When customer experience goes wrong, it’s comms pros that have to deal with the fall out. But when it goes right, it can present sizeable opportunities for growth, enviable reputations and PR opportunities aplenty.
Long gone are the days when people just want to buy a product and be done with it. Thanks to social media, people now want much more from their interaction with brands – they want to share it, talk about it, learn from it and get that all important motional connection.
Brands have responded with everything from pop up shops and experiential marketing, to design-your-own-products like Jo Malone’s perfume and Adidas’ customisable trainers.
But perhaps what’s more important than these ‘big ticket’ ideas, is those every day interactions with a brand. On the phone, in store, via email. It’s these interactions that can build advocacy, or destroy it.
All those little things
Brands that are focusing on this ‘everyday’ customer experience are flying. A recent report by KPMG Nunwood listed the top 100 brands ranked by customer experience. It surveyed 250 businesses, polling 10,000 customers.
Lush, First Direct, John Lewis, Richer Sounds and QVC ranked 1-5. Some of these will not be a surprise at all (I’m looking at you John Lewis). But, some names on the list will probably cause a head tilt or two.
But what is perhaps even more surprising is the figures behind these rankings. Those in the top 100 have double the revenue growth of the FTSE 100. And those in the top 10 added an extra £43m to sales every year compared to those positioned 11-100.
These figures are nothing to be sniffed at and clearly demonstrate that focusing on customer experience makes a big difference to the bottom line.
So how can you deliver great customer experience? Of course, product is key. So is the UX of your website, the layout of your stores, the look, feel, ethos and values of your business. And all of those other touchpoints where a customer interacts with your brand.
But what precedes all of these is your employees.
Without engaged, happy employees delivering great service the rest of your efforts can be ruined in just one interaction.
What happens when customer experience goes wrong?
This is an oldie but a goodie. Dave Carrol flew United Airlines in 2009, and the airline broke his guitar and refused to replace it. He uploaded this song to YouTube:
It went viral, with the BBC reporting a 10 per cent decrease in stock price within four weeks of the release of the video. That’s a decrease in valuation of $180 million (and one helluva lot of guitars). Not to mention the PR crisis the comms team needed to deal with.
This is perhaps one of the best-known examples, but a simple Google search throws up many more. Or, head to Trip Advisor, which is arguably the home of disgruntled customers and which impacts people’s spending decisions on a daily basis.
What happens when you get your customer experience right?
But for every bad tale of negative PR due to customer service, there’s a good one. The tale of Sainsbury’s Giraffe bread, Zappos sending flowers to customers, and perhaps one of my favorites Ritz Carlton’s Joshie the Giraffe.
All of these have one thing in common – employees who take the initiative and spot an opportunity to do something nice.
So how can you make customer experience your marketing ethos? Here are my key takeaways:
- Create an empowered work environment for employees. I’m aware that’s easier said than done if you’re working in a company with legacy issues. But, if leadership is on board it is possible for businesses to undergo transformation. Many start-ups are already making this their culture from the get go.
- Give employees freedom to make decisions. Let them show their personalities and give them the power and tools to solve customer issues.
- Have a clear company mission, vision and values and embed it across all levels. If you want to focus on customer experience it has to be a real business priority, not just a token gesture.
- Break down siloes within the organisation. Make sure that your comms team is speaking to your customer service team, managers and employees. They need to be ready to react if something goes wrong or right.
Brooke Nolan is marketing manager at brand communications agency Synergy Creative.