Through the Looking Glass
At KDG, ensuring the happiness of our clients is something we have taken seriously for over fifteen years and it will remain something we commit ourselves to once again in 2017. This year, however, we want to be transparent. As we analyze the differences between a good customer experience and a great one, we want bring you along. Throughout the year, KDG is going to share with you the latest insights on what it means to provide an exceptional experience to customers, an experience that will keep them coming back. The first step to embarking on a customer relationship that flourishes? Being transparent.
What exactly does is mean to be transparent? Transparency can be approached in a variety of different ways.
For example, the German government took the idea of transparency to a literal sense after rebuilding their unified capital city following World War II and the Cold War. Decades of fascism followed by communism made the German people wary of their government. Today, this is why tourists who visit Berlin’s government buildings see an abundance of glass: a glass dome in the Reichstag that allows visitors to peer down at their elected officials and glass walls in the Chancellery that let those from the outside look in.
The German government is…quite literally…transparent in an effort to regain and maintain the trust of its people. Businesses don’t have to take the concept as literally as architects and politicians in Germany did. But there are other means by which businesses can improve their customer experience through transparency, especially with technology. Even if the walls to your business aren’t made of glass, technology has given your customers a unique window to peer through.
How Pizza Transformed Business
Perhaps the greatest success story when it comes to a business improving its customer experience through transparency is the tale of Domino’s. When Russell Weiner took over the struggling pizza company as CMO in 2011, he attributed an absence of transparency to the company’s lackluster performance. And this shortage of transparency had nothing to do with pizza, Weiner quickly discovered. It had to do with Wall Street.
So how did Wall Street affect how customers felt about Domino’s Pizza? It was an indirect impact, of course. But Weiner discovered that consumers were wary of any business, big or small. Wall Street was being bailed out by the politicians. Both of these groups arguably had blame for the 2008 financial crisis placed squarely on their shoulders. Consumers felt as if they couldn’t trust the banks, they couldn’t trust corporations, they couldn’t trust politicians, and as a result, they couldn’t even trust the business selling them their pizza.
To make up for this, Domino’s gave itself a transformation. The company talked to customers about how its pizza could be improved. It was honest with customers, especially about the poor quality of its pizza. An innovative and viral marketing campaign was launched, during which the company actually said its pizza tasted like cardboard and worked to make improvements. Domino’s experimented with live streams directly from its kitchens so customers could see exactly how their pizza was being prepared.
Perhaps the company’s most successful means of providing transparency to its customers, however, is the Tracker. After customers place their online order, they are given minute-by-minute updates in real-time. They not only know who is preparing their pizza, but they also know its prep time, when it’s in the oven, when it’s been boxed, and exactly when it is ready for delivery. Customers know every stage of the process. There is no more wondering as to when their pizza is going to get made. No more guessing as to when the delivery driver is going to be at the front door. Customers’ anxiety is appeased and their overall experience with the brand heightened.
This transparency seemed to work wonders for the floundering company. Its sales growth increased by double digits. It opened over 1,000 new stores in ten different countries. The company’s slightly deprecatory and overtly transparent marketing campaign really engaged its customers. Customers appreciated when the brand elaborated on the things it did wrong and applauded when the brand strove to make improvements. When so many people and so many companies are all-too-quick to pass blame and vigorously defend, Domino’s transparency was refreshing to millions of old and new customers.
We realize that not every business can or needs to implement a pizza tracker. But there are other ways businesses can make themselves more transparent to customers.
Tell Them About Yourself
If a business wants to improve its customer experience, it’s important that it starts by taking a good look at its website. A website is often the first place a customer will go when looking to engage with your company. As a result, a website shouldn’t only be a means of advertising your services or your products. It should also be an introduction to your company, its goals, and the people who work there.
Including a detailed “About Us” section on your website will do a lot to create an environment of transparency. Tell the story of your business. However, remember that no story is complete without its conflicts and resolutions. Your customers will appreciate the honesty. Don’t forget to introduce your “cast of characters:” your employees who work there. Humanize them with pictures and personalize them with anecdotes. Be upfront with your customers. Show them who they will be dealing with. And if the page is done correctly, your customers shouldn’t see bankers, executives, managers, etc. They should see people just like them.
Put Your Business on Film
Filming your business’s daily life is something any company can and should do. While not the first business to use this method, Patagonia became the most popular when it released a series of “Footprint Chronicles,” videos that detailed every step in the making of its outerwear so customers could hold the company accountable for its ethical standards. In doing so, its customer experience not only improved due to an increase in trust, but customers also felt at ease knowing they could purchase clothing from the company without sacrificing their ethical and moral principles.
Regardless of the product your company sells or the service it offers, pick up the camera and give your customers a glimpse behind the scenes. For a candy shop, this may mean filming your candy being made, displayed, and sold. It may include interviews with the employees and management team. For a restaurant, transparency (while it doesn’t have to include a live stream of every single meal being prepared for customers to easily watch on their phones) may include video tours of the kitchen, details on its equipment, and introductions to its staff readily available on the website.
Your customers’ experience will also benefit if these videos better help them understand what you do, especially if your business or practice is one that not everyone has experience with. Everyday people may not fully understand what a financial adviser does. They may not understand what a lawyer spends his or her days doing. Or an accountant. Or a computer programmer. Sometimes this misunderstanding can resonate into distrust and turn clients away from using your services. Create and share videos that break down these barriers and increase awareness.
Nothing is more transparent than letting your customers access your business from anywhere. With mobile apps, customers and clients can do just this, even when your business may not be open. Banks use mobile apps to allow customers to transfer funds and even deposit checks. Restaurants use mobile apps so customers can order food anytime and anywhere. Department stores use mobile apps so shoppers can easily order online and pickup in the store. Even the government is getting involved on both the federal and local level. For example, the TSA has its own app travelers can use to easily check what can and cannot be packed in carry-on luggage in the hopes of making packing a breeze and the lines at airports across the country shorter. At the local level, the City of Pasadena launched its own virtual city hall app, giving residents access to important city information 24/7.
Developing an app is not an endeavor that you can undertake on your own. However, there are companies out there who will gladly help businesses develop custom software. Show your customers that you are there for them anytime by making your product and your services more accessible from anywhere.
With the rise in popularity of social media, everyone’s lives have become a little more transparent. People share their meals on Instagram, their job history on LinkedIn, photos of their recent vacation on Facebook, and their political thoughts on Twitter.
Your customers are sharing more and, in turn, expect you to share more, as well. If your company isn’t active on social media, it may be losing not only a large number of sales, but also a significant amount of trust. While 77% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company and CEO visible on social media, about 82% of customers said they are more likely to trust a company with a social media presence.
Even if you have a social media account, you must make sure your business is putting it to good use. When customers ask questions, leave comments, sing praise, or even voice concern on your social media pages, make sure you’re there to respond in a timely manner. Answer questions. Thank customers for their feedback. Address concerns and complaints head on. There’s nothing less transparent than letting complaints linger on your social media accounts unaddressed. Or worse: having complaints mysteriously disappear.
But social media, like your website, shouldn’t only be a place where you’re advertising your products or selling your services. Social media is so popular because it can be a lot of fun. Post the videos your company made. Create or share engaging graphics. Get your customers involved through sweepstakes and contests. You’re experts in your field, so put that expertise to use through content-rich blog posts. It’s important that you use social media as a place, not to demand, sell, or ask for things from your customers, but instead as a place where your customers feel like they’re getting something in return for their dedication to your business.
How KDG Can Help
KDG has spent over 15 years helping small and medium-size businesses improve their relationships with customers through custom software, app development, and web design. If you are a business owner, we understand that the customer experience is just as important to you and your customers as it is to us and ours. Through innovative technology solutions, we want to help you better help your customers.
Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer. Our walls may not be glass, but we promise a completely open and transparent customer experience no matter your technology needs.