Understanding the Online Customer Experience in 2018

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Understand the online customer experience

The customer experience is something you should keep at the front of your marketing plan. Without carefully analyzing it, you leave your company open to unneeded customer service issues and future branding problems.

Considering all the ways there are to take the human element out of the customer experience, you should inject as much humanity into the process if you wish to be successful. Determining how much automation is necessary is a delicate process that will be addressed in this article. The more automation you insert will no doubt cause more frustration. The fact is that your customers truly desire customized customer service solutions. Does your automated system do that?

The sections in this article outline the areas you need to focus on in order to deliver the highest level of customer experience. Following all these points will yield a feeling of the “white-glove treatment” for each of your customers.

Customer-First Focus

Customer Experience

If you’ve been following our last few posts, you’d probably notice the pattern by now. We wholeheartedly support a customer-first focus rather than a strong push towards automation. Running lean as an organization is still the smart decision. Never sacrifice your online brand for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Managing your online brand is only possible by making the customer experience a high priority. The only way to do that is to embrace each negative situation on a case-by-case basis. This means accepting that any kind of customer service automation has the potential to cause further frustration for a high percentage. Remember, your customers are most likely already frustrated if they are reaching out for support. Only if your automation creates positive trends in the customer experience shall it warrant an increase towards more automation.

Recognize Where Your Competitors Fall Short

Buy your competitor’s products and go through every part of their sales and customer service cycle. It’s truly the best way to find out what you can improve and instantly get a leg up on your competition. If you’re not able to do that, then get on Google and social media sites and check out the reviews that users are already saying.

Another great thing to check is if any influencers are promoting your product or giving critiques on YouTube or Reddit. These two sites are perfect for finding out the weaknesses of your product and your competitors. The customer experience is also talked about there because these influencers are sometimes paying for the products themselves and getting first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a customer.

If you’re still thinking about where to find out what your competition is doing right and wrong, get into the groups that talk about your product and theirs. Go in anonymously and just lurk. Try to figure out what is right and what is wrong based on their responses. The tips you find out here might help you create better sales copy and also talk tracks for your customer service agents.

I always encourage my employees to focus on social media when it comes to understanding the customer experience. Yes, there are a lot of terrible comments that won’t help one bit, but there are always comments that actually take the time to put in a well-thought statement that you can use.

Forecasting Problematic Areas

Customer Experience Mind Map

Is it necessary to plan for every contingency? Of course, it’s not, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. The more problem areas you can smooth-over the better your customer experience will be.

After a careful process analysis, you’ll know the issues that are fixable. Unfortunately, not all of them will be.

Look for the gaping holes, and creating a map of your processes will help. Focusing too much on the minutiae could cloud the major issues you’re customers will face. Tools like mind mapping, surveys, case studies and follow up calls are great tools, but finding the right mix of tools is the key to creating a repeatable process and building your brand.

This process needs to be concerned with relevance metrics. Those are the metrics that most likely determine the “mood” of your customers before, during, and after the sales cycle.

Create a Map

If you map out every part of your customer experience you’ll see exactly when and where they are experiencing a problem. A map takes the guessing out of the equation.

Too many companies go off of their gut feeling and experience, instead of incorporating real-time data to figure out their problems. Experience and the ability to make good decisions with imperfect information is crucial, but if you’re making those decisions from a place of ignorance you’re company will be dead-in-the-water.

A good map doesn’t have to be fancy. It has to be truthful. It can simply be something you do with pen and paper. You could also use a free mind mapping program too. Try Canva for a free option.

Whichever you choose should tell you the depths of your sales cycle. When someone complains about a poor customer experience you need to be able to identify where in the sales cycle it occurred. Then follow that up with an interest in how it happened and address it immediately.

Quantifying The Customer Experience

How do you measure something that is thought to be not measurable? The customer experience is completely measurable if you make it quantifiable.

It’s easy to consider good and bad responses as binary, and that indeed is something you can measure. With the help of surveying tools like SurveyMonkey, you can easily see how the responses of your customer base turn into dollars. Take the time to investigate the possibility of surveying your customers. It’s clearly the easiest way to find out the pulse of your clients.

If you want to manage the number of customer experience on your own, read this article on relevance metrics to get started. Knowing exactly what is meaningful to your customers is what truly matters in the long run. Figure these factors out first is where you start.

Learn Where Your Customer Spills Their Guts About Your Product

Customer Experience Reviews

The second best way to find out how you’re doing as far as customer experience is to monitor social media and find out the hottest places. By hottest places, I mean exactly where your clients are talking about your product and service.

If your customers are older they might choose traditional methods. Calling customer service and requesting on-site visits is still used frequently. However, millennials will almost always use forums, YouTube, Reddit, and other social media sites. They prefer to troubleshoot and comment on customer experience online rather than over-the-phone. Monitoring is dreadfully important and neglecting your online brand image isn’t a good idea.

The easiest way to monitor this is to outsource and the second best options are to hire internally. I would always hire a consulting firm to manage your brand considering how quickly things change online. Your brand could take a turn for the worst if you don’t watch the trends.

Lessons in Empathy

Most of your customer experience questions can be solved with empathy. This is why mystery shopping is so popular these days. It’s not a likely favorite of your employees, but it does keep them on their toes.

Nothing tells the truth better than the truth. If your customers are complaining about poor customer service or a faulty product, go get first-hand knowledge. Don’t ever make policy without doing due diligence.

Being empathetic towards the customer experience is what separates good companies from bad ones. Take an interest in making every step your customer engages with your company a good one. That means tracking and keeping your employees accountable.

At Google, each employee has a quarterly report that shows their progress. If you’re considering making a difference with your customer experience, then put benchmarks in and do what you say you’re going to do.

Where Should You Start?

Customer Experience Target Audience

Start with your map, and fix the easiest and cheapest things first. The easiest things will make it easier to fix the largest issues and show your employees that it’s the little things that matter most. Showing you can make a difference in your company with small adjustments will also make it easier to fix the big things.

After you get a grip on what is going on, hire a brand consulting firm unless you’re confident that you can hire the necessary pieces internally. Most companies fail to hire properly for these positions or hire personnel with a lack of experience in online brand management. It’s sometimes best to leave this to the experts.

If this is not a possibility, then it’s best to stick to less social media platforms in the beginning. I suggest starting with the biggest ones first: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Monitoring discussion sites like Reddit is very important if you’re customers are younger, and Pinterest is essential if you’re a creative brand. Knowing exactly where to go is just as important as the content you produce to market your products.

For more information on controlling the customer experience and your overall brand, click on the link and learn more.

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Anthony Catullo