If we’ve learned anything over the last six months, it’s that the world is unpredictable. The state of affairs as they are now is not promised nor guaranteed. COVID-19 (she whispers inconspicuously) was unforeseen, as was its impact on business and social interaction. We can all attest to our own experiences, both personal and professional, and what COVID-19 changed. But one thing that I found particularly interesting was how deeply we felt the loss of human interaction, and how quickly we adapted to connect in other ways. When we found ourselves maintaining distance and staying indoors, we also found ourselves turning to technology to learn about others’ experiences across the world, to laugh with them, and to cry with them. There became a unique shared consciousness extending infinitely across the oceans, mountains, and plains thanks to one thing: technology.
How that relates to business is where I’d like to emphasize my point. The pandemic also undoubtedly impacted customer interaction. From a financial standpoint, businesses felt and still feel a critical pressure to maintain customers. From a business perspective, particularly considering that customer lifetime value is at the core DNA of Sugar, businesses felt a critical want to make their customers feel valued. While creating value for your customers is no new groundbreaking idea, COVID-19 put a spotlight on an area that was already gaining traction: CX. But how to create exceptional customer experiences in a time where human interaction is limited? The answer, my friends, is technology.
1. Virtual Events
Not surprisingly, in-person events are a no-go. But what’s stopping you from taking that hefty event budget and exploring other options? And I’m not talking about the traditional webinar format. There are ways to set your virtual event apart by focusing increasingly on the experience you’re creating. What platforms are out there that you can work with that offer additional capabilities aside from screen-sharing? How can you translate your in-person event schedule into a virtual format without asking people to stare at a computer screen for 48 hours? How can you encourage interaction or engagement? Perhaps there’s a live Q&A session where customers get to ask questions real-time, a live customer testimonial, surveys and polls throughout the event, and even some kind of competition or raffle at play? The sky really is the limit, but these small aspects, while they may require more resources, become increasingly important in a time where every company is turning to virtual events. How will you differentiate yours? How will you lean into the power of interactivity and connectivity through a different outlet than you’re used to?
Regardless of my comment in the section above, webinars are important. It’s a proven fact that video has a great impact on perception. Now is the time to lean into webinars, as well as analyze your current strategy. What message are you trying to send to customers? Where can you offer help or resources? Re-imagine your webinar strategy to lean into what your customers want and need right now. If you’re unsure, the best thing you can do is ask. Add a survey to your monthly newsletter or give it to your CSM team to gather information on what your customers need right now. Then, take the time to go through that data and craft your content calendar around it.
This one seems obvious, but the multitude of ways you can embrace video may be escaping you. Attend a virtual event lately? Have a new quirk you want to share about working from home? Make a video and post it to your social media and encourage your organization to do the same. Social video generates 12 times the shares than text and images combined. If you identify a team member that is particularly good at this, support them on social media through your corporate profiles by sharing, commenting, or liking their posts. And let’s not forget to emphasize this message internally: if you’re on a call, turn on your video. People like seeing faces, and this is a simple and effective way to connect with your customers and audience virtually.
4. Staying Informed
Any good salesperson knows that staying informed on your customer is important in elevating sales conversations, but as with everything else, this is more pivotal now than ever. As a marketer, staying up to date with your customer accounts can help you enable sales reps with contextual information, write a relevant content piece, and overall, adapt your message to be personalized and pertinent. What shift can you make to your usual way of doing things to make your customer feel seen?
5. Digital Gifts
The days of physical gifts may be paused for now. In any case, it can be challenging to send out physical gifts to your customers when you’re unsure of where they’re working from: the office or home? Explore digital alternatives for surprise and delight moments that can bring joy to your customers’ day. The range of things that can be gifted virtually is not to be underestimated. While you can always go with the simple e-gift card, you can also frame your digital gifts to what you know about them. Perhaps it’s a complimentary virtual experience you know they’d enjoy, like a virtual concert or wine tasting.
In my role in customer marketing, creating surprise and delight moments is at the heart of what I do. Alex Hunter, a branding and loyalty expert and keynote speaker, dug into this idea at our SugarConnected event in Paris when he introduced “the art and science of wow.” The general idea is that people become very expressive when they have negative experiences with a brand, but any good or average experience isn’t often talked about. But if a surprisingly delightful experience can get your customers to say “wow?” because they feel special, that’s when you differentiate yourself from all the businesses out there offering the same services or products as you. That’s also when you make them remember how you made them feel, and loyalty is born.
Creating exceptional customer experiences has always been important, but navigating how to create them in a time where human interaction is limited can be difficult. Don’t let the new virtual era of doing things stop you from creating delightful experiences. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, explore alternatives, and lean into technology to cultivate those “wow” moments. Be loyal to your customers, and they will be loyal to you.