The customer experience should be at the heart of your digital strategy. Enrich your customer digital strategy with online surveys, reviews and social-media interactions. Even if you’re not selling products or services online, you should implement these digital customer interactions to build and enhance relations with your customers so they keep coming back. In addition, you must use it to listen to your customers.
Sales numbers are not enough
You shouldn’t rely solely on your sales numbers to gauge the customers’ experience. Customer satisfaction levels may be disguised. Problems with a newly released product, inferior customer support or other issues may take time to affect sales.
Take the pulse of your customers
Monitoring your company’s vital signs is the best way to stay ahead of disastrous outcomes. In addition to internal metrics, you need continuous real-time data to confirm your company’s health. Client feedback provides an effective way to accomplish this. Here are three ways to get worthwhile feedback:
• Administer an online survey after completion of a transaction (sale or service). Ask your customer for input repeatedly. Each time you ask for their input, you are telling them that you care about their opinion. With SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo, online surveys are easy to design, publish, collect responses from, analyze results and save for future reference or reuse. After creating a survey, you can forward the link in invoice emails, client emails or in posts online for client responses.
• Use online reviews. You can do this with Google, Yelp and other local search sites. Online reviews provide social proof with your customers’ opinions of your products and services.
• Create a presence on social-media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These sites offer an exceptional way to interact with customers. By design, they offer casual two-way communication mediums for soliciting reviews, input, reactions and interactions, all of which are important to improving relationships.
Collect email addresses
For your online survey to be meaningful, it needs to be sent to a majority of your customers, if not all of them. So you need to obtain your customers’ email addresses. Surveys posted only on social media or your website do not limit feedback to customers.
If you have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place with your clients’ email addresses, you are good to go. If not, institute a campaign or a process to entice your customers to provide you with their email addresses. Follow up by entering their information into a database. SurveyMonkey provides up to 10 questions and 100 replies with their “freemium” subscription. If you need to send your survey to more than 100 people or require more advanced features, subscriptions fees are reasonable.
Results come fast
With online surveys, you can publish your survey in the morning and have ample replies compiled into a professional report on your desktop by early afternoon. Once your client gets an email or finds your survey link on social media, with one-click they are inside your survey. By making it easy, people are more likely to participate, significantly increasing your survey’s response rate and its value.
Survey replies are often accompanied by positive testimonials. Publish these results in a press release and quote your clients. Good survey results are also a great topic for a blog post, a newsletter and for emails nurturing leads and client relationships. Distribute the press release to your clients and news outlets. Additionally, provide it to your sales staff to send to prospective clients.
Contact clients who provide fantastic feedback and request their permission to use their quote on your website. Get permission to use their name and company name. In return, offer a backlink to their company’s website or LinkedIn profile.
Embrace online reviews
In addition to online surveys, you may choose to establish a more transparent feedback process that engages clients online. This can be achieved by embracing online reviews on Google, Yelp and other local and national directories.
Google My Business
Every company should claim its business on Google My Business. The No. 1 benefit for your business is allowing Google to give your website an additional search engine optimization (SEO) boost when searches take place in the area where your business operates. Your content will show up on Google searches ahead of the competition that may not have that local presence. On top of the extra SEO boost, clients will find you on Google Maps and can seek directions or call you. Google tracks and reports the number of views, direction requests, website visits and phone calls that occur monthly.
Interact on social media
You’ve taken the time to build your digital content and publish it on your website. Why not share that content directly with your customers online via social media? Each blog post, press release, white paper, webinar, video, podcast, promotion and eBook should make it to your social media walls and groups. Social media is the perfect place to casually interact with your target audience, including purchasers, influencers and end users.
Many tools are available to help you in that process, most prominently Hootsuite, Zoho Social and HubSpot. By using these tools, you can schedule and automate campaigns and postings, get notified when a review or a comment is posted, integrate with your CRM (customer relationship management) system and CMS (content management system), and get reports and analyses. The three top social media platforms to consider are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
With over two billion users, Facebook allows you to interact with your followers and boost your postings to a targeted audience precisely and efficiently. Facebook provides a more effective social media platform for Business to Consumer (B2C) companies. Facebook offers the most sophisticated integrations with third-party tools. This facilitates automation, monitoring, interaction and analysis.
Primarily a Business to Business (B2B) platform, LinkedIn offers access to more than half a billion professionals. Specific interest groups are established on the platform, enabling professionals to discuss many popular business topics. You can publish articles on this platform as well as share your thoughts on your wall or with groups.
Twitter is another giant social-media platform with 67 million U.S.-based active users and 336 million users worldwide. Twitter limits the amount of text on each tweet. Concise and simple, tweets promote your content through images, a brief description and backlinks to your site. Tweets tend to be more spontaneous and time-sensitive than other social-media postings.
We can’t talk about Twitter or Instagram without mentioning hashtags and their importance in social media. A word or a key phrase that is preceded by a hashtag like #digitaltransformation or #customerexperience can be used to connect a tweet or a post to a common or trending topic. By searching for these hashtags, you can monitor all interactions on a subject in real time.
Justifiably, you may be concerned about the transparency of social media and online reviews. Transparency is a double-edged sword. While it can air your dirty laundry in public, it can also help you quickly identify problems and address them. In the digital age, companies should embrace transparency and adopt processes that promote and channel their discoveries to increase their value.
Dennis Zink is a volunteer, certified mentor and chapter chairman of SCORE Manasota. He is the creator and host of “Been There, Done That! with Dennis Zink,” a nationally syndicated business podcast series. He facilitates CEO roundtables for the Manatee and Venice chambers of commerce, created a MeetUp group, Success Strategies for Business Owners, and is a business consultant. Email him at [email protected]