When I was originally asked to write this piece, I was asked to write about the Customer Life Cycle Experience -- how great customer service and ongoing experience continues the customer journey. However, I wanted to take a different angle. One that I think better reflects the new normal in the market: How does a customer experience the Customer Experience Life Cycle?
Social has shifted the control from the business to the consumer -- note, I’m using consumer loosely to mean anyone: buyers, partners, employees and so on. Basically, anyone that needs to make a series of decisions or gather information related to buying a product or service.
Secondly, and equally important, I believe that consumers no longer see their transaction as a single interaction with the brand, but rather as a series of interactions -- another reason why I’m a fan of the term "life cycle."
Social Channels are Very Important
As a consumer, I expect to use social (from social media to social tools) as a big part of my decision making process: social enables me to take less risk in the choices and decisions I make, as I can learn from those who have gone before me. Social allows me to see how I will be treated as a future customer. And finally, social gives me some sense of the type of support I can expect to get.
I expect the businesses that I interact with to offer social channels. From my personal perspective, I don’t necessarily care if a business is on Facebook -- as that isn't where I want to interact -- but I do want that company to be on Twitter. I also want to have a place where I can interact on a more personal level with that brand.
While this goes a bit against the conventional wisdom of "all brands must have a presence on Facebook" -- I prefer to use Facebook to connect with other people like me who are passionate about an activity that the brand affects.
For example, I’m buying new running shoes. I’ll look for the brand on Twitter, I’ll read reviews on Zappos and Amazon, and I may even visit the brand’s website to ask product specific questions -- hopefully they have a community.
However, on Facebook I want to interact with other people that have experience with the brand, not the brand itself (e.g. a local triathlon group talking about their experiences). And it is from this collective set of interactions that I’ll form a buying decision.
This is why I believe that one of the trends for 2013 will include a shift towards businesses making more investments in their own public, on-domain communities. Businesses that have their own on-domain communities can create experiences that customers can have with a brand and, in the end, keep all of the data created during those interactions.
Plus, with the right on-domain community,companies can drive more traffic to their site and still integrate with the consumer-facing social channels which will continue to be important.
It Begins with Great Customer Service
Customer service is emerging as the leader for ensuring a great customer experience. But, it is important that organizations realize that everyone is in customer service, not just the customer service department.
We’ve seen this with some of our customers who now lead internal company-wide training sessions to instruct all employees on how to interact with customers on Twitter and the company’s social community.
Forrester Research has done quite a bit of analysis in the customer service space and found that the majority of customers expect to get support and pre-sales information online. So just think, if customers are getting that customer service elsewhere, the brand is missing out on an interaction opportunity that the customer expects.
As a buyer, customer service has a massive impact on the decision making process of whether to buy or not. Really, it’s a good indicator of what the future experience will be.
3 Challenges Organizations Must Overcome
There are three specific challenges that organizations must overcome as they shift away from the traditional marketing funnel towards the customer’s life cycle experience:
1. Embrace Social Channels
Today’s consumer is better educated than ever before; we have more information available to us in our pocket via our smartphone than we ever did three years ago. Most of this rich data originates from social channels like Twitter, social communities, ratings and reviews that all continue to feed the wealth of product knowledge immediately available at your fingertips.
2. Realize Everyone is in Customer Service
While customer service in collaboration with marketing will yield the greatest impact from a customer experience point of view, everyone in the organization is part of the customer service experience. So remove the mentality that one specific group is responsible for customer service, because in this day and age that is not the case.
3. Empower Me
As a consumer, I want the ability to interact with your brand. I want to give feedback. I want to read reviews -- both positive and negative -- and have the ability to provide my own commentary. Give me the opportunity to share my experiences then embrace my feedback. You’ll find it is yet another way to positively impact my experience as a customer.
Businesses take note; a lot has changed over the course of the last three to five years. How is your organization overcoming the challenges mentioned above? Have you taken time to think about your customers’ experience? These are important questions to consider as your organization moves forward in 2013.
Image courtesy of iQoncept (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: To read more of Rob's thoughts on what lies in store for 2013, check out 2013: The Year of Big Data, Major Shifts & Convergence