Remember, it’s all about the customer

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

It’s time to start thinking about next year’s marketing budget. How are you going to allocate your resources to make a measurable difference?

Here are some powerful statistics for your consideration: By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to “Customers 2020: A Progress Report.” Meanwhile, research by Bain & Company found that 80 percent of companies believe their customer experience is great, while only 8 percent of their customers agree with them.

A well-executed customer experience strategy can help increase customer satisfaction, reduce customer churn and boost your revenue. So how do you get started? Here are some tips for getting your customer experience strategy right.

Understand your audience and create buyer personas. This is all about the customer, so that’s the best place to start. Who are they? What motivates them? What worries them? Profile the types of customers your team deals with every day. Take the time to think deeply about who they are, what it is about your product or service that attracts them, and how your company can make life easier or better for them.

Use marketing analytics reports on Google Analytics, AdWords, Facebook, etc. to get data about your target groups, including demographics, interests and purchase behavior. Dig into your customer relationship management system to more specifically define current customers in terms of demographics, purchase behaviors and communication preferences.

Look for insights regarding the emotional or psychological elements that impact your organization’s customer experience.

Use the information you have gathered to develop buyer personas that represent real people, and to make sure you’re focusing on a representative cross-section of customers. Then, use the emotional and psychological insights you’ve discovered to make sure you’re connecting with them in the ways that matter most.

Listen very carefully to your customers. As mentioned previously, a majority of companies believe they are providing great customer service, but only a fraction of their customers see it that way. Clearly, there are lots of companies that are not listening to their customers.

You don’t know what your customers need from your company or how they perceive your brand’s value until you ask. You need feedback loops. Conduct customer satisfaction research on a consistent basis, and consider post-inter-action, real-time feedback surveys. Or simply pick up the phone and call customers to find out what they think of their experience.

Pay close attention to what is being said about you on social media. Your customers will likely be more forthcoming about what they think of your customer experience online than in a survey or phone call.

Work backwards from the experience you want to deliver. What does an ideal customer experience look like? Steve Jobs famously advocated his principle of “beginning with the customer experience and working backwards to the technology.”

Build a map of your brand’s customer experience stages and places where you have an opportunity to make an impression. Look for ways to showcase your brand and your unique selling proposition. Focus on solving real problems. When designing your customer experience, even the smallest of problems count.

It’s all about the customer. It’s easy to get distracted by the technology, the features, the process and more. Don’t let anything pull your focus off the customer.

A customer experience strategy is one of the biggest opportunities companies have to gain brand loyalty. That’s a great reason to make developing a customer experience strategy for your company a priority in the year ahead. Customers are paying a lot of attention to the customer experience. Isn’t it time you do, too?

Lynn Manternach is a brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. located in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. Contact her at