The brand experience: Can you make it A+?

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ATENTO2460 S12 SP 09.03.2006 ECONOMIA -- Trabalho de telemarketing na empresa Atento -- FOTO DIVULGAÇAO

This video clip from Indianapolis based marketer Josh Miles, should be on your to-view list.

It isn’t a long presentation — about 12 minutes — yet you should stay through to the end to gain the message about why the client experience counts more, in many cases, than the actual product or service you deliver.

The challenge, of course, can be in defining, managing and systematizing that experience, because of course it depends on many variables, which evolve in real-time. There are your employees/contractors, the circumstances and point-of-contact, and external factors affecting the environment at the time of the experience. And there are expectations.

Obviously, some businesses achieve client experience results that are universally satisfactory, but as Miles indicates, some experiences generally fail (like conversations with call centres at cable television companies or banks.)

I can see these challenges, for example, in the recent switch of our home phone system to a VOIP service, with super-high speed Internet. I elected to use a service provider, yak.ca, which I hadn’t heard about before conducting an Internet search.  There were generally positive reviews, and the online ratings were pretty good.

The cast of characters at the initial sign-up inquiries were interesting. I’m not sure if they were the same people who provided technical support (they identified themselves by first name, and their voices were similar.)

One woman, with clear english, explained various features and how the service would work. She also pointed me away from a more expensive option. “No, you really don’t need to purchase the “unlimited” high speed internet,” she said. “You can purchase the regular package, and if you really consume a lot of bandwidth, just switch up or down to the higher speed service. And there are no long-term contracts.”

She “sold” me by under-selling.

As noted in yesterday’s posting, we set July 31 as the switch-over date. And, while things went right somewhat, they also went very wrong.

The mechanics and details of the story will be far too cumbersome to re-tell here, except to say I had plenty of interactions with technical support people that day, and yesterday. And each call resulted in a new discovery — something one support person didn’t know, the other did. One had clear and effective English; the other spoke with a foreign accent. I at first wanted to avoid that rep, but in the end, he knew more about the systems and processes than the clear-speaking rep.

By the end of the day yesterday, we were almost there, and saw proof in the ability to watch theatrical-release movies on streaming Internet, clear phone signals, and most of the home’s computers properly networked into the high-speed system.

Each of the experiences shaped my mood and respect for the company. At the end of the day, I would give Yak a B+.  There was responsiveness, they worked as long as necessary to solve the problems, and in the end, we have a much less-expensive phone and high speed internet service (with much greater capacity) than before.

However, I can see the problems in delivering a really good client experience.  Consider, for example, the wait time to connect with a service rep.  If you have a client with a relatively difficult problem, it can take many hours to solve the issue. What happens if two or three “difficult” problems happen at the same time, and you have only three or four representatives with the knowledge required on duty. (Yak solves this problem, in part, by allowing you to leave a message rather than sit on hold, for a call-back, a good way for someone with a non-urgent issue to be served.)

Consider each call, circumstance and communication is unique. Yes, you can train staff on how to handle things, and build systems for better communication, I think however, this is a much bigger challenge than developing a new advertising campaign.

Nevertheless, as Miles asserts, you should focus your marketing energies on the client experience. Take some time to think of the interaction process, from the first inquiry/communication, to the wrap up or exit conversations. Each stage counts. Make them right, and you’ll be on your way to marketing success, by enhancing your conversion rate and most importantly pulling more of that all-important repeat and referral business.

The experience counts.

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