While company style guides and brand standards are essential for creating a consistent brand identity, they can sometimes lead to tone-deaf marketing when it relates to customer experience. This is because many brands make the mistake of mapping the customer journey from their internal perspective based on business processes, profitability or other internal initiatives. When it comes to cultivating a meaningful connection, marketers should ditch this point of view and shift their perspective to the eyes of the consumer.
Creating long-term loyalty and customer engagement is vitally important in today’s market and there is no better way to do this than to provide relevant customer experiences. I sat down with two successful franchisees — Stacy Adams of Fitness Together and Simon Foster of Elements Massage to get their perspective on this topic. Here’s what I uncovered…
1. Lay the foundation, listen and learn.
Just like the beginning of any relationship, when laying the foundation for an effective customer journey, it is important to do your research and get to know the other person. Do your homework on your customers and provide outlets for them to easily provide feedback on their experiences.
Sometimes, the simplest tip is to take a step back, quiet your brand voice and listen when customers are talking.
“Elements Massage is a membership-based business. Our foundation is built on building long-term loyalty,” said Elements Massage owner, Simon Foster. “The more you can listen to customers and create an impactful brand relationship, the more likely they will repeat their business and refer their friends.”
2. Take the time to understand customer behavior.
This is so important – not only with your business or product, but overall. What are the competing or substitute products and services that your best consumer or client prefers? How does their customer experience with those brands compare to yours?
Furthermore, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed because every customer doesn’t follow the same “path” or demonstrate the same behaviors. Don’t let this distract you – focus on the most typical or common customer journey and work on getting that right. Then you can shift your focus to a different path later.
“Baby steps are key for adapting the customer journey, but it is also important to stay focused on what you do and why you do it; this means your business might not be a good fit for every person who walks in the door, and that’s okay!” said Stacy Adams, Fitness Together owner.
3. Measure customer engagement.
Develop a foundation that allows you to measure customer interactions across touch points – both online and offline. This will provide you with the necessary inputs to create data-driven insights to improve your future customer journey.
Digital touch points are often the easiest to measure, but remember to focus on non-digital touch points too. These are more challenging to quantify, but will give you a more complete picture of your customer engagement.
4. Continually seek feedback.
Seek out feedback from both implicit and explicit sources. Explicit feedback – or what your customer tells you – is what you most commonly think of – survey results, customer comment cards, online reviews, etc. Implicit feedback is what can be learned through their behavior – this might include things like the number of referrals they generated, the frequency of their visits or re-purchase, the monetary/transaction value trend over time, etc.
“There is true value that comes from customer feedback, both negative and positive,” said Adams. “Time and time again, we hear how much clients appreciate the steps we take that guide them along their path to achieving results.”
5. Give customers what they want.
Through my experience implementing strategic customer journey programs for national brands including 24 Hour Fitness, Les Mills, FIT36, Elements Massage and Fitness Together, I have learned there are five aspects of loyalty that customers seek out from brands:
- Value – Save customers money and provide added benefits as they spend more.
- Time – Reduce the friction or effort required to interact with the brand. Make it easy to do business with you.
- Access – Make customers feel like they are ‘in the know,’ give them first and/or exclusive access.
- Learning – Give customers relevant content that enhances their life and re-enforces their connection to your brand.
- Know Them – Get to know customers and remember what they like so you can anticipate their wants/needs.
“From my experience, customers care about the quality of the product, the relationship they feel with the brand and the value of the service,” added Foster.
The customer journey you establish doesn’t have to be perfect before you implement it. In fact, it won’t be, so don’t set that as a goal. Make changes early and often to improve the customer journey. Learn from your mistakes – you’ll surely make them – and iterate often. Your customers will recognize this effort and reward it with higher brand engagement.
And don’t underestimate the value of a smile and friendly welcome. The little things can go a long way to driving loyalty. Plus, smiles are free. Working with a savvy consultant or franchise to help provide a high-quality turnkey customer experience is always an option too!
Trever Ackerman is the CMO of WellBizBrands, Inc., including Elements Massage®, Fitness Together® and FIT36®. Previously, Ackerman served as head of marketing for Les Mills U.S., overseeing marketing and communications for over 3,300 fitness facilities in 50 states. He held leadership positions in business development, HR and marketing at 24-Hour Fitness.