Customer Experience Partners’ solution to the creation of word of mouth
began with the study of the most predominant form of word of mouth: negative word of mouth. Why negative comments?
A pragmatic reason. A quick online search of “complaint” linked with any brand name, and “compliment”
with that same brand name typically reveals negative comments outnumbering the positives by multiples of anywhere from 2 to
20 times. Are American consumers simply more negative by nature? We don’t believe so. Instead, we
believe that negative comments are in the majority simply because dissatisfied customers – those with an unsolved problem
and those who have been mistreated by a brand - possess the three keys to the generation of word of mouth:
- Motivation – they feel they have been deceived, mistreated or wronged and
they want to warn others or gain revenge,
- Content –
they have a specific story to tell, and
- Opportunity – communicating with friends, neighbors, co-workers and the ready availability
of review sites, blogs and other open chat rooms give them a platform from which to discuss their issue(s).
Satisfied customers, on the other hand, got what they wanted
or expected, typically know little about the category, have little to say about their experience, and have little or no reason
to seek out people or places to express their positive opinions.
Our solution to producing more, and more positive word of mouth became:
loyal, satisfied customers with an ample supply of word
of mouth enablers – motivation; content;
Of course, all customers are not
equally loyal nor able to and interested in communicating their feelings and opinions. Further, the costs of preparing
an entire customerbase to serve as positive advocates would be extensive. Customer Experience
Partners’ solution, therefore, begins with identifying that small percentage of existing customers who
have the highest potential of becoming outstanding advocates and then equipping ('arming') them to be the best advocates for
a client’s brand.
Arming Your Customers
It is sometimes difficult for management teams to understand why potential advocates need to be “armed”.
After all, the individuals selected for the program (through the three above qualifiers) are existing customers who have proved
their loyalty by their purchases over several years. So, doesn’t it necessarily follow that they must clearly
understand the product’s use and benefits and recognize the ways in which it is superior to the competition? Further,
shouldn’t their continued use show that they already know how to communicate with the company and that they have had
a positive experience? Seems basically logical. Right?
Yet years of experience in listening to customers
tells us that all these beliefs are only partially true. Customers of most brands, in most categories
buy because of habit, availability, price and/or emotion. They are busy people who typically know very little about
the product or service except what it has done for them. They may never have read a single word of the copy on the package
or in their service contract. They don’t know if the technology is leading edge or behind the curve. They
don’t know anything about the corporate management or the employees. They may not know how the customer service team
has come to the rescue of other customers or how well they handle calls. They don’t know if they are buying from
a great corporate citizen, or an 'enemy of the state'. They may not know of any other products or services that the
parent company has on the market, or what a great value they are receiving. In other words, many would-be customer advocates lack
motivation and have nothing to say!
So, ‘seeding’ word of mouth is a task demanding strategic
pre-thinking. But, despite the challenges, word of mouth can successfully be created.
It sounds pretty straightforward. You map the customer journey
for your brand. You identify all the touchpoints along the way. You conduct satisfaction research to objectively quantify
your performance at each of these touchpoints (that comprise the customer experience you're delivering). Then you review
your findings to determine the largest opportunity gaps. Subsequently you plan and execute a strategy to increase retention,
generate more positive word of mouth and grow share of wallet.
It's Really Not Simple At All...
It becomes much more complex because most
of those touchpoints are composed of both physical and emotional components. Your existing customers and your prospects -
often without even being consciously aware - are using all their senses to capture and process all kinds
of data. That’s the Total Customer Experience, and in reality it’s much more than the nice
neat list of attributes recounted in the typical customer satisfaction research study. Most CSAT projects are driven
by departmental concerns (inside looking out) not the experience from all of the customer's senses
(outside looking in) Just consider a few examples of what customers are picking up:
In a Business in Which the Customer Enters Your Office Environment
How much buying energy do they help generate? Do they say 'trust'? Do they show good taste? Is traditional
too stuffy? Does ultra-modern suggest lack of stability?
the arrangement inviting and comfortable? Does it feel disorganized and suggest confusion?
- Signage— Does it reinforce the brand promise? Suggest well-structured business processes?
- Temperature – Too hot for comfort? Too cold?
Suggesting a lack of concern for the planet?
- Small touches—If you
have lush foliage, for example, does it signal a high level of care. Does it indicate a keen attention to detail, or
just the opposite?
Retail Setting or Check-In Lobby
- Lighting – Does the low lighting make it difficult to read the form you're being asked to complete?
Do bright lights keep you from relaxing?
- Sound – Does it set the right mood?
Is it so loud customers can barely hear the staff speak? Or does it make you feel the facility is lost in
- Smells – Some facilities pump in a unique fragrance that is theirs
alone. In others you can tell what the staff is having for dinner behind the desk. Does either one subtly
make you want to come back? Or stay away?
Through Customer Service Channels
- Attire - What traits do your company uniform or dress
standards emphasize? (Professionalism? Approach-ability?)
- Process - What questions
do your front-line employees ask, and in what order? (Does their personal concern for buyers rank highest on the list?)
- Setting expectations - Do employees make clear, in the simplest possible terms, what
buyers can expect?
- Flexibility - Are buyers offered a range of convenient
options for doing business with you?
Via Your Email Communications
- Are you sending updates at each stage of the buying process?
input - Are you giving buyers a voice, and making them feel valued, via satisfaction surveys? Do you report back
and tell customers what to expect as changes?
- Visibility - Are
you sending periodic newsletters to keep in touch and stay top of mind?
Your Social Media Presence
- Are you posting consistently and frequently
- Does your activity align with your brand identity and your followers’
- Are your posts inspiring? Do they feel like two-way
conversations, promoting audience engagement?
Now That We've Told You How to Make Things More Difficult...
probably thinking that this 'list game' could go on forever. It probably could and we're not suggesting that the typical customer
satisfaction questionnaire be any longer than many already are. (If anything we’d suggest most become shorter.)
What we arerecommending is that you find the one or two touchpoints at which you are most disappointing each customer,
and then ask in-depth questions only on these items