In part 1, we discussed a reactive strategy. We have messed up and someone is upset. We talked about how to balance our response.

In part 2, we will investigate three strategies for getting ahead of problems. In fact, these ideas will spur innovation. These ideas will give you the perspective from a customer. I believe these ideas will help you win.

Eat your own dog food.

I’ve heard people say that tattoos are addictive. That’s up for the psychologists to decide. But in a somewhat similar vein, I do know that getting certifications is addictive. They are like Boyscout badges. I had almost every certification that Magento offers, except for two. One of those was a certification on Javascript and I had no intention of being Javascript certified.

While I do have almost every certification that Magento offers, there was one that I said I never wanted to tackle. 

“Dogfooding” is when we use our own product or service. You could say that I do dogfood my products as I build them. However, I came to see that the experiences are vastly different.

For example, I learned that things I thought were important are less so, and other things are more important. I honed in on my goal of helping people assess their readiness to pass. These learnings were incredible lightbulb moments.

We have incorporated every one of my findings into this experience.

Here’s a question: when was the last time you used your checkout process? I have talked with countless CEOs who have never used it. When they do, the proposed changes that they have been turning down “because it costs too much” are quickly agreed upon.

Maybe you are intimately familiar with your end-to-end customer journey. But, what about the product itself? Are you using it on a regular basis?

Please remember that this is not the end-all as we will eventually become used to our products’ flaws (anyone wonders why those home-brewed fulfillment systems are still in use?).

That’s why we must make a habit of continual connections.

Talk to your customer base.

We will become blind to our website and products. There is a powerful antidote that is readily available if we will just take the time: talk to our customers.

While the idea is not new to any of us, I was reminded when I recorded Episode #10 of my Actionable Insights podcast. Andrew Davis, who is a marketer by trade, provided some real inspiration.

“If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.”—Sam Walton

His example is a fan company. They started as “HVLS Fan Company”. This company sells fans, so that name makes sense, doesn’t it? Yes, probably to engineers and architects.

Picture where these fans are used—county fair barns, outdoor venues, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and even some restaurants. Notice that high-end hotels, universities, etc., are absent (though, I am sure there are exceptions).

It turns out that the president was handling phone calls one day.

“High Volume Low Speed fans, this is [insert name] speaking.” The president said.

The caller asked, “Is this where those big *** fans are sold?”

Lightbulb moment.

Go read the story here.

The key is to regularly talk.

I am working to schedule at least two times a week to talk to my customers. I have time blocked off between 9:00 and 10:00am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for these conversations. In my case, phone numbers are fairly irregular, so I rely on a tool like Calendly to assist in scheduling.

If you do have easy access to phone numbers, how about you pick up the phone in these scheduled times and call one or two customers.

Here are the questions I ask.

“What inspired you to make this purchase?”

This comes from Episode #10 with Andrew Davis. I enjoy asking this question as it brings out the WHY of the purchase. What was the problem that the customer perceived your product resolving. In my case, it’s often obvious that the customer wants to take a test.

“What other products did you consider?” or “Tell me about your journey to settle on this product.”

These are similar questions. My goal is to best understand the customer thinking and decision-making process. This will allow me to tune the products and marketing to make it in line with what the customer would like.

Realize that not even this is everything that you need. These conversations are with those who have purchased your product. You are not talking with those who decided to use your competitor’s product.

Establish a feedback pipeline from customer service teams.

Your customer service teams are the frontlines of customer interaction. They see the good, bad and the ugly. They know the questions that are constantly asked (questions that are asked represent likely 30% of your visitor population, maximum; the other 70% don’t bother to ask).

Incoming Chat

This is the easiest way to collect information. Customers pop you up and ask questions. These conversations are saved so you can review them quickly. You can also analyze them with a tool like TagCrowd to see words that are most frequently used.

I think that the only thing worse than not having data is having it but not using it.

For example, if your customers are repeatedly asking questions about your shipping policies, consider refining them. Make sure they are well visible in the footer of every page. But, don’t overreact and splash them all over every product and cart page.

Maybe they are asking questions about a particular product? What can you do to highlight specific features in a bulleted list (instead of paragraph form)? You could also consider adding a question/answer feature to your website.

Incoming Phone

You must ensure that once your CSR finishes a phone call, they are to write down what questions were asked. For repeated questions, they can use tick marks to indicate the number of times the question has been asked. Self-discipline is critical. If you are in management, you will likely have to go to your customer service team weekly and ask for updates (Ethan talks about this in Episode #5).

Oh, and if you can record phone calls—that’s great! Just remember to listen to those recordings.

Incoming Email

This is likely the most difficult point to track because we quickly go from one email to the next. There is no break (like hanging up the phone) or easy way to track these questions (like chat).

Of course, you could ask your customer service team to forward these emails to you. You could also ask them to track in a similar way to phone calls.

Track with a cloud spreadsheet

Everyone who directly interacts with customers should have access to one source of information. Everyone who is responsible for ingesting this information should also have access.

More than likely, your company is paying for such a service. We are. We actually have several documents for tracking this type of information.

Schedule time monthly to review these questions. Once you believe you have dealt with the problem in updating your website, mark those questions as complete or hide them. Then wait and see if they come back.

In Summary

  • When was the last time you used your own product as a customer?
  • When was the last time you had a one-on-one voice conversation with your customers?
  • Get a pipeline for feedback from those who directly interact with your customers on a daily basis.
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