Preferences where customers want to interact, evaluate or buy your product certainly can be wide ranging. And ever changing. An omnichannel customer experience strategy can help to truly understand customer preferences.
That of course is an ever-evolving strategy. Where customers want to interact with us changes and evolves. For example, I’ve been eating gummy bears my whole life. I used to buy them in retail locations growing up in Germany. Today, I have them set as a Save and Subscribe item on Amazon and a new batch arrives every few months. I love it. I don’t even have to leave my house.
Customer preferences – like mine – change and with all these options comes competition. If we don’t understand our omnichannel customer experience and drive a useful strategy around it a competitor or emerging player might.
What’s an omnichannel customer experience anyway?
At the most basic level, it’s about understanding where our customers engage and connect with our products and services. The nuances of channels and touchpoints is important to remember as you are building and evolving the strategy. Since customer preferences change it’s also important to keep a pulse on customer feedback and what changes it signals.
Omnichannel customer experience at Ring
We’ve all heard of Ring, the consumer security camera. Ring has seen huge growth in recent years, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that a deep understanding of consumer needs is at the heart of that story. Mimi Swain, Ring’s CRO, sits right at the center of marketing, sales, and customer teams. Voxpopme Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel chatted with Mimi at the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit.
“In the early days we were focused on the broader distribution strategy and took every opportunity to show up in our relevant channels,” Mimi said. “And that shaped our omnichannel approach across the verticals. And today, we are easily in 10,000-plus retail locations.”
In addition, to retail, Ring sells direct on Ring.com, Amazon and through installation services that will set up the cameras for consumers.
It’s really a fantastic example of knowing your customers and reaching and catering to different customer preferences. I’m not very handy around the house honestly but did install my own Ring cameras. I simply ordered them on Amazon and hopped on a ladder to set them up. But having do-it-yourself options and the option to hire a handyperson are examples of having a great omnichannel customer experience strategy in place.
“And we’ve done a ton of work in broadcast channels like HSN and QVC and I think that medium has been so great to demonstrate our product,” Mimi said. “We do this to give our customers, which we call neighbors, choice and selection where they buy.”
How to manage the multitude of channels
Things can certainly get pretty complex when using an omnichannel distribution model, Mimi said.
“You have to straddle this fine line of running your business holistically but also ensuring that each partner, each retailer can have their unique levers,” she said.
That also includes understanding how Ring can offer unique value to different partners.
Keep on top of changes and new trends constantly. Especially when the COVID-19 pandemic took over, we saw a lot of changes in shopping behavior.
“We are always looking to evolve our approach,” said Mimi. “I’ve really loved being part of this evolution of retailers getting products to customers differently.”
Examples include curbside pickup and different delivery platforms – like Instacart. Ring partnered with Instacart through Best Buy to deliver Ring cameras.
“I love that. That’s so meeting customer needs,” Jenn added. “I’ve been thinking of Instacart as a grocery delivery service. I use it to get my groceries and don’t go to the store anymore. That’s a new behavior for me.”
It all comes back to understanding your customers, knowing what is going on in their lives that your product relates to and making it a seamless experience.
For Ring that means, from the shopping experience, to installation to after-care.
“If they have issues we take care of them,” Mimi said.
How customers are using the product
Ring has an advantage here as the cameras literally records things in front of them. Some customer
stories recordings are about security, some are weird and some are just humanly interesting. Many clips are submitted by customers and highlighted on the Ring social channels. Media picks up some stories as well.
“They trust us with these moments and that’s a real honor,” Mimi said. “It’s really unique for a company to see its product in action and how it’s making an impact.”
How Ring listens to customers
Mimi’s team reads reviews every day.
“The good ones, the bad ones – what people are saying and how they are experiencing things,” she said. “We also keep a close pulse on what’s coming in through social media and customer success channels. And we look if we can identify an insight. Sometimes there are things we learn that we apply to a future launch.”
For example, the doorbell camera came on its own bracket at first. Now, it uses the existing bracket, Mimi said.
“So you can just take off the old one and put on the new one,” she said. “There are those little things we think about. How do we remove friction and delight our neighbors?”
Mimi’s team also visits stores when possible to get feedback that way.
“When Black Friday was an in-person thing we would be in stores working at the Best Buys and Costcos,” she said. “There’s this push to staying really connected to what’s happening on the ground. That’s how we stay customer obsessed.”
Behavioral economics author Melina Palmer said on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” that it is indeed important to watch what consumers are doing. But then ask them why they think they just did that.
Responding to customers
Responsiveness is hard for some brands, but Ring responds in moments to customers with questions on social media. For example, when I asked about solar panels.
Or when it’s about the lighter side of use.
The CEO and founder’s email address is also listed on every box as an open invitation for customers to send in feedback, Mimi said.
“That’s how in tune he is with that he wants to hear from customers,” she said. “The emails range from super positive of what they love, things that happened at their home and also very vocal about things they feel disappointed by. It’s a great tool to get a good pulse on what’s happening and how we can do better.”
Jenn adds that Ring uses all these different ways to get customer feedback, which is also a good part of an omnichannel customer experience strategy. Connect with customers where they want to connect with you!
“There’s a gap of people willing to participate in research or filling out an NPS survey and all the rest of the customers that don’t give their feedback,” Jenn added. “So being there in store, reading the reviews just fills that gap of the people that wouldn’t take a particular type of survey.”
Mimi added that there is value in validating what was learned through traditional research methods. And there are some innovative strategy ideas that traditional focus groups wouldn’t capture.
“Think about the Echo devices,” Mimi said. “If you had asked a customer six or seven years ago ‘would you want a thing that looks like a Pringles can that talks to you – would you want that in your kitchen?’ Most would be like ‘no’.”
Some innovations are so new to the world that consumers might not realize they are ready for it.
“It’s that balance of asking the right questions and understanding the need, understanding the behavior and innovating for that,” Jenn added. “That doesn’t mean don’t do the research. It means to go deeper.”
Mimi added that customers will reward companies with business when the experience gets better for them.
David Cancel, CEO of Drift, said during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit that his company looks at how much time everyone is spending with customers.
“We measure that on a yearly basis, weekly, monthly and daily,” he said. “Want people to be close to the customer because that’s when you hear the pain and when the truth comes out.”
“We are all in business and businesses exist to serve the customer,” David said. “You need to hear the words that they are using. Not the words that you are using, but the words they are using. The words they are using to describe their problem. Not your problem. Their problem.”
Social media groups
Jean-Michel Hoffman, vice president of brand marketing at SoFi, said during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit, that the company started with face-to-face events across the country. The concept of connecting conversationally with customers, which SoFi calls members, was then translated into a Facebook Group, which now has 55,000 members. Ten thousand of those are active.
“It’s exclusive to our members,” he said. “They have to be a member to join it. And they are all talking about the key topics around their finances. We moderate that community and observe that community. And we prompt questions to them.”
He added he checks it daily to get a pulse on what members are talking about.
“There’s this feeling to be part of the community,” he said.
It can be hard to stay focused and customer obsessed when teams move fast through the multitude of channels.
“Teams can get stuck in the idea that we just need to get this done,” she said. “Teams at Ring are very collaborative the way we work together. We give team members the ownership to do what’s best for customers.”
Prioritization also plays a role here. With so much customer feedback coming in, it is important to figure out how to prioritize follow-up and updates to the customer experience.
“We certainly look for pattern matching,” Mimi said. “Sometimes there are things mentioned that are that light bulb moment. Yes, that completely makes sense.”
Certainly, not everything can be prioritized to the top of the list but the Ring team tries to focus on the tasks that have the biggest impact on customer experience.
“The prioritization question is a hard one,” added Jenn. “We want to do everything, but can’t do everything. We measure everything on an effort-impact scale. There are a hundred things could do, but really can only do five well.”
“I always ask the team if it’s something that can move the needle,” Mimi added. “And what are we trying to learn from it?”