From Customer Expectations to Customer Experience

Opinion: The stakes for winning long-term customer loyalty have never been so high

I may sound like a broken record by saying this yet again, but the customer must always be at the center of your business decisions. It doesn’t matter if you oversee marketing, product or technology: Every decision you make must take your customer into account. Otherwise why make all of those decisions in the first place?

So what’s a brand to do? Unfortunately, every brand is different, which essentially means that what your customers expect from you can vary quite a bit, as well. Even so, I’d like to share a few quick and easy tips—what I like to call social media “boosts”—that can get you winning on the customer experience playing field in no time.

Know your audience

This may sound obvious, but the only way to deliver a stellar customer experience is to know and understand exactly who makes up your target audience, as well as what makes them tick. You can accomplish this by letting data do the heavy lifting.

Today, thanks to the flood of real-time data available to marketers, we can pinpoint the specific actions, behaviors and interests of the people we want to engage. By having this essential knowledge in our back pocket, we are in a better position to relate to our customers’ wants, needs and expectations and, as a result, are better able to serve them.

But this information can’t live within marketing teams alone—it must be accessible to the right stakeholders across the organization and fully integrated into the other systems that engage customers directly (i.e., social data merging with customer-relationship-management systems). This is the best way to get a 360-degree view of the customer and deliver a more personalized customer experience that drives action.

Remember, our goal is to put the right message in front of the right customer at the right time, typically when they are ready to make some sort of (purchase) decision. We can’t do this without precision data to inform the process.

Publish relevant content

If you’ve looked through any of your social media feeds lately—and let’s face it, who hasn’t done that at least 10 times today already?—it’s fairly obvious that there’s no shortage of content in the world. In fact, it seems like the more we produce content, the more consumers want to gobble it up.

However, not all content is created equal, nor are the ways in which consumers engage with content on different social media platforms.

It’s a simple equation: You must know exactly who your audience is, what kind of content piques their interest and when they are actively looking for it, as well as what channels they use to find and digest it. All of these pieces must be in place to make an impact. Otherwise what you publish will be nothing more than white noise.

Empower your support team

More people than ever are flocking to social media to get support, complain, sing praises or simply to share ideas. Your customer-support team must be equipped with knowledge, resources and tools—a good place to start would be your own online community—to respond to customer queries quickly and efficiently.

In fact, it’s about time we started to think about and train our customer-service representatives as subject matter experts. They are on the front lines responding to (sometimes irate) customers, resolving issues and troubleshooting to the very best of their abilities, all while serving as a living, breathing representative of your brand.

They may just be a voice over the phone or an avatar via direct message, but even so, they become the embodiment of your brand to whomever they are communicating with. So you can’t leave them high and dry. Your support team is critical to your brand’s success: With customer experience on the line, they must be able to respond, react and resolve in real-time. But you must empower them to do so.

Streamline collaboration

Managing your social media presence doesn’t have to be complicated. New tools and technologies available have made social media marketing—once a very manual, siloed effort—more integrated across internal platforms today. Unfortunately, marketers have been slow to embrace them.

But let’s face it: As brands continue to invest in growing their social media efforts, the teams supporting those efforts have to grow. Streamlining operations to help teams work smarter, not harder, must be a priority. A few easy ways to get started:

  • Global coordination: No one has time to play the “what was posted where” game. As teams grow and as social media marketing efforts become more complex and diversified across multiple platforms, brands need a clear, holistic picture of everything in the works. Having a single, central dashboard (aka, calendar) that integrates all of this information in one place provides teams with a birds-eye view of all campaigns and postings in play at all times. Transparency is the key to success.
  • Define roles and responsibilities: Not everyone can be in charge. The best way to get your team up and running quickly and efficiently is to put decision-making in the hands of a select few who can delegate responsibilities accordingly and clearly identify roles and responsibilities to ensure that everyone on the team knows how they contribute to the team’s overall success. This is collaboration at its very best.
  • Streamlined workflow: Everyone has a different skill set. Some people are skilled in troubleshooting technical issues, while others have a knack for general customer-service queries. It’s important to empower the experts on your team to either tackle or contribute to the queries they know how to deal with best. This is the recipe for driving customer satisfaction and success at all times. Keep in mind, not everyone on the team can have final approval on everything, so be sure to outline the rules of engagement (ownership and approval) so that there’s always a clear chain of command.

Measure your success

The once-all-too-common adage, “Fake it ‘til you make it,” no longer holds any water. Given all of the data we have at our fingertips, there is absolutely no excuse for not measuring how a team’s actions deliver on business goals or achieve some measure of success (which will be different for each brand and business).

First start by setting achievable goals. They don’t have to be complex by any means, but they shouldn’t be “safe,” either. Every team needs a north star—it creates accountability and inspires a drive to succeed.

Second, determine how you will track progress against those goals. Are you trying to reduce response times? Are you aiming to improve customer satisfaction scores? Whatever the case may be, knowing your measures of success can help you whittle down which metrics you need to pay most attention to.

Last, use that data to not only identify your progress toward those goals, but also to inform how you may want to reallocate responsibilities or reorganize your team to be as efficient and impactful as possible. Data can help you do this.

Simple, right? Now all you have to do is execute on these.

Katy Keim is chief marketing officer of social customer-service management provider Lithium Technologies.

Image courtesy of pixelfit/iStock.