In 1997, I was flying out to San Jose, Calif., to attend a meeting that could transform my career. Upon arriving at the airport, I realized I had left my suitcase on the Amtrak train I’d taken earlier.
I can still recall the panic I felt in that moment. That suitcase had all of my business attire in it, and it was too late to go back and get it. My wife—whom I called from 35,000 feet in the air—suggested that I reach out to a personal shopper from Nordstrom. I did so immediately. The kind woman on the other end listened to my predicament and asked a variety of questions about my size, styles and color preferences.
When I arrived at my hotel room, I was speechless. I had a closet full of clothing that was personally selected and set up for me. I wouldn’t have to miss my landmark meeting or embarrass myself on this important trip.
I’ve never been able to thank the individual who helped me, but this kind of customer experience is unforgettable. I am a fan of Nordstrom for life.
Every brand can learn from this story. In a world where buyers are overloaded with content, ads and purchase options, delivering amazing customer experiences is paramount to survival. In fact, 86 percent of business leaders say customer experience is foundational to their success.
Still, knowing that is one thing, while actually executing those experiences is another.
Here are three fundamental tools for building a superior customer-service strategy.
Think beyond marketing
I recently had a meeting with a marketing executive from an airline. I asked him how his marketing campaigns were going. He proudly showed me one of the company’s latest ads—a clever video that had accrued tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments.
I urged him to take a closer look at the comments. It turns out that most of them were from customers frustrated about delays, overbooked flights and other service-related issues—a growing list of customers telling others not to do business with the airline.
This brand probably spent a lot of money making that video. But it’s their customers—their very pissed-off customers—who are doing the marketing for them.
In a world where 3 billion people are connected to social and openly sharing their experiences with brands, marketing no longer happens in isolation. The things that happen in marketing and the things that happen across the street in care are inextricably linked now. Care is the new marketing.
Channel the voice of your customers
Your customers are talking, they’re tweeting, they’re posting and they’re livestreaming. They’re sending information about themselves and their interests into the world.
The onus is on us, as brands, to listen up and to turn these various conversations into meaningful decisions that improve the customer’s experience. To accomplish this, companies must be properly equipped to not only capture insights from billions of online interactions, but also to analyze and distribute these insights at scale.
At Microsoft’s Social Command, for example, active listening is the first step in crafting memorable customer experiences. The team’s social listening software pulls in about 150 million conversations each year. After artificial-intelligence filters scan and deactivate all the irrelevant conversations—someone cleaning the “windows in their office—5 million are handled personally. The social team directly reaches out to customers with personalized messages and custom-made content.
Ideas, suggestions and needs from customers are processed and forwarded to development teams, to be turned into product improvements. And once a product has been updated, the company circles back with those customers, letting them know. These customers, in turn, organically advocate on behalf of the brand and market Microsoft products to their networks.