This is the second installment of a two-part series. The first installment, A History of Brand and Customer Experience (Part 1 of 2), can be found here. Last time, we explored the history of brand and customer experience. And we established our opinion that it's in your best interest to consider them the same thing.
Customer Experience is Brand 2.0
As I noted in Part 1, customer experience (CX) involves the interactions between companies and their customers. More specifically, CX is centered on the feelings of customers as they interact with the tangible elements of companies.
The rise of CX is a side effect of businesses adapting to the media landscape. With improved technology, customers have easier access to information in a variety of media. They've also been empowered to create their own information. That democratization has rendered the traditional approach to brand all but obsolete.
Once Upon a Time
Back up. Can you give me an analogy?
Hmm, let's see.
Yes, I suppose I can.
Years ago, customers were like Dorothy Gale, and brand was like The Wizard of Oz.
When she first arrived in Oz, Dorothy's knowledge of The Wizard was limited to secondhand stories from citizens. Upon their urgings, Dorothy followed one yellow-brick pathway to the Emerald City, which she entered through one locked gate. Then Dorothy stood before The Wizard, a terrifying spectacle above her.
But in one key moment—when Toto revealed The Wizard's true form—Dorothy's opinion forever changed. From that moment forward, "The Wizard" was only a strange, bumbling man. (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” he says, in a panic.)
Then vs. Now
Years ago, there were fewer channels for customer interactions, which made them easier to control. Brand professionals could predict the entry points, guard the gates, preload the conversations, and manage the message.
But today, an infinite number of yellow-brick roads lead to your company's door, and the gates are wide open. It's all too easy for customers to peek behind the curtain and tell everyone what they saw.
“This is lame. I'm going home."
Your company's tangible. Clickable. Real.
A two-way, collective idea.
Living and breathing—alive. Oh my!
Today, your customers are more knowledgeable, more aware, more plugged-in. And they have just as much say about your company's reputation as you do. Knowing that, which makes more sense: working to maintain The Wizard, or improving what’s behind the curtain?
Interaction is Everywhen and Everywhere
Customer experience (CX) is now a focus because it has to be. Simply put, great experiences create happy customers. And happy customers create more business—through continued relationships, recommendations to friends, and general buzz.
Now, if you start to focus on improving CX, then you’ll quickly realize every interaction counts. You’ll realize you should consider the instant customers show interest in your company to the instant they leave forever.
And that, dear reader, is why CX is the future of brand. If you focus on experiences across the customer lifecycle, you'll see those experiences start before the customer is actually a customer.
For example, imagine a potential customer scrolling through a website. Or clicking on a link and getting an error. Or reading one-star reviews of a product. Or watching a company truck’s behavior on the interstate. Any and all of those experiences can inform that prospect’s decision to become a customer.
The Outstretched Hand: Voice of the Prospect
In the first part of this series, I equated CX to lily pads on a pond, and customers to frogs. For a customer, your company’s value is based on the lily pads s/he touches on the journey across the pond. For you, the health of your CX is based on the overall organism—roots and all.
That analogy depends on little frogs crossing the pond on your lily pads. But how can you ensure that frogs on the edge of the pond consider your lily pads?
Put another way, how do you ease the transition from prospect to customer? Even though that transition is an extremely important one to get right, surprisingly, there hasn’t been much focus on it in the B2B space.
Our solution for focusing on that transition is simple: ask prospects what they think. That thinking led us to create LeadMetrics, our Voice of the Prospect software, which functions in a very simple and effective way:
After every sales touchpoint, we send a brief, five-question survey to a prospect.
The prospect responds (or doesn’t).
We analyze the responses (or lack thereof) to improve sales touchpoints.
We point to the right interventions to increase the odds of winning the business.
When you boil Voice of the Prospect down, that’s all it is. But prospect feedback can drastically improve how you can analyze your sales interactions. Here are a few examples:
You can see your touchpoints from the prospect perspective.
By getting feedback from the other side of the table, you can see where training is effective or lacking.
You can gauge interest and get to “No” faster, helping improve pipeline prediction.
You can learn when prospects need additional support.
You can show you care enough about potential customers to ask about their experience.
Voice of the Prospect stems from our understanding of the customer lifecycle and improving customer experience. Let’s face it: without new customers, your CX is a moot point. A gentle nudge at the moment of consideration can help you get more frogs onto your lily pads, and specifically, the frogs that are the most interested in working with you.
An Evolving Dialog
The most exciting thing about customer experience strategy is how it’s changing the way that companies do business. (Even ours.) It’s transforming what was once a one-sided conversation (i.e., company to customer) into a multifaceted dialog involving prospects, customers, employees, and every level of management.
Because of the relative newness of this dialog, many companies find themselves wading into uncharted waters. But we’re here to help. Check out our website to learn more about us, subscribe to our blog, and feel free to ask questions!
We’ll help you learn, and we’ll help guide you through the journey.
Posted on 11-20-2014