2014-18-September-Listen.jpgThe universal interest in improving the “customer experience” both heartens and amuses me. Heartens because it's a good thing: who doesn't want a simpler, easier and more relevant experience in the multichannel world? Amuses because the term -- like many Holy Grail concepts -- is strong on hope and weak on follow through. For all of the interest in customer experience and all of the touted methods, systems and platforms, can you honestly tell me that your customer experience is better today than it was a year ago? Or two years ago?

Providing Value to Customers

In developing digital communication and marketing strategies, there is little discussion about “listening.” It is generally about “acquisition,” “conversion,” “engagement” and “retention.” Social media listening is more about understanding brand awareness, competitive share and risk to brand than it is about customer experience, unless you listen for comments about experience with your multiple channels.

If we agree that customer experience is the key to multichannel nirvana, then wouldn't it make sense for digital strategies to align around the customer rather than selling or marketing? And if this is true, then "listening” should be the unifying approach to strategy.

In your new role as chief listener -- not marketer, or market researcher -- your job is to be aware and interpret what you’re observing to create an experience that gives value to your customers. How would you do this?

What to Listen To

Here’s some ways to approach this:

  1. Learn about the characteristics of your customers -- how big is the potential audience, where are they from, what’s their gender, what type of work do they do, what are their interests? Comscore or Nielsen could be good sources for this information.
  2. Learn about their purchase history -- what do they purchase, how often, how much, when do they purchase. Customer data should include all of this and the channels they used to purchase.
  3. Learn about their multichannel experience -- find out from your customers what channels they like, what don’t they like, what is easy to do and what is hard, what would they like to change. Interviews, focus groups, surveys, user experience testing and direct comment from social media channels are the best ways to understand current experience. Workshops and card sorting are good methods to learn what to do next.
  4. Learn about their multichannel behavior -- determine how multichannel segments tie into characteristics, purchase history and user experience findings to determine at a high level how customers are responding to design, content and navigation. Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics are the leaders, although there are other options.
  5. Test new design and navigation -- use analytics to measure effectiveness of new versions of content, applications, tools and functions.

Your goal as chief listener is to understand at a high level who your customers are based on what you'd like them to purchase or what services you'd like them to use. Learn more about them on a segment-based level: behaviors and attitudes that tell what they think about the experience you're providing. Then test new design and content and optimize -- continually.

This can work as long as the customer is the focus and understanding the customer drives content, product and service development rather than the other way around.

Title image by Nishanth Jois (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license