Customer Experience is the New Marketing

March 15, 2016 Jay Baer

customer experience

A few months ago, Jay Baer, marketing consultant, speaker, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Youtility, joined us for a webinar on the future of marketing. We've compiled the highlights of his presentation in this post, which includes some tantalizing teasers from his new book Hug Your Haters. Enjoy!


The Growing Importance of Customer Experience

Customer experience is the new marketing. It is what sets great companies apart from good and good companies apart from mediocre.

Let me ask you this: how do you decide to buy anything? How do you decide what sandwich to buy or what movie to go to? What B2B software package? How do you decide?


See our post, "Ted Rubin: Use Digital Listening To Connect With Customers," to learn how listening can help improve your customers' experience.


Is it word of mouth? Is it research on the web? Is it content marketing? Is it sky writing? Is it ratings and reviews? Well, what we find is that, increasingly, the customer experience will be how you decide.

Research from Walker Information says that, by 2020, customer experience will be more important to customers than price. The customer experience will be more important than what you're trying to sell costs.

That's remarkable. It has an impact for every single business of every type and every size in every city, state, and country in this world.

Maya Angelou has famously said:

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel."

That's what customer experience is. Customer experience determines how people feel about your business. Every single customer you have, and every single customer you will ever have, has an inkling in their mind of what they want.

Before a transaction, they have an inkling in their mind of what that interaction is going to feel like, how it's going to go. They may not be able to voice it. They may not be able to write it down, but it's there. It's in their head. It's in the back of their mind.

We talk about customer experience all the time. It's almost axiomatic in business now. You can't swing a cat without hearing something about delivering great customer experience. But what does that really mean?

Great customer experiences are those that exceed customer expectations.

Everybody has an expectation in their head of how it's going to go, and there are ways that you can exceed those expectations.

Exceeding Customer Expectations

One of the ways to exceed what customers expect is to be more responsive than those customers expect. Everybody knows. You learn it in the first week of business. We all know that it makes more sense to keep the customers you've already earned than to continuously invest in getting more and more and more customers.

We all know it makes sense, and yet, we don't actually run our businesses according to that very simple principle.

Each year, we spend approximately $500 billion on marketing and about $9 billion on customer service—despite the fact that we now know that not answering customers' complaints decreases customer advocacy every time and in every channel. It takes a bad situation, and it makes it worse.

Conversely, answering complaints increases customer advocacy in every channel and every time. It takes a bad situation and makes it better.

In order to trigger that response, however, we have to be responsive. We have to, perhaps, be more responsive than customers expect.

And this is manifestly more true online when people complain on social media, on discussion boards, and forums, and then review sites where customers expect and anticipate that businesses like ours will not only hear them but will respond quickly.

We've found that 40 percent of social media complainers who expect a response expect that response within one hour. Yet, the average social media response from businesses, if they respond at all, comes in five hours.

They want it in an hour. We give it to them in five. That is a fundamental problem.

That is not the way to exceed customer expectations and deliver great customer experience. And, in fact, more than half of all customer complaints in social media are never answered in any way, shape, or form. People just complain to the wind, and they are met with silence.

And unfortunately, a lack of response is a response—and it says, "I don't care about you very much."

But when you do respond, when you do take the time to respond, you can blow those customers' minds and win their hearts.

Discover Card as a Model of Responsiveness

About 18 months ago, Discover Card had set out on a path to become the most responsive financial services company in social media and beyond. They tried to answer every customer inquiry and every customer complaint within 20 minutes regardless of channel.

customer experience

Last year, along came a consumer named Rob Speciale, who returned from vacation to find three credit card offers from Discover, much to his chagrin. Rob turned to Twitter to voice his displeasure:

"Haven't checked my email in a few days, and there are three offers for the Discover Card. Persistence or lack of coordination?"

Now, in many cases, you would just ignore that. But Discover didn't believe that was the way to do it. They found his tweet, they responded within nine minutes, and they said:

"@Rob Speciale, we must be excited to have you apply.DM with your full name and full address if you would like the mailings to stop. Amy."

Four more minutes go by. Rob tweets back and says:

"@Discover, kudos for the prompt response time. All right. I'll bite mostly because of your response, Amy. #greatservice."

"#great service."

Here is somebody who went to Twitter only to complain and ended up taking out a credit card application only because Discover exceeded his expectations. They delivered that great customer experience.

Haters are not Your Problem

Haters—the people that complain—are not your problem.

Ignoring them is. The people who complain about your business, the people who hate you in public, are, in fact, the most valuable customers, not the least valuable, because haters are the canary in the coal mine. They are the early warning detection system for your business. They are the petri dish for content marketing as well.

Ninety-five percent of unhappy customers never, ever take the time to complain in a form or a fashion that the business can see. They might tell their friends they don't like you, but they never do it in a way that you can find.

What that really means is, the haters who are taking their time to tell you what's wrong are really the unelected representatives of a larger, more dangerous group of customers, the "meh" in the middle, the people who are unhappy but never tell you about it.

And you can take these haters and turn them into a volunteer marketing and customer experience army.

customer experience

Le Pain Quotidien does this particularly well. They have a chain of 220 cafes based in Brussels, Belgium and many locations in the United States, primarily in the Northeast. And they occasionally get negative feedback on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, Facebook, etc.

Their director of customer experience, Aaron Pepper, always answers everybody back in public and says, "We're really sorry, and we're going to take this to the store and make sure we improve it"—all the things that you should do.

But then, she follows up with them in private and says, in many cases, "You know, you have a gift for this. You are a particularly perceptive customer. You see things that other customers simply do not see."

"What I'd like to do, with your permission, is send you two gift cards a month. And with those gift cards, I'd like you to visit a different Le Pain Quotidien location. Upon the completion of your visit, please click this link and fill out this detailed survey of your experiences because you see things that other people don't see."

"Your perceptions are going to make us a better company. We want to partner with you to do just that."

She now has over 100 of these people who are volunteer secret shoppers providing unbelievable feedback to the brand. Total cost of this program: gift cards. She has successfully turned hate into help.

Yes, customer feedback is the petri dish of smart marketing. You want to be better at customer experience? Better at content marketing? Better to your customers?

Haters will tell you how to do that. They will give you the road map. You just have to listen and respond.

Eighty percent of companies say that they deliver exceptional customer service. Only eight percent of their customers agree. Houston, we have a problem. But we can fix it.

Your competitors can and will steal everything from you. They will steal everything from you. They'll steal your products. They'll steal your marketing. They'll steal your copy. They'll steal your best employees. They will take everything that you do well.

But the one thing your competitors can never steal, the one thing they can never take from you is if you genuinely out-care your competition. That's the recipe for success.


To hear the rest of Jay's presentation, and those of Ann Handley, Mark Schaefer, and Joe Staples, check out the full webinar on demand.

About the Author

Jay Baer

Jay Baer is a renowned business strategist, inspirational keynote speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of five books who travels the world helping businesspeople gain and keep more customers. Jay has advised with more than 700 companies since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, Allstate, and 32 of the FORTUNE 500.

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