Connections, Coffee & Confidence
The How and Why of Your Customer's Journey
Customer retention isn't just about having warm fuzzies because our clients love us (they really love us), it's also about being a savvy business owner because it's much more efficient to retain our customers than to find new ones. But what about those of us who are one & done? Do we still care about loyalty? And how does what we do impact upon our customers, their feelings towards us? Today's topic is all about customer experience - what it means to you, how to track it and when to do it.
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- Wondering how to get incredible PR to grow awareness of your business but can't afford a PR agency? You need 10 Places to get Publicity, Even with Zero Budget (https://www.janicefogarty.com/discover-10-places-to-get-free-publicity-even-though-you-have-zero-budget)
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Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of Connections, Coffee and Confidence with me, Janice. This week I’m taking a bit of a departure from the softer side of communications and looking behind the scenes at the theory and strategy behind why we do what we do. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about our customer’s experience and how what we do as business owners impact upon our customer’s interactions with us. Like, obviously what we do has a knock on effect on our customers but have you ever sat down and thought about it? I have and today I’ll share what I think you need to put some attention into in order to reap some deserved rewards.
So Customer Experience or CX. That’s a whole sector of an industry that I feel was traditionally more technical in that it was data driven, it was analytical and kind of a problem solving area for a team in typically larger companies. Companies that had high profits, sold high ticket items, who had money they could spend on employing teams of people to look at the way a customer or client interacted with their company. The CX team worked in tandem with the PR team, who ensured the company’s reputation was shining beautifully and the important people were profiled in all the high flying publications, and also the marketing team, who got the people with the wallets through the door.
Ok. That’s a simplistic description but you get the idea of how these things traditionally worked. Maybe you knew this because you worked in this kind of company before. Once upon a time, there were teams of people who specialized in these areas.
And don’t get me wrong, there are still teams and individuals who specialize in this, absolutely. Maybe you specialize in one of these areas and have turned freelance, creating your own business out of your specialty. And if that’s the case then you know better than anyone that nowadays, that trifecta of teams is now just us. You and me. The business owners. Because we’re the ones who design our business, get the clients, fluff our own feathers and sweep the floors, fetch the coffee.
So what do we, as independent business owners, need to know and understand about our customer’s experience or their journey through our business? And what on earth would we do with that information, like, does it actually matter?
That idea of whether knowledge matters or not is an interesting one to me. My first thought is of course it matters. All information about your business matters, don’t be so silly. But there are no absolutes (and yes, the irony is intentional).
Why do we care about our client’s experience with us? Why does it matter? Well, we take that information and see if it tells us about where we are losing clients and their money. That’s important, right? We look at every time we interact with the client and see if it’s effective, if it’s efficient, if the client feels good or empowered or satisfied or however it is we want them to feel at that point. Then we ask ourselves, can we improve?
And that’s the same as asking if it matters. What’s our goal? Because if our goal is to create a long-term relationship with our client or customer, then yes, the information about their experience with us matters.
But what if you look at your business and you sell a one-off item. You are a one and done kind of service. Does customer satisfaction or even loyalty matter? Is it worth your time and effort reviewing the customer journey and evaluating each touch point, nevermind the time and effort to improve it? ANd I guess that’s your decision to make.
If you are a one and done kind of service or product, or if you provide a necessity, you may place a lower value on customer loyalty and retention. If you have no competition, you may place a lower value on those things, too. My word of caution on that is to be mindful because at some point, someone will come along and do what you’re doing. If the deciding factor between using you because they need what you sell but they don’t enjoy working with you or going to someone who is reasonably the same in every way but they are better to deal with, you might find yourself losing market share as time goes by.
And if you’re the one and done, presumably you still count on word of mouth to spread the news of what you do. People talk. And they are more apt to talk about a negative experience so don’t give them a reason!
And, it’s just nice to be nice.
Although the answer to does a customer’s experience or journey with your business matter might seem subjective, if you have any interest in reputation management or if you just care about the people who spend their hard earned money with you, I argue that yeah - it matters.
But how do we look at this to evaluate it? If it matters, we need to be able to look at it objectively and concretely, right?
Where I like to start is to take something you produce for your client or your service and work backwords. Like a brainstorm or a mindmap or flow chart kind of thing. Conversely you can start at the beginning of the journey where someone finds you and map out every touch point or interaction until they reach that same end product. Because that’s the point of the actual mapping - to mark every time you have the potential to impact your customer’s experience.
For example, take my Create Your Social Media Content Strategy masterclass as the final product I want to map out. I plop that as the end product and lis tour all of the ways people can get to that end result. So if someone sees my pin on Pinterest, they can be brought to my website sales page for that masterclass. When they click to purchase, the go through the payment mechanism and then an automated message comes up saying thank you and what to do next. Then they log into the system to work through the masterclass and download the workbook and supporting documents I created and provided. Next is a 4 email sequence that follows to give more information and encouragement at what I deem to be critical points in working through the process. But the journey isn’t done there because that customer then gets placed in my general email list where I email them every week about the newest episode and some extra points of interest about the topic or a story behind the scenes. Each email in the sequence, the pin, the sales page, the automated message after purchase, it’s all part of the customer experience.
But what if you sell a product like an essential oil blend or a bath bomb or a tshirt. The experience shouldn’t be a multi-stepped event because that then becomes friction, it becomes a deterrent to actually getting to the checkout. So I’d argue that in this scenario you’d need to be even more precise and more intentional with how this process flows and impacts your customer journey. Start with someone sees your ad on facebook. They click the button to buy or learn more and are brought to the product page of your website. They then click the buy button and are brought to your online payment system. The payment system completes and they are shown a thank you message and an email is automatically sent to their inbox. Then you package up the item and it gets mailed. Or your drop shipper kicks into gear.
Then you take all of the other ways someone could get into that chain of events, where they enter the sequence, if there are extras that they get. And soon you’ll have a page full of points where you impact upon your customer, it’s your customer journey.
When I do this work, I find that as I am mapping the sequence out, I’m discovering the gaps in service or the places where I could do a better job. I keep a second sheet of paper by my side so I can make note of it or you could just scribble it down right on the map. And maybe you’re a cool cat who uses actual planning software for that kind of thing and if so, hats off to you. My brain kind of freezes up when forced to look at logical sequences on a screen, I’m pen and paper. Sometimes markers. But anywho.
When you see these gaps, when you look at what each email is about - the purpose it serves in the sequence, does everything flow logically and naturally? Is there a step in there that feels like a large jump or are there two steps where there really could just be one? Is each touch point or interaction effective?
Because don’t forget your purpose, your reason for this exercise. What’s the end goal here? Yes to improve the customer journey but why? That answer shapes what you look at, how you value the information you get. If your goal is to increase sales, look and see if you’re losing people at one part of the process. Do you end up with a lot of abandoned carts? Why? Are you getting people to click on your facebook ad but they don’t buy, why? Do they open the email sequence after purchasing the product? If your goal is to increase referrals, are you missing an opportunity to make a referral-worthy impression? Are you adding your personality or personal touch to every step of the way to make it memorable and pleasant? Is there another opportunity to do so?
Again, you need to judge whether this effort is worth it to you. It might take you days and days to go through and plug all of the holes or tighten up processes. And maybe all of the things you can do don’t actually need to be done. You need to still have a balance, to remember that done is better than perfect. I admit, when I opened my masterclass for my facebook group and email list, I did not have all of the emails written. In fact, it was open for sale to the public and actually had some sold to wonderful people who invested (thank you, if that was you, by the way!) and I still did not have all of the emails written. They were planned and outlined but not written edited and in the system. I had to do that and work around the automatic send dates and all sorts of malarkey. Because I was trying to get my kids through an application process for their school, because I had to buy a house and school supplies, sort out a mortgage, buy insurance, because I had a birthday and my parents came to visit as a surprise, because I had done enough to get started and had a plan to finish it up. Because done is better than perfect. Those emails are in now, being delivered and could I have written fifteen emails instead of four? Yes. Yes I could. I could write these purchasers a novel because I love the topic of creating and using strategic messaging to create social media that works for your business. Does anyone need that as part of their masterclass? No. It’s not worth that kind of overwhelm for anyone. So you might see gaps but they might be fine just the way they are.
And if you’re looking at your map and you're thinking about the data and wondering what real people think about the whole thing, wondering how a paying person feels about the journey or experience with your company, well, you can always ask them. Pick out a few of those touchpoints that you’re wondering about and contact your old customers or clients. Or, set up a mechanism to ask your current clients as they go through the process. Find out what they think. It may be that something you feel is clunky or awkward doesn’t raise any issues with them. Or something you think is just bloody brilliant is just bloody weird.
One last idea for you is to look at other processes similar to yours. Or maybe unlike yours. I don’t know how creative a thinker you are! If you look at the different ways and touchpoints that made an impression on you as a customer, try to emulate those. I subscribe to some smashing emails lists - Tarzan Kay is inspirational - and I definitely am influenced by the way she and others whose products or services I’ve purchased have handled me as a customer. I know what I like so why would I expect my customers to be any different?
Irrespective of what your specific goal is, I suggest that the end result will be an improvement in your reputation. I know that going through this process will lead to people being even more happy with doing business with you and happy people do tend to make recommendations. However, in this as in all things, I recommend you be strategic - be mindful of the goal for the specific customer journey and examine those touch points to see if they are creating the customer experience you intended. Look for the gaps or opportunities and evaluate their importance, you don’t fix what ain’t broke, right? This is not an opportunity to procrastinate, this is an opportunity review, evaluate, fix and get back to daily operations, secure in the knowledge that you are doing the best you can to care for your customers like the valued business assets they are.
Thank you for listening today and I’d love to hear what made an impact on you so post your thoughts and tag me on Instagram at janiceefogarty, I’d love to see what you're thinking. And until next week my friend, have a fantastic rest of your day.