Customer excellence: your highway to word of mouth

As you probably know, word of mouth is still primarily an offline matter. People mainly talk to each other about products, companies and experiences in ‘real-life’ conversations, as I wrote in a post on another blog last year.

These last few weeks, I conducted a series of surveys about various topics in several countries that are part of an overall exercise. However, the first results already clearly indicate part of the reality of word of mouth, sharing experiences and why people follow or recommend brands.

Many confirm similar surveys but there are some data coming that might surprise you later this year. I started with some very specific surveys and will further fine-tune the results but some basic first data I share here (they need to be further crossed with other data, followed by more surveys and explained) again show why customer excellence and optimal integrated user experiences and touchpoints are really your ‘condition sine qua non’ for the customer experience, word of mouth and business in general.

sharing positive experiences
How people share positive experiences (N=300)

Perfect customer excellence is never achieved

It seems obvious that providing excellent and even perfect user and customer experiences is the main road to generating revenues, increasing brand reputation and creating the loyalty and brand advocacy, we all long for. This customer excellence should furthermore happen across all possible customer touchpoints. And to achieve it, everyone in your business must focus on the customer. Quite a challenge, isn’t it? Well, it is and it’s the reason why we are optimizing conversion through relevance and analyzing every aspect of our business, online and offline every day (or, at least, should).

However, many businesses are not ready to do just that. It depends on scale and size as well: it’s easier for your local butcher to have excellent meat, a neat shop and always friendly employees than it is for P&G to have fantastic distributors and retailers with great employees.

Customer excellence and customer-centricity don’t happen overnight. It’s a basic and at the same time a never-ending goal. Reality is dynamic and so are your business and customers. Moreover, what is good for one person isn’t for another.

Striving towards customer excellence is a matter of management, people, processes, understanding and failure. The faster you fail, the faster you will learn how not to in the future (if you’re smart). The real challenge, however, is to get all the lessons you learn, the preferences of your customers (both regarding interactions as experience in the broadest sense), emotional needs and cross-fertilizing processes into a company-wide process of improvement and people-centric conversion optimization.

importance of advice by friends or family members
The importance of advice by friends or family members (N=300)

Being there when you don’t see your customers AND where and when they show themselves

There are several marketing platforms and collaboration tools that help you to achieve this, all the way from CRM to the various channels and tools you have to acquire insights, make your marketing efforts more relevant and improve every single touch point in a channel agnostic and customer-centric way. However, obviously, the whole exercise requires more than technology: it needs management, business processes, breaking down silos, putting accountability and customer first and even changes in corporate culture and DNA.

Doing all this, demands efforts and taking hurdles that might seem like Mount Everest. That’s why you do it step by step and in a coordinated way, involving several people and departments.

The easier solution would be to not do it at all.

However, the truth is that you have no choice, for two very simple reasons.

  • The main reasons why people will buy or not from your company are the influence spheres they ALLOW in their buying journey and their own PERCEPTIONS in every direct or indirect interaction with your brand, business, products, ads, employees, other customers, etc.
  • Despite all digital and social channels, tools, etc., the MAJOR parts of the above mentioned phenomena happen in direct, offline interactions between people, both online and offline. And the truth is that you cannot measure those. If I talk positively about your brand with a friend, you will never know it. However, what matters most is that I do talk about it in a positive way.

This reality of a very partial control over the way you generate revenue is, besides common sense, the primary reason why you will have to strive towards an integrated customer excellence and optimal interaction relevance at all times.

It’s the way to be in those conversations customers have with others and with themselves (called thinking and making emotional and rational decisions), even if you don’t “see” them.

And it’s also the reason why you need to integrate your channels and interaction strategies depending on the customer. Because, no matter how you look at it, in the end brand conversations and perception, still happen offline most of the time and you need to be ready the moment they become visible to you, online and offline. And, obviously you must be everywhere they do happen online, depending on your goals and the needs and preferences of your (potential) customers in the broadest sense.

Finally, take a look at the graphic below, from the Razorfish Fluent report and think about it. Customer excellence is your path to word of mouth, and that’s crucial since it’s also a big road to revenue.

Where’s the trust?
Where’s the trust? Source: http://fluent.razorfish.com

Comments welcome, as always.