"Get closer to your customers, so close that you can tell them what they need before they realize it themselves." -- Steve Jobs
This year we saw Apple move proactive customer service to a whole new level by replacing FAQs aimed at their Beats audience with a series of videos on Twitter.
Being proactive with customer service means:
--controlling the situation
--creating a positive customer experience (CX)
--providing enablement instead of problem solving
--pre-empting customer concerns and addressing them before they become issues
Proactively providing FAQs, forums, product information, webinars, blogs etc. either directly to your customers or via channels that can be accessed on an "as needed" basis, like amFAQs on your homepage, Facebook, Twitter, or a customer forum/community portal is a combination of customer support and marketing working together and is keeping CX firmly placed at the top of company strategy.
But what does a great CX really mean? Customers are well researched and educated before the buying process. They expect more than customer satisfaction (which is short lived); they are expecting a memorable customer experience – which relates to loyalty, repeat buying, competitive advantage and brand differentiation. CX is the pinnacle of the customer journey and by offering proactive support and going beyond the day-to-day expectations companies can deliver a memorably experience for the customer.
When I have a good customer experience I talk about it. When I have a bad customer experience I also talk about it. Social media channels have turned up the volume on customers talking about their experiences. Great customer support and service on social media is just like good marketing. Hence the new snowclone: customer support is the new marketing. Here Elizabeth Tobey, Director of Support at Tumblr, gives examples of how support and marketing work closely in a customer environment. Toby also includes community management and PM departments in her company; in fact, all customer facing groups and all singing from the same hymn sheet to keep Tumblr CX top class.
Memorable CX is about pre-empting the customer experience, about being proactive and personal. When your customers engage over several channels the focus on the CX is critical and long lasting.
Great CX belongs in all companies. Publishers, this includes you.
But who is your customer? According to author and squidoo.com founder Seth Godin, this was one of the central questions for publishers this year.
“Is it the bookstore? The New York Times? Amazon? The reader?”
Among the candidates Godin listed, option D has steadily gathered steam, fueled by the mounting importance of book bloggers, customer reviews, and the example set by bestselling indie authors -- many of whom leverage direct contact with their audience to adapt pricing, cover images, and even content to give readers exactly what they want, building massive (and happy) fanbases.
Indeed, Rodale publisher Mary Ann Naples declared 2015 "the year of the customer for publishers."
"From every corner of the business, we are seeing experiments on how to best connect with customers gathering steam, if not much actual revenue yet. There is a growing sense that publishers need to delight customers–whether by creating a pop-up shop, a hotline or a good old-fashioned community experience on a new social media platform."
A few of notable examples include The Penguin Hotline, a resource for book recommendations generated by actual human staffers; the robust online fan communities PulseIt.com and Tor.com, run by Simon & Schuster and Macmillan respectively; the much talked-about Instagram account over at Riverhead, and Melville House's Twitter, which serves up attitude and pithy humor (not to mention feuds) as much as it promotes books.
All valid ways for publishers to build name recognition, perhaps even customer loyalty. But as Tom Chalmers of IPR License points out, giving readers what they want without waiting for them to ask for it--in other words, providing great CX--might be the key to growing D2C sales:
"It is great that we are looking to work more closely with the customer, but we have to put the cart before the horse. First of all, we need to embark on a committed period during which publishers find meaningful groups of consumers and open up channels of dialogue. Only then, once we understand them better, will we stand a better chance of our readers allowing us to work with them as they continue to run our industry."
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Head of Customer Success at Vearsa
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