Everything you do in life is an experience, and those experiences influence your opinions of people, places and things. For instance, if you break your ankle the first time you go ice skating as a child, you may always have a negative impression of ice skating. If your first true love breaks your heart, you may become more guarded in future relationships. While the relationship between experience and opinion is clear in terms of your personal life, what does it have to do with your business? Many experts would argue that the answer to that question is “everything”.
Who’s in Control?
In a recent interview with Huffington Post, customer strategist Esteban Kolsky – CEO of thinkJar (Twitter: @ekolsky) – argued that customer experience is out of a company’s control. He agreed with many other professionals that the experiences a customer has interacting with a company are important, but he stated that no company can control those experiences.
While that may sound like Kolsky is dismissing the importance of customer experience, he’s actually placing more emphasis on its importance. His research and thorough analysis of data produced by his consumer strategy company thinkJar has shown that customers are smart enough to assess all of their interactions with a company and come up with their own conclusions, but companies are responsible for setting up opportunities for those interactions to occur.
If you’re a business owner trying to earn a profit, this means that your job is to create a fluid representation of your company across multiple communication streams. This creates opportunities for potential customers to interact with your brand on their own terms. If you do that well, you should have positive client interactions, and those experiences should lead to favorable views of your company from the customer standpoint.
Customer Experience and Your Marketing Plan
One negative interaction with your company could turn a customer away from your brand forever. Just like that broken ankle on your first trip to the ice rink can lead to a fear of ice, one visit to a poorly designed website could lead to a customer thinking of your business as untrustworthy.
The same goes for a positive experience. One fast, courteous buying experience in which the customer perceives value in the product can lead to a loyal customer who advertises your company through word of mouth for years to come. This is exactly why it’s so important to think of marketing from a customer experience standpoint.
While Kolsky is correct that you cannot control how a customer perceives your company, you can provide many opportunities for consumers to interact with your brand in a positive manner. In order for this to work in your company’s favor, you must do all of the following:
- Thoroughly understand the expectations and needs of your ideal customers.
- Place your company in the natural path of those customers.
- Make consistent improvements in all levels of the buying experience, taking cues from data analysis and customer feedback.
- Work for consistency in company representation and branding across all platforms.
If customers get to choose when, where and how they interact with your company, the best you can do is make sure that you show up in locations that are convenient for them. This means creating an effective marketing plan that includes responsive web design, mobile apps, effective landing pages and coordination between social, mobile and website experiences.
Make Buying Seem Natural
Excellent customer experiences lead consumers to make buying decisions in your favor. Most consumers don’t whip out their credit cards when they’re first introduced to a product. They go through a journey that involves researching the product and comparing it to alternative products and brands. They will interact with your company through multiple platforms before finally making a purchase, and they won’t take that final step if one of the following pieces are missing:
- They trust your brand completely, including the security of your website.
- They perceive value in your products or services.
- They rank your brand above competitors for their personal reasons.
If you don’t pay attention to customer experience at all stages of the buying journey, those three pieces won’t fall into place. This is why a focus on customer experience is so critical to the success of your business.