How to Win Friends and Influence People with Customer Experience (Part 1 of 2)

My upbringing was deliberate, which is to say my parents were purposeful in how they raised me.  During summers I was required to spend as much time reading newspapers and books as I was surfing and skateboarding.  Dinner was a time for conversation, not watching TV.  If I had children I’d like to think I would employ a similar strategy.  Sometime before high school I was provided a book to read and a goal: read it in a week.  I read it in two days. It was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People. At the time I thought I had found the silver bullet; a way to earn a gold medal without the conditioning. Thirty years later the tenets espoused by Mr. Carnegie remain a challenging framework to adhere to and contain doctrines I continually strive for.

Recently, the book resurfaced in my life and as I browsed the chapters I was struck with how timeless and transferable the ideas are.  So much so, that I’ve decided to write a four part series applying Dale Carnegie’s lessons to customer experience. By the end of this series we will have explored the following areas:

  • Techniques in handling people
  • How to make people like you

Techniques in handling people

Modern B2B and B2C businesses are shifting from a silo-ed approach to a holistic, customer experience driven model for interacting with customers. Whether they want to or not, brands are thrust into a personal relationship with their consumers because the engagement and expectations around digital channels are far more intimate and demanding than more traditional tactics.  Whether as individuals or groups, consumers require greater feedback and conversation with the companies they buy from.

Mr. Carnegie offered three key messages to consider when handling people:

Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain

Now, I don’t know any brands that openly ‘criticize, condemn or complain’ nor make it part of their messaging style.  However, the simple truth is: consumers definitely complain online.  Some surveys estimate over 70% of socially generated content is negative and this can put brands on their heels; especially when the brand has no social strategy.  A study by SMMU (Social Media Marketing University) earlier in 2014 found that 23.4% of brands don’t have a strategy in place to mitigate social commentary and don’t plan to create one.  Another 24.5% are in the process of developing this strategy and 7.6% stated that regardless of having one, it was ineffective.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” – Dale Carnegie

Having a plan and/or resources for listening and responding to online criticism with a brand approved tone and voice will help businesses mitigate the risk of being misunderstood, or worse, in the way they respond to such events.  The great news is the development of this strategy isn’t only for digital channels. On the contrary, it can be leveraged across the organization so every interaction rolls up to an overall positive customer experience.  It takes tremendous effort to build loyalty and only one bad experience to degrade it.

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