me – I wasn’t in the appropriate target market.

In the cases where I might have been in the target market, the content was anything but free.

First, it was gated, meaning that I had to give up my contact information to get the content. In some instances, I was giving up a lot (my privacy) for something I didn’t know I was getting or didn’t get something I thought I was getting (the ‘ole bait and switch).

Next, the content was dated.  It’s 2016. Why am I not receiving something I can use in 2016?

Then, there were strings attached – I had to endure a plethora of sales emails – do you have time for a quick five-minute phone call? Can I set up a demo? Subscribe to our newsletter.

You get the drill.

I kept on asking myself whether these sales folk know me, or even want to know me? Or does focus on getting the sale, making your numbers, etc. trump getting a brand advocate for life?

What happened to building trust and developing the relationship before asking for anything?!!

Is gating content even necessary? Would subscribing to a newsletter or a community work better than gating content?

When you gate too early, your result typically is non-leads. (quantity – yes, quality – no)

Wouldn’t you rather spend time with people you can help and who want your help?

Most companies are failing at content because they make the ROI more important than the why of the content.

What are your buyer’s pains? Do you provide info to address those pains? Do you understand a buyer and customer journey along with all the touch points? Have you built voice of customer feedback mechanisms into your touchpoints? And are there sound feedback loops to get these insights back into your organization so you can determine which to implement to enhance the customer experience? Do you care?

If you have to gate content, do so strategically.

-Really look at the content, your business strategy (along with the KPI’s you are focusing on) and the customer experience you want people to have.

-Don’t gate any content that is at the relationship-building stage.

Early or mid-funnel content gating should be off limits. So, late mid-funnel and late funnel are the places to gate content to generate quality leads.

You know, the ones that will convert.

-If you are going to gate your content, ensure your audience has a good experience.

  • Make sure the person does not sign up repeatedly for subsequent content. The first time is enough. Remember their name and contact info and have it populated. It will help you with repeat website visits.
  • When the person says “yes” to your gated content, provide it on the spot, not via email at a later time or date.
  • Have a great search engine where visitors can find content (by type and date) easily. Many do not date their content. Content has a shelf life. Put the fresh content up front. There are some organizations, like Uberflip, Curalate, and Content Marketing Institute that do date their content, which makes their content stand out even more.
  • Gate the right content. This is going to be different for different companies. It is going to take a lot of understanding of your business strategy and what your customers want. Later stage E-books, white papers, and case studies make sense. Videos, infographics and blog posts do not. Make sure you regularly monitor Google Analytics and other analytics tools so they are providing you with appropriate insights you can implement to enhance the experience.
  • You should be using events and triggers in your decision trees in your marketing automation and predictive analytics platforms to enhance the experience for your customers. Don’t make them guess on the next action they are supposed to take or next piece of content they should consume. Be their partner, as they travel on their buyer/customer journey.
  • Make sure the content is readable and it resonates with your audience. Pretty pictures, fonts and videos are nice, but don’t overdo it. Make sure it is what your audience expects. Ensure you are clear, concise, consistent and you are building community.
If you are going to gate your content, ensure your audience has a good experience Click To Tweet

Healthy Customer Experience Habits That Will Help You and Your Customers

At the time of researching this article, I stumbled onto my friend, Ann Handley‘s post about Slow Marketing.

While I wouldn’t use the term Slow Marketing to describe Marketing – in an effort to prevent any CEO from having a coronary – I do agree with Ann – we must slow down.

In fact, I would go further to say that you have to slow down to speed up your business growth efforts.

My thought is we have to go beyond customer centricity to customer obsession so how we engage with our customers becomes a mindset. A mindset that is always evolving to help our customers be the best they can be.

Follow this list of healthy habits to help you slow down your marketing and customer experience efforts to help you ultimately speed up customer growth.

Master Empathy

Do you know your buyers? Do you want to know them enough to find out their pains, what motivates them, what drives them? This is important because if you don’t care about them, they won’t care about you.

You have to be willing to get their pains, what motivates them, their likes and dislikes. Can you walk in their shoes and feel their pain? And then be willing to help them. Continuously. Empathy takes a lot of time to build. It requires a lot of listening and engagement on your part before pushing content or any other marketing out to them.

Go beyond being customer-centric and be customer obsessed! Make sure your customer is the single most important thing to you and they are always top of mind.

Break down silos and ensure all functional groups make empathy a company mission to show your passion across all customer touchpoints.

Address The Why

Be able to answer who you are, what you do, and why people should care. If you can’t address this honestly and authentically, nothing else matters.

What is the unmet need you are solving? How are you disrupting your industry? How are you adding value?

Craft a story around how you came to be, explain the problem, the unmet need it created, how you are solving this problem and how customers are benefitting from it.

Show how you are different.

Laser-focus in on your mission, and corporate and brand strategy to see how well it aligns to the stellar customer experience you want to provide. This may require creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to change your demand and lead generation strategies, and how you create and distribute content.

Knowing your purpose as it relates to your customers is the key to everything.

Obsess About Your Customer

Know the journeys your customers take. And, be willing to travel that journey with them.

Focus on the touch points your customer has with your brand. Know the point of entry they interface with your brand and know the tools they need to help them. Keep in mind that those tools and content will be different on whether they are at the awareness, education, consideration, or purchase stage. Many companies make the mistake to make multiple content pieces serve multiple purposes on the journey. What results is content too advanced or too basic for a buyer and you lose them.

Go beyond just knowing the touch points your customer has with your brand. Always be in tune with the voice of the customer. Ensure effective feedback loops are implemented. This is because they are vital so that customers can share their voice and you and your teams can analyze insights and implement changes where customer experience can be enhanced. Address internal feedback received from your field teams and implement those insights into your processes as well.

Then ensure that you map content to customer personas and journeys appropriately to address customers’ pains.

Be Fearless About Change

Be very diligent with your KPIs. Do they make sense? Or, do you need to rethink them and make changes?

And, be equally diligent with the analytics you use to measure KPIs. Monitor your analytics tools regularly. Make sure to align your metrics and analytics. Don’t measure what you don’t have to. Otherwise, you’ll take your eye off the ball.

If your analytics are pointing to something that should be changed in your strategy that will enhance the customer experience, don’t be afraid to experiment, test and change.

Use win-loss analysis to determine whether customer needs are being met.

Ensure Customer Experience Begins with the Employee

Employee engagement is low. In fact, Gallup monitors US employee engagement regularly. The metric has been hovering around 30% for a while now, but Gallup reports that in August 2016, it has risen to 34.7%. It is moving upward gradually. Thus, companies now understand that employee engagement helps drive customer experience.

The Temkin Group recently reported in its 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study that companies that excel at customer experience have “1.5 times as many engaged employees” as do customer experience laggards.

Involve your employees in your business, customer experience, and content strategies. When customers see employees as brand advocates, they will want to become brand advocates, too.

October 5 is Customer Experience Day (CXDay, for short). It is the first Wednesday of October. While this day should be celebrated, we should make every day CX Day for our customers.

Implementing a stellar experience that delights customers will keep them coming back for more. They’ll become a lifetime customer and advocate for your brand. 

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