Building customer experience [A]
The way companies manage to shift from one branding cliché to another baffles me all the time. Sadly or not, marketers have to keep up with these clichés otherwise they risk being branded out of existence. You’ve probably come across statements such as, “We are inspired by excellence. Or, “Our people (employees) make us different.” Nothing screams vagueness like these two statements. [O, thank you Word. I cannot seem to type the word ‘statemnets’ correctly. Then there’s, “Our products and services are designed to inspire our users.” Hmm, I understand when a fintech throws around this statement, but I struggle to understand what a detergent brand could possibly be doing with it. What exactly are you inspiring? Then, “Our customer-centric approach is what makes us different.” [Read: The customer is always right.] Wait; is the customer always right though? Then, “We pride ourselves in building solutions… blah blah.” In there you will find words like relationships, partnerships, and bespoke solutions. And then the culmination of all this, or at least I hope it is, “We are committed to creating exciting, inspiring, and positively transforming experiences for our customers.” Keyword, experiences. This experience, what is it? How do you design it? Why should you care? And then what next? We will cover what CX is and how to define and design it on this piece, and the last two in the next piece.
Customer experience [CX] is the total of the interactions that a customer has throughout their buying journey; hence the term customer journey. These interactions, in my opinion, result in feelings and emotions that customers associate with your brand. Creating positive experiences and consequently, feelings is a company’s ultimate goal in CX. CX covers the pre-purchase to the post-purchase interactions of a customer. To paint a picture of what CX is, let’s assume you want to order a meal from a restaurant you saw online. You go on their website, enter your details, and register. Browse through their menu, choose your meal, place your order. At check out, you are provided with different methods of payment including cash, mobile money, card, [crypto maybe?] and et cetera. You select your preferred method. You then receive a confirmation email that your order has been received, it is being processed, and it will arrive in 15 to 20 minutes [because their q-commerce model is that efficient].
In 15 or so minutes, your meal arrives. You pay for the service via mobile money since it was your selected option and because the restaurant operates on the pay on delivery [POD] model. [In case you are wondering, one pro of POD is that it builds trust.] You are ready to devour your meal and notice that they did not pack your coleslaw. You like coleslaw because the cabbage makes you feel better as you enjoy all that mayonnaise. You decide to call them to provide feedback. The restaurant apologizes and offers you a percentage discount on your next meal. Rate your experience with the restaurant. What is it likely to be on a scale of 1–5? Great. Now assuming you called them and no one bothered picking up your call, or even if they did, they didn’t apologize for forgetting to throw in your coleslaw. They just gave excuses like how busy it gets on Fridays and that you have to enjoy the meal as it is. Now rate your experience with this restaurant? Probably one or two if you’re being generous. No matter how good their meal was, would you recommend the restaurant to anyone? Not really.
CX is such a broad and general term that anyone can afford to use, from fintech to restaurants to detergents. You need to understand your business and your consumers. as a result, you will be able to identify the relevant touchpoints for your customers. Design this from the customer’s perspective. You did say that you are customer-centric, right? How do you go about designing a positive experience in the example I just gave above? Ensure that every touchpoint is designed with the customer in mind. This includes and is not limited to the website/ app, the product offering, and customer service. How easy is it to find your website or app? Is it possible that you provide a link to your website or app on social media? Most social media platforms have that option. Can you make it even better for the customers that want to order to be redirected to the website while still on the photo that they just saw? How long is the ordering process?
Is the website or app easy to navigate? Are you going to ask them for the DOB of their great-grandmother to complete registration? Is that information necessary for the kind of business that you are running? Does the customer understand that this information is truly vital for the fulfillment of their order? During check out, have you provided convenient paying options for your customers? If they link their card for payment, how secure is your website? Is the customer going to receive promotional messages from real estate companies because they imagine that he or she can afford a mortgage? Basically, how secure is all that information that they have innocently shared with you? Are you going to sell it? [No one admits to selling personal information anyway.] Further, can you make the customer feel easy by acknowledging their order [via email or SMS] and updating them on the progress of the said order? Have you seen apps that let you track your order? It is amazing.
The product. Do you understand the customer’s expectations? You need to be aware of who your customers are and how they talk about their food. Do they like sophisticated or simple names for their meals? Build personas of your expected customers to understand them better. Assuming that this customer saw an ad that clearly showed a photo of well-done steak and crunchy-looking fries, is that what they will get? Be clear about what they are ordering. Provide as much detail as possible about your meals since it is e-commerce. Does the food contain nuts? [You are in the food business; you must know the common allergies]. If you mentioned price X on your Instagram page, are they still going to get that same price when they order? Are you running a promotion? Please let your customers know for what period the promotion is running. No one wants to be charged 20% more than they expected simply because you did not indicate when the promotion ended. How do you pack the meal to ensure that the customer enjoys it as they would if they walked into the restaurant? Is the food warm? Does it get cold before reaching the customer? [Should I call this user experience at this point?] no one wants to unwrap a seemingly infinite number of layers of packaging before getting to the food.
Now that your website and product are good to go, how good is your customer support? Find my previous article on CS here https://gacherimburugu.medium.com/disrupting-customer-service-a49acf78db06. How easy is it to find your contact details? How reachable are you? Can they check your social media pages and easily find your contacts? Great! Do they have to dig through the trenches of your website or app for that? Not so great. Are you willing to receive feedback? Is your team responsive? Do you engage them when they provide positive feedback? A simple thank you will suffice. Are you ready to acknowledge the negative feedback?
Are they listening with the intent to understand the customer’s frustration? Understandably, coleslaw might not mean much to your customer service rep, but to that customer who feels coleslaw [read: vegetables] balances her calories, it does. How can you rectify a customer’s experience after they have complained to you? Are you going to lynch influencers on them? [I feel most companies jumped on the influencer marketing bandwagon and do not quite understand its impact. I cannot wait to write about this.] Are you going to apologize and try to make the experience better? Simple, see how you casually mention to your mama mboga [greengrocer] that they accidentally packed you a rotten mango and they give you a fruit for free the next time you’re shopping? Could you borrow from that idea? Offer a discount or free delivery on their next meal if their experience wasn’t so great.
Make the customer feel good and validated. The feelings and emotions that arise from interacting with your business are what form the experiences. Your customer support team might be the crème del a crème, but if your product does not meet the customer’s expectation, it does not matter. Your product might be the best, but if you require details of a customer’s great-grandmother to order a meal, erm, it might not be worth it.
CX is quite extensive. How about I write about the other two points in the coming piece? Why should you care about CX? What next now that most companies are talking about building inspiring experiences for our customers?
That was my conclusion, by the way.