I came to write this article after I bought a chest of drawers from a well-known online furniture store and it got me thinking about how easy it is to lose faith through falling at the last hurdle. I'll explain...
The company I purchased from had been on my radar for years. I aspired to buy from them and looked forward to making a purchase. I'd been following them on social media for a while and signed up to their email-marketing list, so clearly their multi-channelled approach had worked and they'd made a customer out of me.
When it arrived the assembly was difficult due to minimalist design instructions. But most annoyingly there were additional pieces of wood (not ideal when living in a small flat in central London and having paid a premium for removing the packaging). My feeling towards the brand was negatively impacted, as their high-end positioning in the market wasn't matching up to the post-purchase experience.
I wasn't going to say anything as it wasn't a big deal, albeit it was a bit frustrating. But two days later I was asked for feedback, so I gave it. To make matters worse, my feedback was met with an unapologetic response a couple weeks later. I felt a little let down by the whole customer experience, so rather than being turned into a brand advocate I was reduced to nothing more than a customer that had a mediocre service story to tell.
The point of my story? Small errors go against the grain and they make a big difference to brand perception. While they're not intentional, they can often be easily resolved (then again, they're often easily repeated). If left unattended, small errors are most likely going to be repeated and could even become part of what you stand for, your culture and how you are viewed by the wider world. The good news is that if you can identify and correct the small things then you'll improve brand perception. Take Amazon for example - they're constantly testing and updating their user experience and that's why they account for 40% of all online sales.
Purchasing decisions are lucid and made after much online research these days, so consumers have high hopes. People go from 'love' to 'like' very quickly and often it's service as opposed to product that makes the difference. So it's important that every customer interaction aligns with your brand values and if you do ask for feedback make amends if necessary. If I had received that kind of interaction from the furniture company I mentioned earlier then I would have reacted quite differently. We've all heard the old adage: “receive good service and you tell one person, receive poor service and you tell multiple people”. And it's never been easier to do this with the amount of channels we now use to communicate including social media. Monitoring these channels can help you to understand general brand perception, listen to any negative conversations and respond to enable positive changes and marginal gains.
The term 'marginal gains' has been used frequently over the last decade after Team Sky went from being outsiders to winners of multiple competitions, in turn changing the face of British cycling. The process appears simple. Break down each component bit-by-bit and make incremental improvements to each element to build momentum and create larger improvements down the line. Team Sky did this by looking in detail at the points below, which all related to the rider's performance:
- The best bike: each component on the bike was reviewed to make it lighter.
- The best kit: ergonomic helmets and performance-enhancing race wear.
- Hydration strategy: fluid levels are a key performance differentiator.
- The Journey: Team Sky's team bus was named the Death Star. From the outside it looked imposing, but on the inside it was kitted out for comfort and performance.
- The team: their well-being was assessed to ensure they were well rested. Famously they were known for having their mattresses and pillows delivered to their hotels to ensure they slept well the night before a race.
- Cool down strategy for after training sessions and races.
Once the process is complete, it can be reviewed and repeated to enhance the results. This, of course, is the tip of the iceberg and doesn't account for all the blood, sweat and tears that go into creating Team Sky's winning performances. It's also a heavily summarised list. But even if you're not in a cycling team, you take the same formula and use it to improve your marketing and communication strategy. I suspect you do this already in some capacity, but could you drill down a little more and analyse your operation more thoroughly?
- Like Team Sky's 'bike', is your offering evolving and are you telling the world about changes that are relevant to them and how you are enhancing your service and experience?
- 'The kit' is what people see first. And first impressions count. Your website and social presence form the basis for this. They're fundamental to the all-important first impression and they become a go-to for new information and repeat sales. Is your 'kit' evolving and does it do everything you want it to do? Does it successfully demonstrate your brand personality?
- Your 'hydration strategy' is your fluid-marketing strategy. Are you delivering the right message, to the right person at the right time? Are you giving your audience a chance to react? Does your team have the right skills to take advantage of these opportunities?
- Take customers on a 'journey'. Use a content strategy as part of your presale journey so that you're seen as the go-to organisation in your space. Create content that keeps people coming back to you. Make it interesting and relevant to them.
- Once your customers are on-board, monitor their experience. Listen, learn and react to build rapport and enhance brand perception. Make them an advocate. You could do this by creating a customer survey and asking for feedback (for some ideas on how to do this read our independent client perception survey here).
- 'The team' is your frontline. They're the folks representing you. Are they part of the online conversation and are they clear on your brand messaging and tone of voice?
- Your 'cool down strategy' is how you assess your processes objectively. Do you ask your customers how you've done? How do you go back to the people that have taken the time to feedback? Whether it's positive or negative, how can you develop the relationship with your customers who are clearly engaged?
Creating marginal gains has a big impact but it's ever evolving and is a marathon, not a sprint (or a tour in this case). While the term is relatively new it's been a part of life since the very beginning. In essence, it's evolution and adaptation to external stimuli and I believe those that change thrive, while those that do not cease to remain...
Next year we'll be hosting a roundtable lunch about this topic. If you or a team member would like to come along then get in touch. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on this article so head over to Twitter or LinkedIn and let me know what you think.