The customer is always right. Especially when they are surrounded by their 1052 Facebook friends. Slip up and your brand could be dragged through the dirt. The cure? Customer education.
Hands up who remembers our world before the Internet! A world where finding out your new car was less than satisfactory meant repeated phone calls to the dealership or registered letters to the manufacturer who didn’t care because their business was doing well and an individual disgruntled customer was unlikely to rock that boat—regardless of how many individual disgruntled customers there were. If you were unhappy with a company, you could only spread the word about as far as your garden fence.
Even just ten years ago, this was a standard customer-business relationship—despite the arrival of the Internet and registered letters being replaced by email set with the highest possible importance. But ultimately, you relied solely on one-to-one communication, begging to have your complaint pushed up the list and passed to the manager.
Luckily for us, things are a little different in 2018. Even if your super-duper electric hover car arrives twenty minutes late, you’re just a click away from putting your mouth to your favorite megaphone and telling the world about it via social media. Not saying you would, but you could. And so could your customers.
Finally the Customer Has a Voice
Businesses need to be acutely aware of this. A casual tweet about how poorly your business dealt with a complaint, how unsatisfactory your service was, or how a delivery was incorrect or late can have huge implications on just how much business will be coming your way. Just as word of mouth is the most powerful type of marketing, deleterious commentary is the best way to get your reputation trashed, leaving you with a huge clean-up task.
Even if it’s not your fault! There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a customer’s cleverly worded Facebook post about how you sold them a faulty printer go viral with little angry faces when in fact they didn’t set it up right. Joining in the conversation to defend yourself can add fuel to the fire. So what can you do to stop the spread of detrimental or spurious content and ensure more thumbs up and smilies?
Aside from working fervently to ensure your products and customer service is up to scratch, you can make sure your customer has the information they need to set up and use your products. Such customer education can turn a disgruntled customer into a grateful one. You can offer online information, videos, interactive help sheets, or chatbots. Educating your customer helps you give context to your products and helps your customers gain perspective on how they feel about them.
Getting the Balance Right
Remember, though, quality over quantity. Focus your education efforts on delivering easy-to-follow quality education tools—no one wants to sign up to a six-week training course just to understand how the top bit attaches to the bottom. Make sure what you provide is researched and answers customers’ specific questions and is as simple and easily accessible as possible. Speak on their terms and at their level of knowledge without patronizing them. And, if possible, keep it interesting! All content is a reflection of your business and is an opportunity to engage and enlist. So don’t see your educational tools as an aftersales bonus, rather as a way to attract new customers while delighting existing ones.
Customer Experience Includes Education
It goes without saying that you need an intuitive-to-navigate website rich with informative and engaging content. Fill your FAQ page with clear relevant answers and links to further information or how-to videos with tips and tricks to help them learn about all the advanced features you know they’d love you for if they only knew they existed.
Talk directly to them. Understand your customers’ and prospects’ needs, motivations, and concerns. What is the real reason they are interested in your product? How can your product solve their problems? Once you understand your customer on this level, you’ll be in a much better position to educate them effectively.
The shorter their journey to success with your products, the better they will rate their experience of your brand.
Successful Education Strategies
Before you even start on creating your education material, you’ll need an overall concept for the entire package—just like you would when planning a product or feature. Look at your product through your customers’ eyes and ensure your educational tools cover everything they could possibly need… without going into unnecessary detail.
And remember these key concepts:
- Teach them how to use your products properly and in a way that supports their actual needs.
- Keep materials short, light, and to the point. Bitesized is best.
- Respond directly to customers’ actual issues by offering simple and clear solutions.
- Show your customer what real-life value your product brings to them.
Though this last one admittedly crosses over from education into marketing, it’s important to remember that this is not about advertising. It’s all about assisting your customer in getting the most out of your products. Sure, the fact that your automated vacuum cleaner will not only save them hours of cleaning per month but also make them the envy of all their friends will most likely impress them, but it’s only part of the point. Make sure you keep the tone of your tools educational and put emotional persuasion to one side.
Apple knows what it’s doing when adding value by educating customers. Over the years, the giant technology company has successfully launched a whole range of new products onto the market and has a thriving and loyal customer base ranging from geeky millennials to “How do you turn it on?” technophobes. On top of their standard product information, Apple also offers workshops, videos, and programs that help customers get the most out of their new technology by teaching them about the various features, functions, and capabilities. A customer can get basic “just show me how to set it up” training to much more involved and specific topics like learning how to program connected devices!
Whatever field you’re in, your customer is online and has discovered their voice. You won’t be able to stop all negative comment on your business or product—no matter how slick your service or awesome your product—but you can do your best to avoid public relations wildfires by dousing the area before it even starts. Education of your customers puts your product into context and empowers your customer to enjoy it from the moment they open the box. Happy customers are online too. And they can do wonders for your reputation.
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