The pandemic has driven an ever greater customer demand for personalised, empathy-led experiences, with 84% of customers saying the experience is as important as the product or service. And that experience doesn’t begin and end with a purchase. The post-purchase experience presents a powerful opportunity for marketers to build on relationships, leverage more insights and demonstrate ROI based not on a single transaction but on the ongoing promotional value offered to the brand by the customer.
Here are five ways to build a customer experience that keeps on giving.
Create authentic advocates
Trust has become both a greater priority for customers and harder for brands to earn. The pandemic increased customer demand for trust, with 99% saying companies need to improve their trustworthiness and 90% saying how a company acts during a crisis reveals its trustworthiness, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report.
Creating customer advocates then, is a powerful way for brands to demonstrate their trustworthiness. The most powerful advocate for your brand isn’t necessarily an established influencer. Rather, it’s a genuine customer who is genuinely happy with the experience you’ve given them. Authenticity here is critical, as today’s customers can very easily tell when they are being manipulated and will be quick to call out anything they perceive to be phony. Add social media to the mix and those criticisms can be rapidly amplified.
The more authentic your advocates and the more you let them share their stories in their own voices, the more meaningful their impact on your brand will be.
Savvy marketers are also turning to employees to be advocates. The key here again is authenticity. Successful advocacy is less about presenting a slick marketing campaign, and more about giving your customers an insight into something real – almost like getting a peek behind the curtain at what makes the brand tick.
Use automation strategically
Salesforce’s recent State of Marketing report shows marketers increasingly turning to AI to improve the customer experience, with 84% reporting using AI, up from 29% in 2018. Automating customer interactions is one of marketing’s top five AI use cases along with driving next best actions, surfacing insights from data, improving customer segmentation and personalising experiences across individual channels
Automated emails, for example, can be an efficient way to connect with customers post-purchase and drive next best actions. AI is extremely useful when it comes to pulling together the data and customer signals to prompt that next step.
Each automated email must have a carefully constructed purpose. Is it to present a new offer? Develop an advocate? Whatever the purpose, all automated interactions must still drive the best possible customer experience.
However, marketers must be careful not to use automation just because they can. The risk is that you can get caught in a cycle of creating smarter and smarter spam, as opposed to smarter communications at the right time for the right customer on the right channel. Ask yourself, what’s the one thing we could do this month with this particular customer to be a brand they’d want to tell their friends about? That’s way more impactful than sending a new offer every day.
Break down silos for a clearer view of the customer
The more integrated the organisation is, the more impactful its marketing efforts will be at every stage of the customer journey. A single, unified view of the customer shared across the organisation is crucial to creating the kinds of experiences that create customer advocates and drive loyalty beyond a single transaction.
The State of Marketing report shows that, to this end, 63% of marketers are now using the same CRM systems as sales and service departments and 80% are sharing goals and metrics with their sales colleagues.
However, while 72% of marketers say they are aligned with their IT organisations, IT leaders rank insufficient business unit alignment as a top challenge.
Furthermore, as the latest State of the Connected Customer report shows, while 76% of customers expect consistent interactions across departments, 54% of customers say it generally feels like sales, service and marketing don’t share information.
For brands who want to create the kinds of sticky customer ecosystems that keep delivering ROI, there’s an opportunity here to take the competitive edge by eliminating the silos that interrupt or obscure customer experience and create a shared 360-degree view of the customer to drive both transactional and promotional value.
Let the customer have their say – and be sure to track it
Whether it’s via a net promoter score (NPS), social media, customer correspondence, a customer review or a cold call follow up, enabling your customers to have a say about their experience with your brand provides you with crucial data and feedback, which can resonate across the organisation.
For example, NPS is a good metric for understanding customer satisfaction, but it can also be a leading indicator for financial and operational risk in the business. As soon as those considerations come into play, the boardroom pays attention and this can lead to meaningful impact throughout the business.
Marketers that measure customer lifetime value are well positioned to amplify this impact by more accurately demonstrating their ROI. Along with tracking customer retention rates and customer referral rates, it’s one of several customer satisfaction metrics that marketers are adding to an expanding pool of KPIs in their efforts to keep customers for longer and expand their promotional value.
Make it personal – and take a look into the future
The education sector is particularly good at using social integration as a means of post purchase engagement, and it’s a potentially powerful strategy for other industries including retail. There’s a much greater chance of keeping a student enrolled, for example, if they are made to feel integrated into campus life. That could involve something as simple as encouraging them to join a social group or having one person remember their name.
Think about the power of that for a moment: having someone remember your name or include you in a group. Brands who interact with their customers personally, who remember their name or what their kid’s favourite subject is at school or offer them membership of a club, have a much better chance of bringing their customer in close and integrating them into the brand’s success story. Indeed, Salesforce research shows 68% of customers expect brands to take personalisation to the next level by demonstrating empathy.
The trust that comes with developing highly personalised customer relationships is set to become an increasingly important focus of marketing and business strategies. Rather than just being a caretaker of customer data and privacy, brands will look for ways to utilise the trust they’ve been afforded by creating deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers. Marketers are starting to explore ways that data can be used to help the customer achieve their goals or live a better life.
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