There’s more to a brand than its latest advertising campaign and tagline. It’s also how you make customers feel.
Today, customers expect a brand to stand for something. It’s not enough to just have great products. To earn true customer loyalty, you also need to deliver great experiences. Customers are looking for brands that make their lives a little easier and treat them like individuals. Being able to take away their anxiety, even if it just means making a checkout easy, will build up your brand equity.
Americans are anxious, particularly now during the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs, are juggling the pressures of working and school, or have loved ones they worry about getting sick. Showing a bit of human empathy and providing little acts of kindness can go a long way.
This shift means brands need to invest in the customer experience—the entire experience—to stand out. But often, companies aren’t set up to connect CX with marketing and sales is a meaningful way. “When we talk about promoting support channels or changing customer behavior with customer experience directors, or support or IT leaders, eight out of ten times they’ll say ‘I’ll have to connect with marketing on that,’” says Mara Simonson, a customer success associate at Zendesk.
Make the connection between complementary data sets
Disparate teams create disconnected data. You have your customer service team, but also other customer-facing teams like customer success or experience, professional services, and marketing. Maybe there's some collaboration here and there, but without a clear view of the whole picture, you’re likely to miss out on insights that can drive your business. For example, customer experience teams collect a lot of customer information that could inform targeted marketing communications, Simonson says. Similarly, marketing specializes in attracting customer attention in an appropriate way, or at the right time, and that can help CX efforts to impact customer behavior.
Two-thirds of marketers say they compete primarily on their CX, according to Gartner, but marketing owns the budget that drives the customer experience. In a world built around collaboration, it just doesn’t make sense for a single department to execute CX on its own.
Your entire company influences the experiences your customers have. According to the 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, “the factors that influence customer loyalty are owned across your sales, support, success, marketing, finance, and product organizations — in short, everything that contributes to loyalty is owned by everyone.” A great customer experience can boost your bottom line—but a bad one can tank it.
[Related read: Optimizing agent performance is everyone’s job]
- Use customer support data to track trends. Continuous confusion over a process, product, or company policy, can be an indicator that more customer communication is needed or that language needs to be modified on marketing materials.
- Link the CX and marketing departments. Customer experience teams collect a lot of information on customers that marketing can use for more nuanced, personalized communications. Marketing teams know how to get customer attention that CX can use to impact customer behavior. To make this happen, you need to create connections between these teams. This can happen by bringing both teams under the same reporting structure, regular cross-team meetings, or conversational Slack channels.
- Leverage a knowledge base. The connection between CX and marketing can be powerful in self-service channels, particularly in building a knowledge base. This helps service teams increase agent efficiency, and gives the 76 percent of customers that prefer to self-serve a platform to do so. The benefit to marketing is a one-stop shop for communication around product launches and community collaboration. Data-driven marketers can use this information to better understand the wants and needs of their customers.
[Related read: 6 companies tackling social justice and inspiring customers]
Why good CX drives loyalty
Good customer experiences help build a brand’s loyalty. But when customers feel ignored or disappointed, the consequences for a brand are dire. Sometimes it’s the customer data that creates the disconnect. When data is siloed between teams, customers may feel ignored, misheard, or could be delivered a tone-deaf message. Particularly now, when emotions and anxiety are running high and consumer spending is low. Even small infractions can undercut a brand’s efforts to bring customers back once the market improves. Forrester reports that when customers are disappointed, only 18 percent will keep their business with that brand, and a scant 15 percent will recommend the brand to friends and family.
“The best marketing is word-of-mouth. And word-of-mouth marketing happens when someone has a customer experience that exceeds their expectations,” says Andy Crestodina, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Media Studios. “So when you hear something positive from a customer, that's when as a marketer you can go into overdrive to listen and follow up.”
This is why customer loyalty is a key metric in marketing. Lifetime customer value is inextricably linked to loyalty because the most loyal customers spend more and buy more often. These superfans also have higher retention rates than new customers, which makes them much more profitable. According to Harvard Business Review, companies that lead their industries for satisfaction rankings over three or more years grow revenue about 2.5 times faster than their peers.
It can cost five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, according to Forbes. And, research shows increasing customer retention rates by just 5 percent can boost profits by 25 to 95 percent. With all this in mind, it’s good practice to focus efforts on nurturing your existing customer relationships, particularly those who are repeat buyers. This isn’t to say you should abandon trying to find new customers—this is a need for any healthy strategy. It’s vital for marketers to focus on the whole customer experience, working beyond traditional strategies like loyalty rewards programs and VIP promotions.
[Related read: How to connect with your silent customers]
Listen to your customers
A lot of companies say they listen to their customers, but in practice it’s not always the top priority. Marketers need to shift the mindset from channel metrics to a customer-centric one that puts the customer first, not products or launch plans. That approach takes effort, but it can pay off: research by Deloitte found that customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable than those that aren’t.
Customer-centric companies operate by the ethos that puts a premium on customer conversations. But listening to customers doesn't mean responding with what you think they want to hear. It means acknowledging that you heard them, and taking action. And to do that well takes a data-driven strategy. In fact, two-thirds of leading marketers say that decisions made with data are superior to those made on gut instinct.
Encouraging a conversation means shifting your focus to listening, just as it does in personal relationships. When you actively listen to customer feedback, from all of its sources, you’re tapping into a wealth of valuable information. Companies can—and should—harness this data to create better customer experiences. And a connected strategy makes for a more seamless experience for everyone. The businesses that do this well don’t have to “connect with marketing on that,” because their teams are already working together to make it happen.
Photo credit: Campaign Creators