What’s the secret behind the success of today’s best young consumer-facing brands? Authenticity and personalized experience curation.
Realistically, the customer isn’t always right, but without servicing them in a way that resonates, businesses won’t thrive. Seems logical, doesn’t it? Apparently not. Almost daily one could find headlines about the disconnect between legacy brands and their consumer base, whether it’s ethical discrepancies (Hey Facebook!) or basic customer service needs (à la United Airlines). While it’s difficult to quantify how much budget is allocated on average to bettering customer service across industries, clearly it’s not a top priority for many companies. If nothing else, 2018 taught us that customer service is integral to attracting and retaining today’s more discerning and fickle consumers, and that without a personalized approach your business will take both a financial and public relations hit.
So how should startups approach authentic, personalized customer service for next-gen audiences? Let’s dive in!
Employ a service first, sales second strategy. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard of the slew of direct-to-consumer (DTC) startups disrupting the beauty, consumer, health, fashion and food industries. In 2017, DTC sales increased by 34% and represented 13% of all e-Commerce sales — driven by companies such as Glossier, HIMS, Candid and Away that at their core optimize for data-driven customer experiences. These companies have discovered and capitalized on Gen Z and Millennials’ preference towards customer experiences that transcend mere transactions. New brands need to first understand their customer and their preferences. It can be as simple as posing questions on Instagram or sharing the decision-making process so that consumers believe that decisions are inspired by them and not the company’s bottom line — whether that may be accurate or not.
Leverage the power of data. The use of consumer data has been a hot topic since Facebook’s election scandal — and rightfully so. While it is the most effective way to understand and engage with your customers, it’s important to be transparent about the use of their data. Once you’ve done that, you can develop data-first priorities to help rethink your brand and approach to consumers. It’s important for brands to be able to deliver personalized experiences using data, not only to drive sales, but also because 75% of consumers prefer it.
A recent study showed that 64% of shoppers felt that retailers don’t really know them. Leveraging ethically gathered data lends retailers the opportunity to adapt to the convenient and personalized approach that successful DTC brands have taken. But of course, no matter how much data you’ve amassed, it alone won’t provide a complete picture of the customer’s preferences. To find success with customer service, brands must integrate transactional data they get from all their channels and, most importantly, prioritize authentic engagement with customers so they may understand the “why” behind customer behavior.
Lastly, own your sh*t! No one likes thoughtless apologies or people that dodge the truth — so why would brands assume that consumers have a higher tolerance? Nothing is worse than when a brand tries to cover up snafus with easily identifiable PR crap, which is why it’s important for brands to just own it!
Consumer forgiveness can actually happen quite quickly, as long as they believe a company is taking responsibility for their issues. Compose a clear, direct apology, assume full responsibility and, most importantly, follow up with customers on how it’ll do everything to make sure it will never happen again. Never let things fester, or fool yourself into believing the issue will go away. That’s rarely the case, and really only serves to amplify the issue when things come to light.
For example, in 2018 two young black men were arrested for sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks. They didn’t do anything outside of breathing in that addicting Starbucks-y air, yet the store’s manager thought it was appropriate to have them removed for doing nothing. With the social climate last year calling out people for calling the police on black people for essentially existing, patrons and normal people did not take it too well. Fast forward a week, Starbucks corporate office announced a countrywide four-hour training session. Now did it work? Who knows. But the effort was genuine, and we all revoked our cancellation of the coffee giant.
The secret to success with next generation consumers is really pretty simple: be authentic, service oriented, use data to engage with personalized experiences and never hide from your screw ups. It’s really pretty simple, right?
Christina Beavis is the Chief Operating Officer of Vox Populi Registry and has been a member of Momentous Global since 2009. Formerly with Momentous, Beavis has spent time in the domain space since 2009. She also served as a consultant to McLean International for eight years. At Vox Populi, Beavis is responsible for day-to-day leadership and general management of the company. In this role, she has helped establish Vox Populi as a global, award-winning Cloud Strategy and Solutions Provider. Under her management, Vox Populi has consistently achieved year-over-year revenue, profitability, client and associate growth.