Customer experience marketing. It’s a buzzword that a lot of people throw out, but what exactly does it mean, how important is it to you business today, and what are the first steps you can take to implementing customer experience marketing the right way?
I could not think of a better person than friend and customer experience marketing expert Dan Gingiss to have on my podcast to answer these questions and more for my listeners.
As Dan explains, customer experience marketing is a vital aspect to both your online and offline business. It also could be the one defining thing that can differentiate your brand from your competitors.
Dan takes us through the correct way to implement customer experience marketing. Listen in and read the show notes below to learn more.
Neal: As I continue the process of publishing my upcoming book on influencer marketing “The Business of Influence“, for those of you who listened to my podcast “We Need to Do Things Differently, It’s Time for Social Media Marketing 2.0“, I’ve concluded (it’s not going to get this way overnight but I’m already working with my clients, in trying to push them in this direction), social media is made for people, not for businesses and the personal brand is going to win out against the corporate brand.
If you’re Coca-Cola or what have you, it’s one thing but for 99% of the brands who are not in that position, I begin to question: Why are you on social media? What are you using it for?
What Are Businesses Doing On Social Media?
It’s interesting Dan, we’re both going to be speaking at Social Media Marketing World and I think there’s a full day workshop devoted to Facebook Ads. To me, Facebook Ads aren’t social media. It’s digital marketing, no different from Google ads, it’s different targeting options, right? Maybe, different content mediums but I’m beginning to come to the conclusion and ask what are businesses doing on social media that is truly social?
I think it’s time they rethink their approach and I’m beginning to think the best approach for companies isn’t to market themselves on social media unless they want to use paid social for that (which is like Google AdWords) and surely, to be there, to answer questions for their customers, to help them get the optimum customer experience, to become a robust customer support channel, I’ve come to the conclusion people don’t want to engage with brands on social, they want to engage with celebrities and their friends.
Inevitably, if they’re going to engage with brands, it’s going to be to send a complaint and I know you (Dan) are an expert on this. That’s the conclusion I’m coming to, which leads into why brands should be leveraging influencers and inciting word-of-mouth by using other people rather than try to do it themselves. Social media marketers suck at social media marketing is another one of my conclusions. Dan, what do you think?
Dan: I’ve been a marketer for more than 20 years. I got my start in direct mail, newspaper and advertising, and direct response where people actually clipped out a coupon, filled it out, and mailed it in. I’ve done pretty much every single marketing channel except television. As we’ve moved more digital, especially as social has come into play, the very first thing I realized about social marketing is it’s the only marketing channel where people can talk back to you.
Is Social Media That Different From Traditional Marketing Channels?
I thought that was fascinating, which is why when most people went towards ‘wow, social media marketing, it’s the next great thing!’, I went to the flip side of that, which is ‘wow, this is a really cool way to engage with customers we’ve never had before.’ As a marketer, I agree with you, I don’t think social media is all that, I don’t think it’s that much different from other digital and non-digital channels in terms of the mechanics.
Social Media Lets Customers Talk To Brands
We still target people, we still segment them, we still try to find the right product, in the right place, at the right price for them. Just because it’s on Facebook rather than email, a website, or direct mail, I don’t think it’s that special, to be honest. But this idea that people can talk back is special. It’s really interesting because you can’t talk back to a billboard or a Superbowl TV commercial, but all of a sudden, brands now have to be available to people talking back to them. I think that’s a really good thing because it’s brought brands closer to their customer, so they understand their customer better, and can create products and experiences based on that understanding.
Millennials especially want a relationship and engagement with companies. One of the things they are looking for, in deciding to do business with, is which ones can they have a bilateral relationship with. Gen X is also following suit in that we’re starting to judge the businesses we spend good money with by the experience that we get back with them. Part of that experience is how they engage with us on social media.
I believe people are willing to share very positive experiences as much as negative ones. The problem is, we don’t have nearly as many positive experiences as we have negative. Customer experience tends to suck and you end up seeing a lot more negatives.
By spending time focusing on providing remarkable experiences, you get more people talking positively about your brand, and drown out some negativity, or, as we like to say at McDonald’s, ‘have the lovers be louder than the haters.’
Customer Experience Marketing
Neal: I think this is a conversation more brands need to have. Let’s get started on the terminology of customer experience marketing. About 5 years ago, a contributor to my blog, Maximize Social Business/nealschaffer.com, Joseph Ruiz wanted to change his category topics. He started talking about ‘SoLoMo‘ (Social, Local, Mobile) and you might laugh, as no one talks about it any more, but it’s become a reality. Customer experience marketing has become the next big thing (Brian Solis wrote a book called “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design” on this subject). I don’t think customer experience marketing has become as mainstream as it should.
Let’s start by defining what is, and what isn’t customer experience marketing by contrasting it with customer support over social.
Dan: Customer service in social media is a subset of general customer support, covering multiple channels. Customer support is a subset of customer experience.
Customer Experience And Brand Interaction
I define customer experience as how people feel about every single interaction with a brand. As we know, perception is reality- your programmers could tell you, you have the best app of all time. If your customer says it’s hard to use, it’s hard to use, no matter what the programmers say.
Customer experience incorporates every interaction. That’s the part companies tend to trip up on, especially because large companies are always organized in a siloed manner. The person running the website is different from the person running the call center, who is different from the person who runs the retail store.
What Companies Need To Understand About Customer Interactions
The customer ends up having experiences that don’t gel or connect because nobody sits at the top and follows the customer through all these pieces. If companies understand that every single interaction– a TV ad, a letter in the mail, a social media ad, an ordering process, a delivery, a return, a customer service enquiry, the people customers interact with at the store-front, even the cleanliness of the bathroom- is part of the experience. When you add that up, that’s how people perceive your company. Customer service is a big part of that because when we have a problem with the experience, we require service and resolution.
But not everybody has a problem, you could have a terrific relationship with a brand and never talk to customer service. That’s successful on both counts, from a consumer, and a business point of view.
How Companies Misunderstand Customers On Social Media
Neal: Really, it’s an end-to-end view from before they become a customer to after they become a customer. I’m curious, Dan, it sounds like customer experience marketing should have been a buzzword even before social media. Why are we talking about it now? Why haven’t we talked about it before?
Dan: Here’s what I think social did differently. When we started in social media, companies saw it as another broadcast channel. Not only that, they saw it as a free broadcast channel, because in the beginning, it kind of was.
I remember having internal discussions about putting TV commercials on Facebook. I thought to myself “Yeah, great idea, because people love watching commercials so much, they will enjoy having their Facebook experience interrupted with our TV commercial!” That’s what I mean by social media allowing customers to talk back for the first time. Companies quickly saw that they (customers) talked back about something else, not the marketing.
What Customers On Social Media Really Want
Companies want to talk about their new product, but customers want to talk about the 2 hour hold time when they called customer service the other day.
All of a sudden, the control of the conversation went from the brand to the consumer. The consumer felt empowered by this and started to demand more from companies, not just in terms of experience, not just on social but everywhere.
Today, I believe there’s no such thing as offline customer experience. Even things we used to consider ‘offline’ like being on a plane, the guy that was dragged off a plane showed that not everything on a plane is offline any more. It can come online in an instant. That power given to consumers has caused more intense focus on customer experience.
Customer Service Marketing Will Come To Define Business In The Near Future
Something Sollis said a while ago that’s coming to fruition is that over time, customer experience will become the last true differentiator for brands. Competing on price is a loser’s game. All you do is push the price down until nobody makes any money. It’s very difficult to compete on a product because so much today is copyable. Just ask Snapchat about their friends at Instagram!
Examples Of Outstanding Customer Experience
You have to compete on experience. Experience is provided by your employees and your unique technology. One example that continues to amaze me (and I have spoken about on my Experience This! podcast) is chewy.com, a pet supplies company. I have a pet, and I have gone on chewy.com. I don’t think their prices are any better than amazon.com. But talk to any chewy customer and they love this company because of the unbelievable service.
The first time we talked about chewy on our podcast, was because I saw on social media that my friend’s cat died. After learning his cat died, when he cancelled a food shipment, chewy sent him a bouquet of flowers signed by the entire office staff! At this moment, technically he wasn’t a customer any more, they did this for a non-customer. He has another cat now, and where do you think he orders all his pet supplies?
Every time I tweet or write about chewy, dozens write back to me saying ‘I love chewy’, ‘their service is so great.’ Some customers shared an email they (chewy) sent with me which I posted in a Forbes article This Pet Supplies Company Just Wrote The Best Customer Service Email Ever.
When companies treat their customers well, they don’t pay so much attention to a 10% discount because they know the company takes better care of them.
Neal: That’s an awesome case study. The example I give is I always buy Tylenol rather than the generic drug because of an emotional attachment, formed over decades, for various reasons. Chewy generated an emotion at an emotional time.
Before social media, I was a customer of a high-end audio company called Crutchfield. The information in their magazine made me feel like I was in good hands. Even after the purchase, I could call for support. Creating emotional attachment is a great way to create a positive customer experience.
Customer Service Audits
I want to cover two more things. Business owners and C Class Executives may be listening and saying ‘OK, I get it, I want to improve my company’s customer experience’ Dan, you mentioned that you do customer experience audits. I assume this is the first thing companies should do if they want to improve, is this correct? And what do you do in a customer service audit?
Dan: A customer experience audit solves the problem of nobody looking at the entire journey from beginning to end. People create journey maps on whiteboards because it’s popular and any customer experience marketing expert worth their salt will tell you that’s the first thing to do.
But I’m talking about actually becoming a customer and going through the process of whatever your company offers customers. Let’s take a credit card company for example. It’s one thing to write down on a board ‘here’s how people find us, here’s how they apply for a card, and here’s what happens after they apply.’ It’s quite different to be the person applying for the card, who fills out the card application, sees how difficult it is to fill out the application, receives the card in the mail, reads the materials, sees whether they are understandable, tries to activate the card, then tries to go out and use the card, and maybe make a return on the card.
It also includes going to all the different channels that a company has, and frankly, trying to break things i.e. going on the website and doing things a customer does, trying the mobile app, trying to call customer service with a complaint, then documenting everything that happened, and summarizing with ‘here’s what you’re doing well, here is some pain points I experienced as a customer, here are some things you really need to change that frustrate people.’ It gives an end-to-end customer perspective view.
If you’ve seen the undercover boss TV show, it’s like doing that for an executive instead of them going on TV and embarrassing themselves. It’s essentially becoming a customer and reporting back with complete transparency about every piece of the experience.
Customer Experience Marketing: Understanding The Customer’s Pain Points
Neal: Which is a reason to work with an external entity like yourself who understands the areas most companies fail at.
Dan: I’ve worked leadership roles at 3 Fortune 300 companies. What I’ve seen over and over again is employees get too close to the experience. Often many of them are responsible for designing the experience. They tell you the experience is great. They are blind to some pain points and holes in the experience, whereas somebody who frankly has no skin in the game can come in and say ‘you know what? It was really annoying when the mobile app did this’
For example, the company I bank with, when I tap ‘bill pay’ on their mobile app (I bank with a brokerage company so I have a brokerage account and a bank account), it asks every time which accounts I want to bill pay from, but the only one there is the checking account as pay is not possible from a brokerage account.
Are they intentionally trying to annoy me? Of course not. Somebody built it that way, and I assume for most customers, there’s more than one account, but nobody’s realized this means an extra step for customers with only one account. It would be very easy to eliminate this with code.
That’s a great example of a frustrating pain point that doesn’t need to be there. Is it enough of a frustration that I would complain about it on social media? Probably not. Will I call the 800 number to complain? Absolutely not. They may not know this is a pain point. It’s helpful to have someone who is objective and unafraid to say ‘this was awesome’ and ‘ here are some examples of how to do it differently.’
Neal: I think of some social media tools I use where I’m constantly asked to confirm actions I do on a daily basis. This eats up server bandwidth, it’s an unnecessary step in the tool which does not make the best use of my time, and is irritating.
This leads to my last question. I assume an audit of company A will be very different from company B. It all depends on the specific product, industry, and customers. In general, is there any low hanging fruit advice you give companies which immediately helps them
Dan: One thing is removing existing pain points in the experience. The hardest thing is to create unique, remarkable, new experiences as discussed in Jay Bauer’s new book ‘Talk Triggers.’ What’s that differentiation that makes people talk about your brand versus another? That’s tough, it takes a long time, usually many years to establish. Getting rid of existing paint points is easy. Like my example of the brokerage app, that’s not an expensive fix, it’s pretty easy.
Fixing Pain Points For Your Customers (Discover Case Study)
I want to share a quick story from my time at Discover. We had a survey mechanism on every page of the site. One of the survey questions was ‘how easy was it to do business with Discover today?’ I once ordered a report, I wanted to see by page, the ranking of that question (on a 1 to 10 scale). I wanted to see what was the worst page on our site.
The people who answered that question said it was ‘really hard.’ I wanted to know which page caused this answer. The page with the lowest ranking in ease of use was a very important page. It was the ‘refer a friend page.’ It offered a $50 bonus for referring someone new to Discover. It turned out a certain browser didn’t show the submit button. This was really easy to fix and the second we fixed it, our scores went back to normal. We then started looking for bits of code gone wrong and fixed them.
Ask most companies, if they are honest, they know where the pain points are. They just choose not to fix them. To me, that’s the easiest, least expensive thing to do, just fix existing, minor pain points.
Neal: I appreciate how you mix a holistic, strategic perspective with implementable advice with case studies from your own corporate experience and other experiences. This has been great, Dan. Any last words?
Dan: Find me @dgingiss on Twitter and dangingiss.com. I write multiple times a month for Forbes. You can check me out there for, hopefully, some wisdom. My podcast is Experience This! Available on all major podcasting platforms.
If the topic of customer experience marketing interests you, feel free to check out some other posts on this blog on similar topics:
- 3 Critical Characteristics of Values-Based Marketing
- 10 Key Customer Experience Design Factors to Consider
- 3 Dimensions that Drive a Differentiating Customer Experience