Pinpointing moments that matter—those crucial times within the customer journey when consumers want or need to hear from brands—is an important undertaking. The benefits are clear: Brands that anticipate and recognize when those moments happen, and know how best to act in those times, stand to reap huge benefits in terms of customer loyalty, referrals, and bottom-line success.
Even among well-established companies, a continual focus is necessary to identify moments that matter. Different moments matter to different customers, and those meaningful moments may shift throughout a customer’s relationship with a brand, depending on various factors. Data, technology, and the human touch are fundamental parts of an ongoing effort to ensure optimal customer experiences.
For startups, which are newly formed businesses, and hypergrowth companies, which are growing unusually quickly, it is particularly important to home in on moments that matter from the outset, experts say. Young companies and those that are expanding rapidly, have many priorities to juggle and, to some, focusing on moments that matter may seem like one more task to add to an ever-growing “to do” list. But learning early on how to recognize and capitalize on these crucial moments can set newer companies up for long-term success.
1. Get to the heart of the matter
The underlying component in recognizing—and benefitting from—moments that matter, experts say, is understanding the consumers’ viewpoint. Gathering customer feedback should be a priority, says Tim Parkin, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Parkin Consulting. This should be done through data and analytics, he says, but also the old-fashioned way: by asking customers what they think.
“Consumers love to tell you what matters to them, all you have to do is ask,” says Parkin, who advises national brands and fast-growing startups on customer acquisition and retention. “I’m constantly surprised at the volume and depth of the insights we receive from consumer surveys and customer interviews. If you’re not running surveys or interviews at least twice a year, then you’re missing out on crucial insights to identify and capitalize on what matters most to your audience.”
Asking open-ended questions can result in feedback that is difficult to interpret, he warns, so the best insights typically come from real-time interviews where follow-up questions can be asked to dig deeper and gain clarification on consumers’ responses.
Getting real-time feedback from customers has been an integral part of the business strategy at oMelhorTrato.com, an Argentina-based hypergrowth company, which has grown to more than 21 million users in nine years since it was founded and continues to expand. The business has an online tool that lets users compare financial products, such as credit cards, investment funds, and car insurance. Founded in 2010, the company has grown to 134 employees and more than 21 million users across Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia, according to company leaders.
A driving force of its success, says Vice President of Customer Experience Cristian Rennella, has been holding in-person meetings with site users. Once a week, the company hosts a dinner for three of its customers. Those invited to attend are chosen from the 20 percent of customers who use the site the most.
“In this unique meeting space, we share with them how our company was born, why we do what we do, and what the long-term mission is,” he says. “Then each client tells their experience with our tool and, finally, their recommendations. It is impossible to achieve this level of detail and depth with a survey by email or telephone. That is why this personal meeting is so important for a hypergrowth startup. It generates a space and time for the client to reflect and share their needs.”
The company benefits from the brainstorming that occurs at the dinners, Rennella says. Ideas generated at the meetings, including ways to make the product more user friendly, lay the groundwork for the following months of work at the company. Since it began hosting the dinners, feedback gathered there has spurred oMelhorTrato.com to develop improvements that helped the company grow 41 percent.
“We tried six different ways to manage customer feedback, but only one generated excellent results: creating a unique meeting space,” Rennella says.
2. Be (customer) data savvy
For many brands, arranging in-person meetings with customers isn’t feasible. But data—when collected, analyzed, shared, and used well—can give companies clear signals about what moments matter during their customers’ journeys. “Data is everything, and if you accrue enough information to determine exactly when customers will be most in need, you can capitalize on that opportune moment,” says Kashif Naqshbandi, chief marketing officer at Frank Recruitment Group, a global niche technology recruiting company based in the U.K.
Repeat business offers a particularly good window into the consumer mindset, Naqshbandi says. Data from repeat customers, as well as the rest of a customer base, can show how long the average buying cycle is and at what points consumers will be most receptive to brands’ sales and marketing efforts, he adds. “Identify buying signals and record all relevant interactions and sentiments that can help build a comprehensive profile of a customer,” he says, noting many modern customer relationship management systems are designed to process data from all customer touchpoints—phone calls, emails, social media, and more. “You can even utilize marketing automation to track virtually every activity across your website and marketing output.”
Truly understanding customers’ habits and motivations is a win-win for customers and brands alike, and studies show consumers are willing to share data with businesses if it will provide a better experience.
Most consumers (83 percent) will share data with brands if they feel doing so will give them a more personalized experience, according to the 2018 Personalization Pulse Check, a study that surveyed 8,000 consumers worldwide. Meanwhile, 91 percent said they are more likely to shop with brands that recognize them, remember them, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.
“Building strong customer profiles ensures you waste no time and effort on marketing to a cold lead. It also makes for a better customer experience, as they’ll only be approached at a suitable and relevant time for them, which reduces unnecessary pain points,” says Naqshbandi. “Focus on using customer insights and data to streamline your marketing activity; quality over quantity. Invest more energy into identifying the opportune time to strike, rather than throwing a lot of shots and seeing if any of them land.”
When culling insights from habits and patterns, it’s important to look at a broad spectrum of customers—from prospective ones to those highly engaged with a brand—according to Adam Tishman, CEO and co-founder of Helix, a direct-to-consumer startup that sells mattresses, pillows, and bedding.
“Understanding the purchase funnel for your product is paramount to continuing to fuel efficient growth for any startup, and specifically identifying the key moments when customers are primed to engage with your brand,” he says.
His startup pays close attention to various subsets of its customer base to see what moments matter to whom, he says.
“On the prospective customer side, it’s all about tracking and understanding key life moments that predicate mattress purchases, such as moving. We do this through look-alike modeling in our paid social channels as well as direct mail,” Tishman says. “On the lead customer side, we can get a lot more granular by tracking on-site behavior, which lets us understand the difference between leads that are just browsing versus leads that are ready to pull the trigger.”
3. Embrace social listening
Brands trying to get a comprehensive picture of how customers think and feel shouldn’t overlook the importance of social media, Parkin says. Social media listening tools that allow companies to absorb every comment, post, and video about their brand—and competitors—can be extremely valuable.
“If you really want to know what drives behavior, listen to what consumers in your industry are saying on social media,” Parkin says. “These communications are filled with insights and stories that explain how consumers think and what drives them to action. Collecting and analyzing this information will reveal the key segments of consumers, as well as their mindsets and behavioral triggers.”
Infiltrating the “inner communities” where brands’ ideal customers belong, such as private Facebook groups or forums, lets companies better understand customers’ perceptions, values, and desires. But while technology can provide great insights into consumer behavior, he adds, brands also should tap into their human resources, namely their customer support workers.
“Customer support representatives are a goldmine of information about what triggers positive and negative responses from customers,” he says.
In particular, companies should examine cases of customers who have experienced a turning point in their relationship with a company to find out exactly what happened and why. “These are prime case studies for the moments that matter most in the customer experience. In addition, many customers share unsolicited positive feedback and praise, which can also provide signposts to the key moments in the customer journey,” Parkin says.
Customer experience employees should debrief with customer support workers on at least a quarterly basis, Parkin advises. Another way to get first-hand customer insights, he adds, is for company employees to shop their own brand or employ mystery shoppers.
“Shop your competitors first to create a baseline of expectations and compare with your experience [shopping with your own brand],” Parkin says. “This is the fastest and easiest way to put yourself in the shoes of potential customers and get a real sense for their true experience as well as the lackluster moments in your customer journey.”
In an increasingly competitive and global marketplace, it is becoming more important for companies of all ages and sizes to identify and act on moments that matter. Technology, data, and human resources all have roles to play. For startups and hypergrowth businesses, which are busy establishing and growing a loyal customer base in their early years, the undertaking may seem particularly daunting—but the payoff can be incredibly beneficial, setting the foundation for a long trajectory ahead.