How customer focused is your business?
Shortcut: Get hold of the customer persona profiling template here
Want to know why? Just read on…
Marketing includes every touch-point with your customer. Why? Because every touch-point leaves an impression of your brand and your business on that customer, which directly impacts whether they will return and what they might tell others about you. If you are not thinking about the impression you are creating across the multiple touch-points, a customer’s experience starts to become inconsistent and fragmented. By contrast, get it right and you can gain customer loyalty, even when there are cheaper alternatives or bigger brands on the market.
When we talk about marketing, we’re not just referring to advertising and PR campaigns (sometimes fondly termed the ‘fluffy stuff’ of marketing). Marketing touch-points include your prices and promotions; your sales people; your customer service team; even your reputation as a place to work. This means your finance director, sales director, ops director, HR manager – in fact the whole board or senior team – need to be part of your approach to marketing now.
Thinking as a customer, we can all talk about times when a business has really got it right – creating a great customer experience end-to-end. More often than not it feels like someone has taken ownership and really cares about creating a great experience. This doesn’t just happen. Business leaders need to identify what is of value to their customer, what a great experience means for them, and then make it happen. This is far from easy. I’ve been in enough big corporations to see how the distance grows between those making the decisions and those on the front line interacting with customers. Prices are put up beyond customer value, call centres are outsourced offshore; inch by inch we can all lose sight of the all-important customer.
The thing is, a small number of large businesses are pioneering the way and driving up our expectations as customers with great and memorable customer experiences. Zappos is becoming a famous example, Dell turned their customer service around to make it a core part of their USP, and the likes of Natwest have built their competitive advantage around having local branches that customers can actually call.
The wonderful thing is that as part of an entrepreneurial SME or start-up you have the power to connect with customers and build a great experience without the shackles of bureaucracy that the big boys have to break through. Define what great means for your customer now; make it part of the foundations of your brand and it will help you drive that growth as well as maintain it.
Know your core customer
Your whole team needs to have a clear picture of exactly who your customer is, so paint a picture of them using our profile tool here and bring it to life in your office so everyone know who your ‘someone’ is. This simple template can take just half an hour – get set up with a few post-ins and a pen and start working through the key questions, starting with the demographics. Then once you’ve collated some ideas loop back to the top and write a little overview to describe your key customer and give them a name. t might sound silly to give them a name now – but it truly helps embed your customer as part of your brand and your business.
Embed your customer throughout your business
Major business decisions should be made by thinking from the perspective of your customer: where you sell, what you sell, how much it costs, how you reach them. Start thinking like this, bringing your key decisions back to your customer all of the time. Start talking like this in the boardroom and with your teams, then over time the whole business will be leading the customer agenda.
Work through your customer journey
Get all the key customer people in a room together – from sales, finance, marketing, HR, to customer services – and spend an hour working through the journey of your customer. Avoid any debate or discussion, just look at every touch-point as if you were the customer – from how they find you, research you, what their first encounter is like, and how they are interacted with post purchase. You’ll need a lot of post-it’s!! Whenever The Nurture Network does this with business teams, the ideas and observations for improvement (and often the shock at poor experiences) just keep flowing.
Run change like a project
None of the great ideas or improvements identified in your customer journey meeting will make it to your customer if they aren’t planned and prioritised as a project, with someone leading the way. Bucket the ideas into key areas of activity or business functions; prioritise those that will have the greatest impact and agree ownership for each project. Then align on timelines and review progress in your management meetings.
Empower a culture of ownership
Great customer experience, however well-defined and planned, can all fall down when someone drops the baton like the National Rail person in one of our earlier blogs here. It often comes down to the individual interacting with the customer, and as a business grows this is less likely to be the founding business team. All you can do is inspire the whole team to think about the customer too. From the CEO to the Sunday checkout clerk, everyone needs to take ownership of delivering a solution when things go wrong and an even better experience when they are going right. You want everyone in your team to stand up and say ‘I will fix that’ rather than pass the buck, and when the dust has settled think ‘how could I have made that even better?’
Written by Christina Richardson, a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network: The on-demand marketing department for ambitious start-ups, and entrepreneurial SMEs – bringing great marketing people into your team just when you need them.