Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“Sole Walking”: Take Your Customer’s Journey

On February 7, 2010, the CBS reality show, "Undercover Boss" debuted, in which a high-ranking corporate officer/owner went undercover as an entry-level employee to get to know their employees, their performances, the day-to-day operations and dynamics, and areas of needed improvement. They essentially took walks in their employees' shoes in order to ultimately take a walk in their customer's shoes. We like this show because it reflects our own business beliefs about always being "client-centric." Entertainment aside and practically speaking, our clients want to know how to do this? Our response? "Sole Walking" of course.

First the hard facts. 

  1. It demands discomfort. In order to avoid discomfort, we tend to filter information and avoid potentially painful truth. However, this leads to our missing key information. If we want to grow and create opportunity, listening to the truth (both good AND bad news), will lead to improved client interactions and thus positively affect your bottomline.
  2. It demands time. "Sole Walking" is an ongoing process, not a one-time endeavor. This, of course, takes precious time, commitment, and practice. You'll have to sacrifice the "good" for the "best" and pull away from certain activities. Ask yourself, "How important is it that I find out how my customers perceive our business?" If your answer is not "extremely important" then... 
  3. It demands strategic interpretation. Your customer will experience many aspects of your company from the initial contact to the follow through and delivery of the finished project. They don't just encounter the sales department or customer service. They interact with accounting, tech support, management, and many other sometimes "hidden" support departments. Delegating interpretation of the data to any one department within your company could incorporate a natural bias inherent within that department. Our best advice is to look for an unbiased (usually third-party) source to interpret your data and develop a strategy based on this accuracy.

Moving forward

  1. Pay close attention to customer feedback. This seems obvious, but it's not always done. Document feedback through online surveys and reviews, and through ALL customer service channels. Development a follow-up system for each customer and look for consistency within the feedback. This is an excellent gauge on how your customers perceive you. 
  2. Develop a behavioral question survey. Instead of asking quantitative and qualitative questions, phrase your queries around experience. Incorporate all aspects of the journey from beginning to end. This emotional approach will gain deeper insight into the mind of your customer.
  3. Hire an outside, unbiased source. Hire your own "secret-shopper" of sorts with targeted discovery goals in mind. Professional branding firms have systems in place to discover detailed and pertinent information about customer perception. This removes the "internal filter" that keeps the truth from surfacing and allows you to see "the real picture."
  4. Incorporate empathy. If you use company personnel to embark on this journey, choose those who have natural tendencies toward empathy and understanding. This will illicit better and more genuine results.
  5. Plan, evaluate, and revise. Define the weakest link and turn it into a strength. Define the strength and turn it into the focus. Then measure your success and turn it into relevance. Remember, this process needs consistent cultivation in order to evolve.
"Sole Walking" will provide you with key information on why your customers buy from you and/or why they don't. So get in their shoes and get walking onto the true road to client-centricity.

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