Avoid Brand Disasters with a Visual Content Strategy

2016-01-September-Feet-on-Fire

It took a man with his sleeves rolled up to make me understand that we had a problem.

A Flawed Hero

At the time I has heading the marketing content delivery group at a major equipment manufacturer and we’d just posted a new ‘hero’ shot on our website. We were very proud of the image: a burly rugged looking guy on a job site stood in front of one our machines. A perfect illustration of our brand.

Or so we thought, until I logged in to my email the following morning to find my inbox stuffed with requests to take the image down.

Most of those emails came from one specific geographical market. What we hadn’t realized was that the burly man had his shirt sleeves rolled up, and in one of our biggest, most important, markets that was a safety violation. And safety violations were definitely not something we wanted to be seen promoting, or have associated with our brand.

The image was quickly taken down and metadata added that it wasn’t to be used in certain markets. On reflection, we should have already done this. But like many large companies we drew our content from all across the enterprise, as well as from outside suppliers and agencies.

Customers Don’t Care About Your Silos

The man in the shirt sleeves got us thinking: Did different parts of the company use different images to represent the same things based on their local and business knowledge? Did they assume an implied level of knowledge about the subject and its applicability? Did the images chosen just reflect the siloed make-up of the business’s organizational structure? How was metadata applied — if at all — to ensure correct usage and attribution?

Most importantly: how did all this affect the customer’s experience when interacting with our brand across different channels around the globe?

It doesn’t matter how your company is organized, or what separate lines of business you have. As far as your customer is concerned every interaction with you is a representation of your brand, and they expect a consistent experience. But it must also be a consistent experience that is relevant to them and their locale.

Pull Things Together With a Visual Content Strategy

So how do you deliver a consistent brand representation while still being aware of localization and cultural issues?

You need to develop a Visual Content Strategy:

  • What do you want your images to do? — Showcase your products? Showcase your customers? Show customers using your products?
  • What business need do you want your images to help achieve? — Engage prospects and lead to click-through and lead capture? Educate and help customers with self-service thereby reducing support costs?
  • What sort of images will you use to reflect your brand? — Photographic and realistic, inspirational and abstract?
  • Where will the images be used? — Global generic images? Regional and local application? If regional, how localized?

Next, look at the images that you are already delivering or have in development. Do they match the aims and business drivers outlined in your visual content strategy? If not, stop using them.

Content for the sake of content, no matter how pretty it looks, is a waste of resources and opportunity.

Take a detailed look at how your products are represented and localized. After the “shirt sleeves” incident one of the decisions we made was that for the equipment product pages on our website the main product shot would be just the machine against a plain white background.

Presenting the equipment in a consistent way made it stand out and avoided localization issues. The job-site shots were relegated to a gallery that could be customized based on the customer’s location.

The next step is developing a strong metadata model that is applied to the images to ensure that you use the same images to show the same ideas and concepts. Attach data that fits your workflow and that allows you to deliver the sort of customer experience that reinforces your brand. Balancing consistency with creativity should also be considered and trade-offs need to be made.

Delivering Consistent Experiences

With a strategy and metadata architecture in place you need a way to store and manage images so that they can be easily located and used in the correct manner.

A Digital Asset Management system is key to delivering a consistent visual user experience. I’d recommend starting with an achievable object, such as a DAM to drive your website and then grow it organically across the enterprise, to cover other delivery channels. Get people used to using it, prove that it provides value and it will lead to improved customer experience.

The man in the short sleeves helped my team develop and deliver a platform that quickly grew to an enterprise solution with over one million assets that could be tracked and reused to send the correct message in the correct market.

[NOTE: This post was first published on CMSWire September 2016)

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When customer experience needs to get physical.

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It all started with a drip of water. You know that moment when you open the fridge door and feel a drop of water on your hand where you shouldn’t. It didn’t take me long to track where it was coming from, a dislodged pipe.

At least that’s what I thought it was. I managed to reconnect the pipe, but although the trickle of water lessened, it didn’t stop. Whatever was wrong was deeper in the workings of the fridge than I could see or reach.

No problem, the fridge was still under the manufacturer’s warranty. So I headed over to the manufacturer’s website and opened the online form to book a service call. It was all going well until I got to the line that asked for the fridge’s serial number.

It was back to the kitchen where I opened every door, and peered at every surface of the fridge writing down any number I could find; but it turned out none of them was the actual serial number. The serial number that was a required field on the service call form.

I called the customer help desk number, and the lady explained they needed the serial number so they could make sure they had the right information about model number for spare parts, and to check the purchase date and warranty coverage. That all seemed fair enough.

“So where do I find the serial number?” I asked.
“On a sticker on the fridge.”
“And where’s that sticker located on the fridge?”
“Oh, it’s on the back.”
“On the back of the fridge. The back that’s against a wall and enveloped in custom built kitchen cabinets? “
“Yes.”

This experience brought back memories of when I was working in the manufacturing sector. One of the companies I worked for also used the product serial number as the prime data point to identify a piece of equipment when customers needed service or spares.

An analysis of our online service portal showed that 70% of customers got the serial number wrong. They either guessed, or in most cases input the product’s model designation instead (the nice combination of letters and numbers painted on the side in a big bold color and large font).

The actual serial number they needed was on a small metal plate under a cover – but it told you how to find it in the owner’s manual, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Right?

Both are great examples of the disconnect that often happens when companies focus on the digital customer interaction without considering the actual physical product as part the overall experience.

Customer experience is a holistic exercise, and companies need to make it easy to transfer the process, and the data associated with it, from the physical to the digital, and vice-versa.

Think about your car. Need to access the VIN number for any reason, service, DMV registration, insurance etc. it’s right there at the bottom of the windshield where you can easily access it. Need to know the correct pressures to inflate your tires to – just open the car door and look at the stickers on the sill by the door catch.

The motor industry has done an excellent job over the years in standardizing how to provide essential information to the owner/operator in an accessible manner. It’s a lesson that many makers of many other products need to learn

As the internet of things comes to life around us, the boundary between digital and physical is fast disappearing and the customer experience needs to be an essential part of that evolution.

Measuring the Redefined Customer Journey

 

Infinity Diagram_Layer5_Metrics

“You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it,” has been a business cliché for decades. It’s not a sentiment everyone agrees with, as not everything worthwhile can be measured; but measurements can provide useful insights to trends and behavior patterns. So how does measurement (or lack of it) relate to the redefined customer journey I’ve been blogging about over the last few months?

So far we’ve looked at four different aspects of the customer journey: the customer perspective, company activities, departments, and the systems involved.

The final level examines the means to measure and manage the return on the investment in a continuous customer engagement strategy by linking various key performance indicator (KPI) metrics to different stages of the engagement.

Typical measurements used in the various stages of the customer journey include KPIs such as:

Net Promoter Score: NPS is calculated based on responses to a single question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale

Revenue: The income that a business has from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers

Total Cost of Ownership: TCO is usually a summation of the total cost of acquisition and operating costs plus any costs related to replacement or upgrades to a product at the end of its useful life

Return Rate: Usually expressed as a percentage of the number of products sold that are returned

Call Resolution Time: Within a support group, this measures the elapsed time between a customer reporting a problem and the issue being reported as being resolved. Most support groups have target resolution times to meet, and the duration of those target may vary depending on the customer’s status

Churn: Measures the proportion of contractual customers or subscribers who leave a supplier during a given time period. It is a possible indicator of customer dissatisfaction or issues with the overall customer experience

Likes / Impressions: Usually a collection of Web and Social Media metrics such as page views, followers, and the number of posts that receive comments, likes, or are shared online. All of which contribute to an overall Brand Equity, or a measure of how the overall brand, its promise, products, and experience are perceived

This is not an exhaustive list above, you may be using other ways to measure and manage customer interactions. Yet whatever measurements are used they tend to be the indicator of success (or failure) for individual operational departments or groups, and rarely, if ever, looked at in a holistic way to provide and overall measurement of customer satisfaction. It’s possible that you could be scoring highly in specific categories, yet still deliver a poor overall customer experience due to a disconnected journey.

By looking at customer related metrics as part of an overall ecosystem rather than separate KPIs it allows you to develop a clearer picture of a customer’s overall journey and their lifecycle value.

The Redefined Customer Journey – Remove System Friction

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The customer journey is being redefined in the digital age from a linear process to an ongoing loop of BUY then OWN with the companies you choose to deal with becoming more and more engaged in every part of the cycle.

So far in previous posts I’ve discussed what that on-going loop looks like from a customer perspective and how the loop model aligns the customer’s activities to those of the organization, and which departments need to work together to deliver the continuous connected experience.

As we continue to dig deeper into the journey map the fourth layer (above) connects the departmental level activity to the typical enterprise systems that record, drive, and promote the various aspects of the customer’s journey. These processes and systems have to interact. Technology bridges need to be established to allow data to flow between them to ensure a consistent experience and to maintain a relevant, valued engagement. The platforms in use must promote a sufficient degree of interoperability that allows the multiple interactions to work together.

But unfortunately the truth is that they rarely do. How many times have you transitioned from trying to do something on a website, had to call a help desk to get your goal completed and they already know your account details and what you want to accomplish? Rarely, if ever. It shouldn’t be that way.

I recently moved house and needed to change my address on various accounts. Simple I thought; just go on the various companies’ websites, open my profile, and edit the details. In most cases that worked, but in a few cases I had additional questions and needed to make a call.

With one credit card company I had a question about why my statements had stopped being delivered. The call went something like this:

Automated System: Please state your name.

Automated System: Say or input your account number.

Automated system: What’s your account safeword?  (Note not the account password, but a separate “safeword” I set up when I opened the account years ago and have never needed to use since – of course I had no idea what it was).

Me: I have no idea.

The Automated System passed me on to a Call Center employee.

Call center: How can I help you?

Me: I need to change my address and I have a question about my statements.

Call center: What’s your account safeword?

Me: I have no idea.

Call center: I have to pass you on to our security team.

Wait while call is transferred.

Security team: How can I help you?

Me: I need to change my address and I have a question about my statements.

Security team: What’s your account safeword?

Me: I have no idea, that’s why I was passed to you.

Security: OK I can help you with that. What’s your name and account number? (Information I had keyed in the automated system at the start of the call and which the first call center person had).

After some back and forth we eventually got the “safeword” thing sorted out.

Security: I’ll hand you back to the customer service so they can set up your payment plan?

Me: Sorry? What payment plan? I just need to change my address and I have a question about my statements.

Security: Oh. Hang on.

Wait while call is transferred. – Get a different customer service rep.

Customer service: How can I help you?

Me: I need to change my address and I have a question about my statements.

Call center: What’s your account safeword?

Me: You have got to be kidding me!

To cut a very long story short I eventually got my address changed and asked about my statements not getting delivered. You guessed it, I got transferred yet again to a different department and went through the same run around. It turned out that when the account hit zero balance they stop sending statements. When I pointed out that it might be nice if they sent the account holder an email to let them know about that policy, or put something on the statements themselves, or even their website; I received a “oh that’s a good idea” response. An idea I doubt will get passed on as I’m sure billing and the website content are yet two more siloed operations.

Ideally silos between systems such as the ones I encountered need to be broken down, but as a minimum they should be bridged by data sets that can be easily transferred. Such data sets should reflect the information to support the customer at any given point in their journey and grow incrementally in detail as the customer progresses through their series of interactions with the company. Ideally at no point should a customer have to provide information that they have already supplied earlier in the process. It’s all about removing the friction from the process.

The processes and systems you employ shouldn’t define the customer experience, they should support it.

Customer Journey Redefined – The Departmental View

infinity-diagram_layer3_department-1050x525

The customer journey is being redefined in the digital age from a linear process to an ongoing loop of BUY then OWN, with the companies you choose to deal with becoming more and more engaged in every part of the cycle.

So far in previous posts I’ve discussed what that ongoing loop looks like from a customer perspective and how the loop model aligns the customer’s activities to those of the organization. As we dig deeper into the journey map it’s time to take a look at what parts of the organization are directly involved.

The third layer highlights the various departments involved in the continuous customer engagement model. It is no longer sufficient to leave customer relations to the sales or support groups. Customer experience is now a mission-critical, cross-functional activity. As Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute says, “It is the totality of all the individual experi­ences that make up a Customer’s experience.”

It can be argued that customer experience and responsibility for the customer journey is the remit of the company as a whole, and it’s a good axiom, but in actuality it tends to primarily fall within the following areas: Marketing, Sales, Finance, Distribution, Operations, Services, Support, and Customer Care.

Delivering and supporting a positive customer experience is all about removing the friction from the process. The smoother the transition from department to department, the easier something is to do, the better the experience. This means that each department should invest in the overall customer experience, not only in terms of systems, but in terms of training, education, and a commitment to customer advocacy.

As outlined in a previous post, serving your customers across a continuous digital experience journey maximizes Customer Lifecycle Value and increases revenue potential. The more other departments invest and buy in to the overall concept of a frictionless process, the greater the experience and the greater the customer’s investment.

The benefits from committing to a combined, systematic approach to growing Customer Lifecycle Value across the enterprise include:

  • Increased customer retention rates
  • Increased customer satisfaction scores
  • Increased revenue

By taking this a step further, managing and delivering outstanding customer experiences, you will drive benefit for the customer, as well as sustainable growth across the enterprise.

The Questions you Should be Asking Along the Redefined Customer Journey

Several blog posts ago I talked about the way that the customer journey is being redefined in the digital age from a linear process to an ongoing loop of BUY then OWN, with the companies you choose to deal with becoming more and more engaged in every part of the cycle.

I’ve also posted on how that on-going loop looks like from a customer perspective. But how does this relate to the activities within a company to support that experience?

infinity-diagram_layer2_company

The second layer of the Continuous Customer Journey loop (above) maps the customer’s activities to those of the organization as it attracts the customer, informs, teaches, and converts the customer so they will make a purchase that then needs to be followed up by logistical operations, on-boarding and ongoing support. Winning organizations also use engagement assets, such as loyalty programs, to up-sell and cross-sell to the existing customer, thereby generating revenue at a lower cost of sales

Although the overall experience is continuous it is made up of 11 distinct stages:

Attract: Before any relationship with a customer can be built, it is essential to first make potential customers aware of the company and attract them to find out more. Do people in your potential market know you exist?

Inform: The company should then inform any potential clients about the products and/or services they offer. It’s surprising how many companies miss this step, just relying on building brand awareness without actually telling you what they do. What is it that you do?

Learn: Another step often overlooked is learning about the potential customer. In today’s digital world customers expect a more personalized experience and service that meets their particular needs and requirements. Do you know who your customers are, and why they need your products?

Convert: Perhaps the key moment of the customer journey is the transition from prospect to customer. Ensuring that the previous three steps outlined above have been well executed can ease the conversion process. Unfortunately a lot of companies are focused on this stage of conversion and see it as the culmination of the process, when in fact it is the start of a potential on-going relationship that can drive more revenue.

Transact: How easy is it to do business with your company?  Personally I’ve had too many dealings with companies that make it difficult for me to give them money – many of those companies lost my sale. The easier it is for the customer to complete a transaction the more likely they are to want to repeat the process.

Logistics: Once your customer has paid for the product and/or service how do you deliver the goods that they just paid for? Is it a quick frictionless process, or is it along drawn out experience?

Onboard: How do you make it easy for your customers to set up and start using your product? Do you welcome new customers to your company and community?

Support: Supporting your product is not just about helping to fix problems, although that is an essential part of it. Do you make it easy for your customers to own and operate your product? Do you connect with them on a regular basis? In a digital world do you use analytics and trends to be proactive with your customers? You should be supporting the customer, not just the product.

Loyalty: How do you make your good customers into great repeat customers? Loyalty programs can be a great way to do that, but they need to be proven to benefit your customers as well as the company.

Up-sell: Do you understand your customer’s needs well enough to be able to anticipate when they need to upgrade to the latest iterations of your services?

Cross-sell: Can you identify what other products from your portfolio will help your customers meet their business or personal needs? Do you know how to attract their attention and inform them about those other offerings? Have you built a solid ongoing relationship that means you can continue on the customer’s journey together?

I believe that this layer of the customer journey is best summarized in a recent tweet from Mark Hurst, the Founder and CEO of Creative Good:

“Did you know that your company has a team responsible for managing the customer experience? That team’s name is ‘the entire company’.”

The Customer’s Perspective of the Redefined Customer Journey

The digital customer journey is being redefined – it’s never been easier to buy stuff. All it takes is a few clicks of a button. But there are an almost infinite number of websites and online sources from which to make purchases. How do you choose? In today’s digital age do you simply buy something, or do you create ongoing relationships with the companies that meet your needs and provide a good experience? I’m guessing that it’s probably more of the latter.

Several blog posts ago I talked about how the customer journey is being redefined in the digital age from a linear process to an ongoing loop of BUY then OWN with the companies you choose to deal with becoming more and more engaged in every part of the cycle.

But how does that on-going loop look like from a customer perspective? Although the overall experience is continuous it is made up of 10 distinct stages:

infinity-diagram_layer1_customer

  1. Awareness: Do you know what is available in the market place that relates to your activities, business, or lifestyle?
  2. Need: Why do you buy something? It is generally to fill a business or personal need. Is it something to solve a problem, make life easier, or just to provide pleasure? Defining a need is an essential part of the purchasing process.
  3. Research: Once a need is identified and you’ve matched that need to an awareness of what is available, you will often start to ask questions. What has anyone else used or purchased to meet a similar need? In the digital world research is playing a more and more important role with the majority of purchasers doing their own research rather than engage with a sales person to get answers to questions.
  4. Evaluate: How do various products and solutions compare? What are other people’s experiences in using those products and solutions? The collective experience of a peer groups are becoming a vital part of the evaluation process in an increasingly connected social world.
  5. Buy: Once a decision has been made the ideal purchase experience should be frictionless and consistent irrespective of which channel you use to make the purchase.
  6. Delivery: This is the point where the experience moves from the BUY to OWN part of the process, and is often the point where many companies step away from the relationship with the customer. Delivery, be it digital or physical, should be well documented, well communicated, and as fast, and as efficient as possible.
  7. Use: The everyday use of a product or solution is the longest part of the customer experience, and yet is often to most overlooked. How easy is it to actually use what you have purchased? Does it meet your needs and expectations? Does the company you purchased it from provide information on its continued use, or ways to connect with other customers to compare experiences?
  8. Maintain: What is something goes wrong? How easy is it to get help, or receive product updates?
  9. Advocate: Do you talk about products, services, and solutions that you enjoy? So will your customers. Customers who have a positive experience will become brand and product advocates.
  10. Recommend: And good advocates will recommend to others. Or they will self-recommend and make repeat purchases based on having been engaged as part of a well-designed and delivered continuous journey.

The full engaged customer journey cannot be addressed by separate applications at different parts of the process. To be fully effective, it has to provide an exceptional continuous experience made up of a combination of the many different experiences and processes.

In an upcoming blog post we’ll take a look at the next layer related to the company’s activities in providing a continuous connected customer experience. In the meantime this white paper “A Better Way to Engage – Redefining the Customer Journey for a Digital World” is worth a read.

(This post was originally published on the OpenText Blog)