Social CEM: Moving Beyond Customer Loyalty to Customer Advocacy And Customer Experience (Part 3)

Five Challenges & Implications for Brands in a Socially Connected World

 

Customer perceptions of their experience are formed over time and at every touchpoint

where the customer interacts with a brand. And it can extend beyond the

direct interaction with the company and include indirect interactions with a third

party supplier or shippers such as UPS or FedEx. Customers perceive a good

experience with a company if they are able to obtain the product or service with

minimal effort on their part for a reasonable price.

 

Customer experiences, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores are important.

Many brands make a considerable investment in building out a physical presence.

Today, more than ever, with increased online competition there must be compelling

reasons for customers to buy at the store beyond just “touching and feeling” the

product. Additional motivating factors can be; helpful and knowledgeable staff, in-store

promotions integrated with online offers as well as an inviting atmosphere.

A “good” customer experience is when the customer believes they are treated

well, processes were efficient, the product worked as advertised and they received

what they expected for their money.

 

A “great” customer experience is experienced when the sum total of all the interactions during the journey were

extraordinary and went beyond the customer’s expectations. Some companies are challenged with providing a

consistently good customer experience and others are at the stage where they want to go from good to great.

In order to get on the path to improvement, brands must ask themselves the probing question – how are we

delivering against our customer expectations?

 

1. Understanding the Customer Experience Lifecycle

The customer experience lifecycle typically starts when the consumer receives

an advertisement, a marketing offer, or sees displays of packaging on shelves,

catalogs or even a referral by a friend can be considered an appeal to purchase.

These awareness-consideration phases gain market awareness, garner interest

and compel the consumer to consider buying (Figure 4).

fig 4

In the consideration-intent stages, some consumers may know as much or more

than the brand’s staff about products or services from online investigation. Some

consumers may even go beyond this by applying different and unique ways to

test and use products or services and even menu choices. Serving the educated

consumer is increasingly becoming a challenge for retail stores as well as in

restaurants.

 

Serving the educated consumer to move from awareness to consideration and

purchase intent is increasingly becoming a challenge. One example is with big

box retailers who offer good price but at the expense of a good experience. It is

not that customers are shying away from big box, only that the market is going in

two opposing directions, with a resurgence of high end, high touch retail brands.

These trends are combining to put increased focus on customer experience

as a risk to the big box business model with Consumer Insights research from

Empathica indicating that 61% of consumers are choosing big box retailers

specifically because of price.

 

The next stage in the customer experience lifecycle is making a purchase. Buying

from a brick-and-mortar company or from a website is often then followed by

delivery, the use of products/services, through to receiving customer service or

customer care (e.g. getting questions answered, returns, etc.).

 

At each stage in the customer experience process, marketing, sales and customer

service and even a third party who may interact with your customer can either

gain support from the customer or bring the whole customer experience lifecycle

to a grinding halt. Companies who treat these stages as separate “sprints” by

their dedicated teams run into difficulties. Those who understand that it is really

closer to a relay race, with overlap among each team and a careful handoff from

each, are prone to succeed.

 

2. Managing Customer Experiences throughout the Customer Lifecycle

A growing concern for many companies is having limited knowledge or control

of their customers’ experiences throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Yet

research on customer experience (Figure 5) demonstrates that because many

competing brands are so similar and the price among them so close, the only

real differentiator available is the customer experience. Brands inherently create

a particular customer experience, implicitly and explicitly, sometimes intentionally

but often unintentionally.

 

One way to look at this is to consider that each time a customer comes into

contact with a business the customer’s experience will result in an opinion. As

time passes, the customer’s collective set of experiences forms a picture in the

customer’s mind. That picture is what shapes their image of the brand. The trick is

to make sure that at every point at which a customer interacts with your company,

the experience exceeds the expectation.

 

For consumer-facing companies (e.g. retail stores, restaurants, banks, etc.) to be

effective at social customer experience management, they need to understand

the difference between just greeting customers versus creating an authentic

relationship and truly engaging with consumers over time, whether it be face-to-face

or online.

fig 5

A retail example in Figure 5 shows the key touchpoints on the customer journey

that are often called “moments of truth”. These are the moments on the customer

journey that will have the biggest impact on overall perception of the experience

and will drive customer advocacy if their expectations are exceeded. Developing

active customer advocacy is necessary to generate positive, peer-to-peer

recommendations and increase the positive share of voice online compared to

competitors.

Make sure to stay tuned for part 4!

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