(This article was first published in Forbes magazine on June 9th, 2023)
As the CEO of an experience management company that helps brands build customer communities, I believe the best business decisions are those made with customers—not for them. During tough economic times, staying close to customers is paramount. While businesses continue to prioritize customer experience, many ways to capture customer feedback today are fragmented and inefficient.
I’ve watched “the survey” engulf the CX industry for years. They are fast and easy to deploy, but customer needs and feedback behaviors have changed. Customers want to know that you’re listening and acting on their feedback. They want to feel valued.
From my perspective, some people are experiencing survey fatigue, which can lead to low engagement and means surveys are not always a reliable CX management tool. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that response rates to major economic surveys had dropped, and, following the pandemic, responses fell further. This has made it difficult for the government to capture accurate representative data, resulting in potentially biased data.
It’s hard to design a superior customer experience and make critical business decisions when your inputs are unreliable. So, what now?
Consider building a customer community
People join communities to find purpose, social connection and support. And it’s not that different in a CX community. Customers with a shared interest in your company join in a safe space where they feel comfortable sharing honest feedback. These people feel this sense of community and are advocates for your brand. Most people think of consumers as the most common participants in a CX community, but the possibilities for providing optimal CX are endless. You can build a community of your employees, UX designers, baristas, pharmacists and any other group you can think of.
Community is a feedback collection method built on trust. Today’s consumers are concerned about privacy and are not interested in an impersonal brand experience.
Here are four reasons you might consider building a community:
- Deeper access: Communities work to gather the most passionate brand advocates. By investing in this group, you can go beyond transactional data and uncover the “what,” “why” and “what’s next” behind customer needs and motivations.
- Stronger engagement: The best way to validate business decisions is by understanding exactly what your customers want and need. Customers join communities because they continuously choose to invest in your business. Once you establish this community of verified stakeholders, you could see improved engagement.
- Faster time to insights: In today’s changing market, speed matters. Customer needs can change in an instant. Harvard Business Review said, “Two thirds of customers feel that companies are not responding fast enough to their changing needs.” Communities can help keep the voice of customers at your fingertips for easy and fast deployment of CX engagement tactics.
- Centralized customer experience: Placing customers at the heart of your business is the most important prerequisite to creating exceptional customer experiences. A community-centered CX strategy highlights each customer journey’s uniqueness, while also finding their common touchpoints. This helps you build tailored experiences for all customer types.
How can you get started?
Building a community of customers is a strategic process that can only begin after customer experience is prioritized. Therefore, make CX a core value and ensure it is ingrained in the company’s culture. This commitment should start from top leadership and be reflected in all levels of the organization.
With that in mind, create multiple channels for customers to provide feedback quickly, and leverage platforms such as social media, email and feedback forms.
Once you have the channels in place, it’s imperative that you actively listen and respond. Regularly monitor and review the feedback received from customers. Respond promptly and acknowledge their input to demonstrate their opinions are valued. Address any issues or concerns raised, and provide updates on actions taken.
Engage your audiences by establishing a feedback-friendly environment where customers feel inspired to share their thoughts and suggestions. Then, foster a sense of community that creates opportunities for customers to interact and connect. Finally, encourage dialogue and collaboration among community members.
Once you receive feedback, it’s nearly worthless if you don’t have a feedback mechanism. Establish processes to collect and analyze customer input systematically. Use your feedback process to gather insights about the customer experience that you can act upon, ensuring your employees have the necessary skills to handle customer interactions effectively. Empower employees to take ownership of customer issues and resolve them promptly.
Building a strong community of customers that actively contributes to improving customer experience is an ongoing process. Consistency, responsiveness and a genuine commitment to listening and acting on feedback are crucial to cultivating an impactful community.
Improve the customer experience
While customers want fast and effective ways to interact with their favorite brands, they also want an authentic and genuine relationship. Companies need an effective way to understand what’s in the hearts and minds of customers. Fostering a customer community can help you uncover reliable data and insights from highly engaged, verified customers.
The theme of the day is to create a more engaged and loyal customer, especially as customers are accelerating the need for change and a better way forward. So, let’s shake things up. Let your customers tell you what they really want and how they really feel.