The TJ Stein Guide to Customer Experience, Acquisition and Retention
TJ Stein, Sr Director of Member Services at Italic (previously Mailchimp, Media Temple, etc.), said the future of Customer Experience is conversational.
Brands should feel approachable– customers now demand answers and open dialogue. You can’t hide behind a confusing website or get away with poor customer service.
Excellent customer service is essential to turn one-time purchases into lifetime customers.
But the world of CX has changed, and many marketers still don’t know how to keep up.
What are these shifts, and how did they come about?
Let’s find out with some customer experience ‘truths’ that TJ explained are essential to learn and implement in your marketing strategy.
Truth 1: Customer Journey is not linear but very fragmented.
Earlier, a customer moved from discovery to purchase in the traditional way (Awareness Interest Consideration Intent Evaluation Purchase).
The traditional acquisition channels and journey maps looked like ‘perfect’ funnels. However, that is no longer the case.
Now your customers will discover you through social media, check out your website through their mobile, call or email customer care and eventually use a desktop to purchase.
People are using bots like Alexa to make purchases too.
This multi-touchpoint system is different from old school marketing funnel that is hyper-focused on transactions and not building a relationship through each touchpoint.
Also, it implies the story is over after they buy.
Because of this, it is very easy to switch to a competitor. Attention is very scarce right now, and brands cannot afford to take customer success lightly.
For a good brand, a purchase is not a milestone. That’s just the first step.
Many of the successful brands right now are doing well because of the loyalty they built. This brings us to the next truth…
Truth 2: Delight is not equal to Loyalty.
TJ says ‘delight doesn’t pay. Constantly trying to ‘wow’ your customers and thinking they will come back will just lead to ‘costly mediocrity.’
When you hear about a viral story about a brand going out of their way for some customer, while it delights people, these ‘heroic customer experiences’ don’t lead to loyalty.
Maybe some positive press but that too people forget in time and doesn’t help in repeat business.
Instead, low-effort customer experiences and a disciplined strategy is key.
Make all your customers happy, always.
And if you and your brand want to do something potentially viral, you must complement that with an all-rounded CX strategy.
Truth 3: The future of CX is still human.
Even though AI helps, many brands tend to over-optimise artificial intelligence and leave high-touch personalisation behind.
He mentioned Jaime Schmidt, Founder- Schmidt Naturals, who’s mantra “Intimacy at Scale. This is what every brand should be building towards.” really explains how brands should create their customer success strategy.
He took the example of Backcountry, a company that dedicates 30% of revenue to their customer success team. Their Gearheads (customer success team) handle up to 4000 dedicated customer relationships.
This is how seriously they take brand loyalty and personalisation.
Another example he mentioned was of a brand called Newegg who use ‘Proactive chat’ (discussed later in the article) that converts at nearly 9X more than self-served customers.
These customers; average order value increased 10% than self-service.
(We believe that a blended strategy of bots plus human support can allow bots to take care of repeated, common queries and free up human agents for high leverage interactions. Read more about that here!)
Keeping in mind these truths, how do you build a successful CX strategy for your brand that works even as you grow bigger?
Take a look at TJ’s customer experience framework below.
How to Build a Customer Experience Framework for Brands
TJ Stein recommends building a strategy keeping in mind three key pillars- Activation, Advocacy, and Recovery.
Each of these can be broken down into actionable strategies.
This strategy was popularised by Intercom and is considered to be the most efficient way to provide personalised support at scale.
At MeUndies, a company TJ worked at, used email as their primary mode of communication. Then live channels took over.
But through chat, they were able to proactively target pre-purchase customers who just needed a slight nudge to convert, reducing cart abandonment.
Pre-purchase customers are already curious and wondering if they should take the plunge and buy from you.
You can convince them to check out faster if you offer a coupon or discount or answer their doubts about shipping or returns.
Me Undies saw a 28% conversion rate using pro-active chat support.
Remember when he said low-effort solutions lead to loyalty?
Self-service is very important for e-commerce brands, especially when it comes to returns and exchanges.
Brands need to have well-explained, well-maintained FAQ pages on such common queries.
Customers want to know how easy it is to return and exchange BEFORE they purchase from you.
A confusing, lengthy return or exchange process is a turn-off.
By having help centres, order tracking pods (AI!), etc., a brand can reduce the load on customer agents and help re-route human-based support where it’s needed.
3. Human Support
In MeUndies, the customer experience teams were given extra incentives and bonuses to create personal relationships with the customers.
They analysed the team to see who’s better at spotting a brand advocate.
Through cross-selling and upselling, they were able to work alongside business objectives and not just sit passively sorting complaints.
He saw a lift in Average Order Value (AOV) by 9% compared to their normal purchase flow.
In a year, the CX team was driving incremental revenue and reducing membership churn.
This is the post-purchase ‘honeymoon’ phase.
How do you continue building your relationship and tap + harness into the customer’s excitement for your brand?
He uses an example of Community Management where they collect customer feedback in the brand’s Facebook Group for product development and future updates.
In this way, customers felt included in the process, and the brand looked invested.
Some great examples of this are Rent the Runway, FabFitFun, Lola, Hims, Soylent.
TJ said the UGC content on Rent the Runway was supercharged with details and helps future potential customers purchase with less resistance.
2. Customer Marketing
This is all about encouraging happy customers to spread the word, send that tweet, and become brand advocates.
Branded hashtags and member referral links are embedded in pre-made tweet templates that made it easier and fun to share on social.
3. Segmentation Strategy + Data Subscription Models
Depending on your brand’s goal, you can create segments on spend, purchase behaviour, customer type, etc.
The insight gained from segmentation can drive repeat purchases and reduce churn rates for membership programs.
His tip is to find the pain points of each segment and create a playbook for your CX team on how to engage with each segment.
And this should be implemented across all touchpoints- emails, packaging, and on-site experiences, not just through your customer experience agents.
4. Feedback Loops
If your customer team has feedback, be it positive or negative, it’s important to share it with all teams.
It’s a boring process but essential for every stakeholder to understand what they can change henceforth.
The customer experience team should also proactively follow up with relevant teams to implement changes and use data to drive their point.
5. Friendly Policy
How friendly are your policies?
Like mentioned earlier, returns, exchanges, your policy on animal testing, shipping charges all need to be clear to the customer BEFORE they purchase.
If all these processes sound very troublesome to your potential customer, they won’t convert.
You will inevitably disappoint even your most loyal customers.
When that happens, own up to your mistake. This is a crucial moment in a customer’s journey.
He advises brands- ‘Be radically open to feedback.’ Because if you don’t take care of your customer, someone else will.
Embrace mistakes by having a data-centric approach- look at failed payments, shipping errors and create a WOW BONUS for your CX team.
A service failure can lead to stronger loyalty! So tag those tricky customers and send your best Customer success managers to resolve and delight them.
Using this framework, you can build a solid customer success strategy to implement across touch points and teams leading to more sales and customer loyalty!
(We wrote this article primarily for our team members because we found his presentation at the E-com World Conference incredibly helpful but decided it could help you too. If it did, do let us know by tagging us on Twitter @LimeChatAI. Don’t forget to check out more tips and connect with TJ Stein @tj_stein, too!).