Take a second and think back to the last amazing experience you had with a brand that made you act - moved you to share it with others.
Mine was so memorable. I ordered a gift for someone through Zappos late on the night of Dec. 23rd. I knew I was hoping for a miracle to think that it would arrive by Christmas - I just planned to print out the details of what I had ordered and put it inside a card with a very nicely written note about investing quality time to find just the right gift (with slight undertones of "I suck"). But low and behold - around 9:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve there was a knock at the door. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a Zappos box and no sign of reindeer. My husband and I both were in complete wonderment - no sign of the FedEx guy, didn't even hear a truck. Honestly, I thought for a moment Santa worked for Zappos. Then, inside the box was a personally handwritten card that read: "We all procrastinate once and a while. We get it and you're welcome. Happy holidays."
Not only have I shared that story numerous times, I am a loyal Zappos customer and have even taken the Zappos tour at their Las Vegas headquarters where I watched their Customer Loyalty Members (customer service team) really listen to customers over the phone and compassionately respond when it seems like a no brainer. On one phone call order, the Customer Loyalty Member couldn't help but overhear a ruckus of children in the background. The woman placing the order was a foster parent with three kids of her own and four foster children. With her shipment of shoes she received three family board games. You can learn a lot by listening and little special touches not only get shared, but win hearts.
As consumers, we have so many choices and ultimately we’re the ones in control of making the decision of which brands we purchase from, which brands we show some love to. But what really helps to make that decision process easier is when brands show a vested interest in us. Digital makes it even easier for brands to take more of an active role in engaging with their audiences and uncovering opportunities to ensure that the experience they deliver goes above and beyond. Not only do the brands that get it place more attention on the experience simply to please the customer, but also because they know that by doing so they have the potential of gaining some earned media attention and love along the way.
As a marketer, PR professional and runner, I am a huge fan of Peter Shankman. A while back, he shared an experience he had with Morton's Steakhouse that had him floored and more brands should consider trying to replicate in some manner. It all started with hunger and a tweet...
That tweet resulted in this. Read the whole story.
Those are just a couple examples of some really great brand experiences and how just a little effort on the brands behalf resulted in massive chatter and even more, won over many new loyal brand advocates.
But there are also the not-so-great brand experiences we encounter (take for example Kevin Smith's experience with Southwest, this poor man's attempt to cancel Comcast service, and this awesome song about a broken guitar) and in today's digital world those shared experiences can be that much more damaging on your brand.
In a digital world where everyone is a publisher, everyone has a megaphone to the masses, your brand has to be on its game and has to make sure that every employee and all teams associated with the company understands the brand's position on the customer experience they wish to deliver and their role in both making sure that the customer experience is a pleasant and memorable one and also how to respond and engage when the experience falls short.
The digital landscape and social media have opened up so many ways that brands can improve their customer experience. My friend Pam Moore addresses some tips to improve your customer experience through social media.
Customer experience is the future of marketing, Forbes Oct. 2015
Why support stories spread like wildfire, Help Scout, March 2015
What is customer experience? Huffington Post, Jan. 2016
Follow @JayBaer, check out his insights and get his book, Hug Your Haters
Follow @DGingiss and tune in to his podcast, Focus on Customer Service
Update to this post: April 13, 2016
After publishing this post I had to come back and share one of the worst customer experiences I have recently been through. Verizon recently sold off some of its residential wireless service to Frontier Communications. Since this happened on April 1, 2016, Internet and phone service have been down for many Southern California residents. Dealing with Internet/Cable providers in any situation is really no fun, but this has been horrendous. For more than a week now we have been without Internet service at our house. One technician came out and could not provide any information after himself calling customer service to only be on hold for an hour at our house and then leaving with no recourse but to say sorry. We have called customer service numerous times for our lengthly holds to only be dropped. And, I have reached out numerous times to @AskFrontier and that has proven worthless. Of course at this point I am frustrated. I have shared this experience with members of the media and it seems like many others have shared their experiences as well.
Note to @FrontierCorp: Maybe think your next acquisition through a bit more before you put thousands out of service - including seniors who rely on their landlines - and your customer service team was not trained or given the support needed to address issues. This is a huge business fail and it looks like your competitors are leveraging this to gain many, many new customers.