Place yourself in the mindset of your consumer. Consider their current needs and wants and adjust your customer experience and messaging accordingly.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meagen Johnson.
Meagen Johnson is the VP of Marketing, leading Jane’s marketing, advertising, and communication strategy. An experienced executive with over 20 years of brand, marketing, and e-commerce experience, Meagen is a passionate marketer who operates at the nexus of business, brand, and consumer insights. She is a strategic leader with demonstrated success in developing and leading teams to deliver consumer experiences that grow market share and build customer loyalty.
Prior to joining Jane, Meagen held a variety of leadership roles, including General Manager at KSL Classifieds, the leading media owned digital marketplace in Utah, where she led the end-to-end consumer and seller experiences, including developing new business models, growing brand affinity, and managing business operations. She has a Bachelors in Marketing and an MBA from the University of Utah. When she is not doing a triathlon or listening to true crime podcasts, she loves to spend time with her family, travel, and eat sushi.
Thank you so much for joining us Meagen! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My love of marketing started in a high school business class when one of my favorite teachers assigned us to create a fake marketing plan for a real business. She had the marketing director of that company come to our class and judge. They picked my project and I landed an internship from that company. I loved creating the plan and never looked back. I came up through my career in various marketing roles in advertising agencies, media, and marketplaces. I started old school with direct mail and print and loved the data you get with digital that allows you to reach consumers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I didn’t proofread a phone number on a direct mail piece. We drove thousands of phone calls to a customer’s house instead of to our call center. I learned two significant lessons that day: taking accountability for your mistakes and the importance of good customer service.
When I was notified of the issue, the customer called in complaining (I couldn’t blame them). I immediately drove to their house. We worked with the phone company to temporarily reroute their phone number to our call center for one week, and we gave them a temporary phone number and cell phone and free services for a year. They were initially upset and understood that mistakes happened, but said by showing up at their house and taking such quick action, they were appreciative, and we had a customer for life.
When I got back to the office, I walked into my boss’s office to take accountability for the mistake and tell him what had happened. He had already heard and was pleased with my prompt action and response. How I handled that mistake was a contributing factor in a future promotion I received with that company.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am so grateful for the many mentors I have had throughout my career. The one person I am incredibly thankful for is my cousin Lance. When I came home excited about that first high school marketing presentation, he encouraged me to pursue it and opened my eyes to all the career possibilities. He pushed me to be better, work harder, learn as much as I could. He was my sounding board and helped me unleash my creative side. Early in my career, I called him upset over some feedback I received from a manager that I thought was harsh, he told me to suck it up, and it was probably right — review the feedback and decide how to use that feedback to improve. He never cut me any slack. His favorite quote was the title of a book by Robert H. Schuller’s — “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!”
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
The pandemic has made it harder than ever to predict what consumers want and need accurately. There is a great deal of uncertainty and fear, and consumers seek brands that make them feel safe and supported. As a brand marketer, it’s essential to place yourself in the consumer mindset in terms of messaging and products. What problems are you trying to solve for your consumer? And then be human! Customers are looking to recover some sense of confidence that the future is something they should invest in, and choose to invest with you
Take extraordinarily good care of your customers. Use every customer service opportunity to learn more about your customer, including what they like and don’t like. By doing this, you’re providing a level of customer service that goes beyond the standard, leading to increased brand loyalty and brand awareness through word of mouth. The companies that support their customers in this way are going to be the most successful.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
Companies don’t make this a priority because they are too focused on increasing sales in the short term and not realizing the long term impact of bad customer experience. One bad experience can be shared with the masses by one tweet, post, or review. Especially now, with our world in a pandemic, a company’s most pressing question should be, “How do I support my customers right now in a meaningful, human, and relevant way?”
What customers care about is changing. Companies with the best price, coolest product or most memorable marketing campaign don’t have the advantage compared with those that communicate with care, honesty, and empathy, and build trust as a result. In times of crisis, consumers want to be seen and understood, and now more than ever, they are extremely sensitive to tone and motive.
Your company’s relationship with customers is built over time, nourished by their experiences of online and physical touchpoints in their journey and confirmed through repeated interactions. The experiences your customer has today with your company will outlast the pandemic and define the loyalty they have to your brand and your products. If you can earn customers’ trust, you’ll build a connection today and in the future.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
When consumers choose between competing products or services, customer service is a key driver in their final decision. Customer service can be a company’s most powerful marketing weapon against the competition because today’s empowered customer knows what an exceptional customer experience feels like. When they don’t receive from you, they’ll go to your competitor.
Additionally, COVID-19 has been a significant external pressure that has forced companies to improve their overall customer experience as consumers’ needs have dramatically shifted over the past few months. Consumers are navigating many friction points of a “new normal” and need a human touch from companies even more. When you demonstrate to your customers you are serving them ahead of seeking profits — that you understand that this is not the time for business as usual — they will be far more forgiving of imperfect execution, operational glitches, and or other issues.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Jane is a marketplace, so when a customer makes a purchase, the merchandise is shipped directly from the seller. We had a customer who ordered shoes for a family event. The shipment was delayed and the boots arrived the day before the event and didn’t fit, and she loved the boots, just the wrong size. With COVID, local stores weren’t an option and she felt she was without new shoes. The customer was upset and frustrated. Due to her urgent situation, our customer service representative saw the seller’s warehouse was close to her location and helped facilitate communication to have her swap the boots the morning before the event. The customer was elated and so grateful.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Because the customer had an amazing experience with both Jane and the seller, she shared the photo of her wearing the shoes, then she gave us great reviews on Google and Facebook. She regularly promotes the merchandise she buys from us on her social media as her favorite place to shop!
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience.
- Be more human. Place yourself in the mindset of your consumer. Consider their current needs and wants and adjust your customer experience and messaging accordingly. For instance, during COVID-19, consumers have needed essential items such as face masks and cleaning supplies. In response to this demand, sellers on Jane shifted their focus and began to produce these items. As masks have become the new normal, Jane is helping consumers stay fashionable with their mask by offering additional accessories, colors & styles. Also, consumers have experienced financial constraints during COVID. Review and adapt your policies to ease consumers’ stress of receiving a refund or exchanging a product.
- Stay current on trends and happenings in your industry. With more consumers working from home because of COVID, there has been an increase in loungewear with consumers joining zoom meetings in their PJs, giving a whole new meaning to the casual dress code. Knowing this, Jane shifted our merchandise to focus more on loungewear, resulting in a +210% increase in sales for loungewear and sleepwear.
- One size does not fit all. Personalization throughout your customer’s journey with your brand goes a long way. By doing so, you’re able to enhance the customer experience, which will reflect better on your brand overall. To accomplish this, a brand should curate products to consumers that are unique to them, such as a personalized email with products that they would like based on their recent purchases or browsing history. This will provide them with a more customized journey.
- Customers are also your partners. During COVID, many brands pulled back on their marketing budgets, resulting in a cut towards affiliate marketing. Rather than following the crowd, Jane understood many of their affiliates were parents whose income might be impacted during this pandemic and instead offered bonus programs to incentivize existing and new affiliates. As a result, Jane’s affiliates have increased our revenue by 165.8%, and they drove over 273% new users to our website.
- Customers are your marketing department. How can you help them do their work? Focus on creating products, services, stories, and experiences that help customers talk about your brand because that builds confidence. If your customers are confident in your brand and their experience of your brand, there will be an increased level of brand loyalty and brand awareness through their word of mouth. User-generated content like reviews and social media posts convert at a higher rate for Jane than any paid channel. Using our UGC data, we have built elements into our loyalty program to reward customers who share Jane with their friends and followers.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Encourage the customer to share their experience on social media and leave a review on your website, Google, Facebook page, or other source. When they do, ask them to share their content on your brand’s website or social media. Utilizing UGC (User-Generated Content) builds social proof with their audience, your audience, and trust with your brand.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement, I would want people to know it’s okay to start over at any age. Endings are hard, but starting over is ripe with possibilities to create the person you want to be. It’s an opportunity to get rid of what didn’t work, what previously held you back, and addressing fears that once ruled you. Accomplishing just one of those creates room to become a more authentic, passionate, and fulfilled individual.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!