The crucial periods within the customer journey when consumers want to hear from brands are known as moments that matter. Being able to identify those moments is an essential undertaking for the success of any startup. Brands that anticipate and recognize when those moments occur and plan how to respond stand to benefit the most in terms of customer loyalty, referrals, and bottom-line success.
Even among established companies, a constant focus is essential to identify moments that matter. Different moments matter to each customer, and they may vary and change throughout a customer’s relationship with a brand. Data, technology, and the human touch are fundamental components of a continuing effort to provide the best possible customer experiences.
For startups, which are newly established businesses, and hypergrowth companies, which are established businesses growing at an unusual pace, experts say it is crucial to identify those moments that matter from the beginning. New and hypergrowth companies have many priorities to juggle. To some businesses, focusing on moments that matter may just seem like another task to add to their ever-expanding “to do” list. But they are learning how to identify and take advantage of these critical moments that can set younger companies up for long-term success.
1. Get to the root of the matter
The underlying element in identifying—and taking advantage of—moments that matter, experts say, is understanding and viewing them from the prism of the consumer. Gathering customer feedback should be a priority, says Tim Parkin, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Parkin Consulting. He says this activity should be done through data and analytics, but also the old-fashioned way: by surveying customers for what they think.
“Consumers love to tell you what matters to them, all you have to do is ask,” says Parkin, an advisor to 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.”
He says that asking open-ended questions can result in information that is difficult to understand, so the best insights typically come from real-time interviews with an opportunity to ask follow-up questions. This allows you to dig deeper and gain clarity on consumer responses.
Gathering feedback in real-time has been a critical part of the business strategy at oMelhorTrato.com, a hypergrowth company based in Argentina that 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 allows users to compare various financial products, from credit cards to investment funds and even car insurance. The company was founded in 2010 and has since grown to 134 employees. It now has users in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia.
According to Cristian Rennella, Vice President of Customer Experience, a driving force of its success has been holding in-person meetings with site users. The company hosts a dinner for three of its customers once a week. Attendees are invited and 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 brainstorming that occurs at the dinners benefits the company, Rennella says. Ideas born out of these meetings, including ways to make the product more user-friendly, lay the foundations for the following months of work at the company. Since hosting the dinners, the feedback has spurred oMelhorTrato.com to develop improvements that helped it 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
Arranging in-person meetings with customers may not be feasible for many brands. But data—when used wisely—can give companies clear indications about moments that matter in 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 an excellent window into the consumer mindset, Naqshbandi says. Data from repeat customers and 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 tools are designed to process data from all customer channels—phone calls, emails, social media, and more. “You can even utilize marketing automation to track virtually every activity across your website and marketing output.”
It is a win-win for both consumers and brands alike to understand the consumer’s habits and motivations. Studies also show that consumers are willing to share their data with businesses to provide a better customer experience.
According to the 2018 Personalization Pulse Check, a study surveyed 8,000 consumers worldwide, 83 percent of consumers will share their data with brands if they feel it will give them a more personalized experience. Additionally, 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 gathering insights from habits and patterns, it’s essential to take a comprehensive look at the 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 keeps a close eye on various subsets of its customer base to see what moments matter and 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
Parkin says that brands trying to get a complete picture of how consumers think and feel should not overlook the importance of social media. Social media listening tools that allow companies to take in every comment, post, and video about their brand—and their competitors—can be precious.
“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.”
Penetrating the “inner circles” where a brands’ ideal customers congregate, such as Facebook groups or forums, allows companies to understand better their customers’ perceptions, values, and desires. And while technology can provide great insights into consumer behavior, brands should also tap into their human resources, specifically their customer support workforce.
“Customer support representatives are a goldmine of information about what triggers positive and negative responses from customers,” he says.
Companies should examine cases of customers who have experienced a change in their relationship with a brand 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.
Parkin suggests that customer experience employees should meet with customer support workers on at least a quarterly basis to probe and understand. Parkin also recommended a way to get first-hand customer insights is for company employees to shop their brand or employ mystery shoppers.
“Shop your competitors first to create a baseline of expectations and compare with your experience [shopping with your brand],” Parkin says. “This is the fastest and easiest way to put yourself in the shoes of potential customers and get a real sense of their true experience as well as the lackluster moments in your customer journey.”