Before I read Never Lose a Customer Again by Joey Coleman (which debuted at #2 on Wall Street Journal’s Best Sellers’ List), when someone asked me to explain my role at IMPACT, I had a hard time articulating it.
I do a little management here, a little product/service improvement there, etc. That usually makes no sense at networking events, but thanks to Never Lose a Customer Again, I can now quickly summarize what my purpose at IMPACT is.
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I now realize that what I’ve been working on for the last year is 100% all about creating the BEST client experience at IMPACT. This includes ensuring we deliver results, of course, but also encompasses the overall structure in how clients interact with us and feel when they work with us.
I feel fortunate that I get to set that direction but also get to get down into the details of how we execute a stellar first 100 days experience and beyond.
I’ve written before about how we aimed to improve the first 100 days of our clients’ experience, and now that we’re looking at ramping that up even more, Never Lose a Customer Again couldn’t have come at a better time.
The initiatives we started last year only scratched the surface. Now, we have an actual framework to catalog our tactics and build upon them for an even better onboarding experience.
Below, I’ll give a quick snapshot of the eight stages a prospect-turning-customer goes through as they interact with your brand, and ideas for how you can enrich the experience for your own customers.
(P.S. don’t forget to sign up for our webinar next week where Joey Coleman will join us to discuss the optimal customer experience. I’ll be there fan-girling!)
But First -- Why Should Marketers Care About Customer Experience
You may be asking why this topic of customer experience is relevant for marketers. If our job is to get leads and sales’ job is to close them, it’s totally on the service team to deliver a good client experience, right?
Not so fast.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, watch the webinar we did with Todd Hockenberry about creating an inbound culture and experience throughout the entire customer lifetime.
By only focusing on numbers and getting qualified leads, you’re going to make your job harder in the long-run as customers churn due to poor experiences that didn’t meet their expectations. Plus, how disheartening is it to find a great prospect and have the sales team absolutely kill it with the close, only to then have service drop the ball.
Only when you shift to thinking about customer lifetime value and retention will you have a stable business with long-term success.
Plus, happy customers tend to buy more. Rather than focus all your efforts on a new sale, think of all the additional value that can come from one happy customer over and over again.
According to Coleman, “The lifetime value of a loyal customer can be greater than ten times the value of the first purchase.”
In addition, Coleman (rightfully so) proposes that customer experience will become a way companies can differentiate in the future.
We all have websites and similar sales processes, but how a customer interacts with your brand following the sale is becoming more and more important.
And sadly, most companies think they’re doing really well in this area.
Coleman cites research from Bain & Company which states, “when asked, 80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. The customers’ perception of the service level was very different [however]. Only 8% felt the companies delivered “superior” customer service.”
That’s why marketers should care about customer experience, and be part of the process to ensure you deliver what you’ve promised so far.
Why the First 100 Days?
In order to nail customer experience, you have a short leash. We’ve all heard “you only have one chance to make a first impression,” right? The same idea can be applied to how a new customer feels when they move from their salesperson to the service team.
This is especially tough for companies that don’t offer immediate gratification, aka results.
Take IMPACT for example.
Traditionally, inbound marketing isn’t an overnight success strategy. There are tactics we can add that supply a dose of quick wins, while the longer term strategy kicks in, but clients still might have a week or two before those launch.
Since we can’t always supply a lead overnight, we have to work harder to gain trust and show our clients they made the right decision in working with us.
If you’re in a similar service-based or even product-based company where implementation is involved, you need to keep this in mind.
A customer is not going to wait much more than 100 days to decide if you’re worth it. If they don’t feel like they’re getting what they signed up for by then, chances are they’re already starting to look elsewhere or not budget for your product or service in the future.
That’s where Coleman provides some structure to how we can all improve our customers’ experience throughout 8 distinct stages they all go through within those first 100 days.
When we set out to improve our clients’ first 100 days, I interviewed current customers, new customers, and even prospects we lost to see what we needed to improve, but we certainly didn’t have a systematic way to view the 100 days timeline.
That’s what I loved about Never Lose a Customer Again as I read it.
It honestly took me way longer to finish because I kept stopping to write ideas on my whiteboard. How often does a book do that?
Below are the eight phases of the customer experience, along with some ideas to help you get just as excited as I was and to give you a head start on your own whiteboard notes.
In the Assess phase, the customer is deciding if they want to do business with you.
This essentially encompasses marketing and sales’ jobs to educate the customer and position your company as the one to fulfill their needs.
Idea: We realized after talking to several prospects that agreeing to a long-term partnership was really hard without knowing what to expect.
There was a lot of hopes and wishes in the sales process that our prospects were worried wouldn’t be met. This is common when making a purchase. What if your purchase doesn’t live up to the hype?
So, instead of asking for such a huge commitment, we splintered off what would typically happen in a new engagement - creating a strategy and short-term marketing plan - to allow our customers to experience what it’s like to work with us before agreeing long-term..
This way we could ease concerns and also ensure they have a great strategy regardless if they choose to work with us or not.
It’s a helpful win-win, and has definitely smoothed any friction we had when we weren’t hearing those concerns loud enough.
This is when your prospect says yes! They’re super excited they found a solution to their problem and their hope is on high.
Unfortunately, this is when most companies do an internal high five or bell ring, without sharing any of the excitement with their customers. What companies miss here is the opportunity to associate your offering to their emotional high. You don’t want your new customer to feel like just another number.
Idea: Send a gift. This is a simple gesture that shows you’re excited and you care about their long-term success. Theme it to the overall experience for bonus points.
For example, a pool company upon signing could give their customer a bottle of champagne and tell them not to open it until the pool is done to celebrate. That customer will then be envisioning having a glass while sitting in their brand new oasis, rather than the upcoming upheaval of their yard.
This is the stage when buyer’s remorse first starts to crop up.
The excitement of the sales process has worn off and they’re starting to transition to the service team. They may start to question your processes and pricing, and start to worry if they picked the right vendor.
If you don’t squash this now, you’ve already lost. It’s going to happen no matter how stellar your first two stages went. It’s natural and human, so in this stage, it’s your job to address it.
Idea: In the book, Coleman gives an example by Total Debt Freedom, a Canadian do-it-yourself debt settlement company.
When a customer signs on, they are then managed by an account manager. To ease concerns of a bumpy transition, they send a video of the salesperson and account manager that lets the new customer know they are up to speed and ready to work with them.
They reaffirm the customer’s decision by explaining how many happy and satisfied customers that account manager has and that they can’t wait to see the new customer on their raving fan list.
The video shows concrete evidence that a smooth handoff is in progress and the customer will be in good hands.
This is the phase when things really get started, whether it is a product purchase or kickoff of a new service.
The customer is likely excited but anxious and hopes the service team can actually deliver on its promise.
This is when you need to be proactive. How the first interaction with the service team starts is critical in shaping how the relationship goes long term.
Idea: Personalize your kickoffs. Let’s say you’re an IT consulting firm doing an in-person kickoff.
A simple way to personalize the experience is to research the tastes of those attending and bring in personalized snacks.
For example, if your key contact is into healthy eating (as clearly shown on her Instagram profile), bring in healthy snacks to show her you made an extra effort to get to know her and that kind of effort will be illustrated in all you do for them.
A simple gesture can go a long way.
Now, Acclimate is the phase a customer learns about you and your organization’s way of doing business.
This is where we and most companies have gotten it wrong a few times.
We operate in Scrum and, sometimes, we make the assumption that because we went over how it works in the sales process and at kickoff, our clients instantly understand it.
When we make those assumptions, we set everyone up for failure in delivering efficient, quality work.
If you slow down and hold your new customers’ hands with new processes or projects, you acclimate them to how to best work with you and get the results they desire.
Idea: Make a visual of your process.
For example, a project management consulting firm with a set process of how you audit an existing businesses’ project management software and use-cases could literally illustrate that and let your customers know where they fall in the process at every touchpoint.
Eventually, they will understand and trust the process.
The Accomplish phase is when a customer reaches their original desired goal in working with you.
However, what’s interesting in the book is the idea of “running through the finish line.”
If we stop right at hitting goals without looking at what’s next and how to take things to the next level, we still position ourselves for potentially losing the customer.
Idea: Offer additional consulting after project completion. Let’s say a landscaping company designs a beautifully landscaped front yard for a customer in the spring.
Rather than leaving and trying to get in touch with that customer next spring, that landscaping company could offer seasonal consulting to help the homeowner remove any annuals or protect their plants from inclemate weather.
By staying top of mind (and running through the finish line), it will be much more likely that homeowner will continue to do business with the landscaper the following spring.
If you can get your customers to the adopt phase, you’re golden.
In this phase, the customer takes an ownership stake in your relationship.
You’ve met their goals, and in order for them to fully adopt your way of doing business, they need to feel like they’re part of a special club. They “just get it,” and want to be recognized for that.
Idea: Feature your customers in your content.
If they’ve made it this far and clearly accomplished their goals, share their stories with your audience and position your customer as a thought leader. For example, we have a show called The Inbound Success Podcast hosted by our wonderful VP of Marketing, Kathleen Booth.
In one episode, she featured Stephen O’Connor, Director of Digital Marketing for ADSC, one of our initial clients who is incredibly intelligent and successful. So it was a no-brainer to feature him on our content to help others like him, and to boost his own thought leadership, as he so deserves for all his hard work.
The last phase is when a customer becomes an unofficial spokesperson to sing praises of your brand.
You’ve done a great job in growing their business, and now they want to help you grow yours, but you have to offer a little motivation. This is often where referral programs come into play.
Idea: I’ve been studying Weight Watchers marketing recently, and took notice of what they did with a few “Lifetime Members,” those who are successfully reached their weight loss goal.
A lucky few were selected to be in a Weight Watchers commercial with Oprah!
If that isn’t an amazing example of improving the customer experience in the Advocate phase, I don’t know what is. They are now staunch brand ambassadors and have huge social media followings that are bound to be driving additional new member sign-ups.
Read the Book!
As of this sentence, this blog post is 2,365 words. That’s nothing compared to the level of detail and education in Never Lose a Customer Again.
I highly recommend if you’ve read this far down in my article, to check out the full book and start making improvements to your customer experience today. I know IMPACT will be making changes in this quarter for sure.
AND Joey Coleman is joining us next week for a special webinar where he’ll go into much more detail that I ever could. Be sure to save your spot before we fill up!