Ten Steps To Improving Your Customer Experience


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Firstly, you have to take yourself out of your own shoes and put yourself in the customer’s shoes: what is her pain point? What has driven her to explore your product in the first place? How does she learn about your product category? How does she learn about your product? Is there enough information? Can she try it for herself? What does the onboarding process look like? What is the pre-sales and post-sales support? Is she able to purchase conveniently? This requires putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, pretending that you know nothing about your product and perhaps not a lot about the product category, and walking yourself through that experience from the beginning. This is hard to do.

Secondly, customer experience has so many touchpoints, from initial education / thought leadership / marketing, to the sales process, to the product experience, to the support experience during and after the purchase / sign-up. Because of this, there are many departments that will be involved, who each have their own objectives, structures and to-do lists. This makes alignment extremely difficult, but not impossible, if you can show how and why service and experience is the new marketing.

For the reasons above, among others, you will see that giving the customer the right experience is multi-faceted and exists across silos. I worked up some basic steps to think about the process holistically and put some structure around the steps you may need to take to examine the current situation, align resources and execute:

  1. Listen to what the market is saying about you. To start, you should be listening across the relevant social media channels (with a tool like Attensity360), across users as well as non-users. Some feedback is going to be obvious (“hey @brandX: love your product, but wish you didn’t put me on hold for 10 minutes”), while some is going to be a little more subtle (“Wish there was an app out there that allowed me to hail a taxi from my smartphone without calling anyone”). Figure out what users like and dislike about you and about your competitors (and don’t forget about the non-users: their feedback can be even more telling at times). Read between the lines to understand what the main pain points are, and what these people are looking for, which may or may not be currently provided. At the same time as you are listening to social media feedback, you should be listening to what your customers are telling you on the phone and via email. Every touchpoint you have with a (potential) customer is an opportunity to learn and provide an excellent experience.
  2. Analyze to extract meaning from your social media research, as well as your traditional research. Being able to extract meaning and actionable insights is easy when you have a small data set. However, when you get into the thousands and tens of thousands — what happens then? When you are dealing with social media or unstructured messages inside your firewall (such as emails, call center notes and text surveys), you need a robust semantic tool (much like what we provide at Attensity with our Analyze product) to help surface the most prevalent issues and trends. If you are dealing with structured survey data, you should be working with a statistical tool like SPSS. When listening and analyzing, make sure you do it across the channels that make sense for you — i.e. where your (potential) customers are.
  3. Examine content: Customer experience starts the first time the potential customer discovers your product or company. With the advent of social media, there are infinitely more touchpoints and ways that someone can discover you. Sometimes it’s through a blogpost or a tweet that you’ve written, or a blogpost or tweet that someone else wrote about you. It can come from a YouTube video, panel to which you contributed, or when someone mentions your product in their own training session or panel. You get the point… It can be anywhere at anytime. When someone else is creating content about you, you can’t control what they write or say.What you can control, however, is the awesomeness of their experience with your brand. Awesome experiences lead to awesome tweets and blogs. When you are creating content yourself, on the other hand, you need to know what value you add as a company and articulate it. What story do your materials tell? Is this story right for the customer segment you are selling to? Don’t be overly concerned with “pimping” your product too much; if your content adds value and can be shared easily, it will help you sell your product without selling. In the social age, the mantra for all pre-sales experiences should be: “less selling, more educating.”
  4. Examine product: Based on the findings you glean from #2, you should evaluate how your product currently compares to the needs, likes and dislikes of the market. Make sure you do an honest audit of your current product or service, as well as its roadmap. Sit down with the product team and share your findings, understand which items are already slated for release, and what’s currently on the work plate for the team. Once you understand this, you will be able to start the planning process, prioritizing certain developments and deprioritizing some others. Make sure you are also getting qualitative feedback from customer service, in addition to the more concrete data pulled from call center notes and support emails.
  5. Monitor and measure: After you have discovered the important trends and feelings from #1 and #2 and have prioritized product feedback in #4, you are now ready to develop the product enhancements and release them out into the world. As you do that (preferably in incremental chunks, so you can adjust as necesary), ensure that you are continuously monitoring social media for early feedback. Commit to the changes you are making; however, remain nimble enough to course-correct when things don’t go as planned, and the feedback isn’t as positive as you expected. Just like with everything you do, monitor and measure, measure and monitor. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  6. Provide feedback loops: Ensure that it’s easy for users to provide feedback. The social customer wants to feel ownership of the product’s direction, (s)he wants to be heard when providing feedback. Therefore, you must provide easy ways for feedback sharing. Make sure the feedback just doesn’t sit there, but rather let customers forum discussion communities around ideas, allow them to flesh it out, and communicate back to the community the status of idea adoption. I love tools like UserVoice for that.
  7. Examine support: Killer product and pre-sales education is only part of a killer user experience; support is just as important. There are two major types of support: pre-sales and post-sales, and both are important to the overall customer experience. When customers are just getting to know your product and testing it out, pre-sales support is paramount. To ensure that it gets done, you need to understand if it falls under the sales or the support department, and make sure that the lines of communication are open between the two. After the customer purchases the product (or signs up, if the product is free), you also need to ensure that you have beefed up post-sales support. At this point, the customer has committed resources to your product, so you need to ensure they aren’t regretting their decision. There are different kinds of support that you can provide: email, phone, social (Twitter, online forums), community-powered support like GetSatisfaction, or all of the above. Figure out what makes sense for you, from the standpoint of the product and the customers using it, and execute well. Word of caution: if you support in more than one channel, make sure that the experience is consistent (or rather: consistently excellent).
  8. Align priorities: As you examine your content, product and support, ensure that all the departments in your company are on the same page. Inherently, everyone has unique objectives, which can be contradictory at times. To ensure a seamless customer experience, you need to align these objectives. For example, if you have a complex product that needs more than average in terms of on-boarding, you need to allot extra pre-sales and post-sales resources to it. If the product is important enough to the overall product portfolio, the C-suite has to support this, while realizing that the higher costs of support will make it a lower ROI product. Clear objectives and metrics of success have to be set forth and adhered to by the management team.
  9. Invest in data management: There’s nothing that can kill a deal and turn off a customer more than a disorganized experience, where various reps (support and sales) aren’t working from the same record. How many times have you called in to a call center and had to tell your story twice, or received conflicting information, or even worse, there was no trace of a conversation you had yesterday? Too many, probably! Make sure that everyone in the company who can potentially touch the customer has access to the same dynamic information, and is able to update it on the fly for everyone to see.
  10. Empower and train: None of the above is possible if you don’t have the right human resources. To have a truly customer-centric culture, you need to ensure that your employees have the wherewithal to carry out the brilliant strategies you set. To ensure that, you need to: 1) hire employees that are quick on their feet and creative, and will go above and beyond to provide the right experience for the customer, 2) train these employees, 3) empower them to make their own customer-driven decisions, 4) adopt the culture of risk-taking as an organization, where failing fast is OK, and employees aren’t afraid to move creatively to serve the customer.

If you do the above well, if you are able to create a cogent, consistent and excellent customer experience from the very beginning, you should be able to build advocacy with those who touch your product. Whether or not they end up buying or using your product, they can still spread their feedback freely, and we all know what happens when positive or negative word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire.

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maria Ogneva
I'm the Head of Community for Yammer, the enterprise social network used by 100,000 organizations, including more than 80% of the Fortune 500. At Yammer, she is in charge of social media and community programs, fostering internal and external education and engagement. You can follow her on Twitter at @themaria or on her blog, and Yammer at @yammer and company blog.


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