Set the right expectations for your customers. When I first started out, I was working on a campaign for a dating website. The client did not mention any website issues but mentioned their top concern was their digital marketing campaigns (Google Ads campaigns) dropping sharply in performance. When we discussed the project, I took them at their word and did not ask the deeper questions that would have gotten to the root of the problem. I accepted the project and reassured them I would be able to get their account back on track in no time. Well, I was very wrong. It turned out they were having website engagement issues I wasn’t aware of, which greatly impacted anything I could do with their digital marketing campaigns. The project turned out to be a complete disaster. If I would have gathered more information prior to getting started, I would have approached the project differently from the beginning and I may have been able to save it.
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 Ed Castro. Ed is a digital marketing consultant and owner of Sage Consulting Group, He assists small to medium sized companies in various industries such as B2B, SaaS, Technology, Healthcare, eCommerce, B2C, Mortgage/Finance and Education. Some pain points he helps clients with include marketing strategy, customer acquisition, budget issues, ad policy issues, performance issues and ROI goals. He works mainly on SEM/PPC platforms such as Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising and Facebook Ads.
Thank you so much for joining us! 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?
Sure! I was first exposed to digital marketing while working towards my B.A. in Marketing at CSUF (California State University, Fullerton). We were introduced to a variety of digital marketing oriented classes comparing online/offline behaviors, analyzing conversion funnels and more. I felt this foundation really prepared me to absorb as much information as possible later on as a freelance consultant. After receiving my B.A. in Marketing, I briefly worked as the digital marketing manager for an electronics recycler, then decided to strike out on my own. Since then, I have had the benefit of being exposed to a wide variety of industries, clients, strategies and situations which have only strengthened what I learned in university.
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?
So a (somewhat embarrassing) moment where I made an innocent mistake was at my initial digital marketing manager position for the recycling company. The company focused mainly on B2B lead generation with a secondary emphasis on B2C lead generation. One of the main channels we promoted the company and services through was email marketing, and our platform of choice was Constant Contact, a tool I was not that experienced in using.
Typically, with email marketing platforms you can create templates to quickly send out different email campaigns to different subsets of users. This company had already developed effective templates for different objectives. One of these templates was the general newsletter template used to remind users about weekly changes in the industry, the company and general brand awareness.
One week I decided to make a slight change to the newsletter to see if it had any impact on important metrics like bounce rate, spam rate, etc. I altered the content layout and launched the newsletter Tuesday afternoon to be sent on Wednesday morning, as we did every week. When I came back into the office on Wednesday morning I went on the platform to check the metrics for the newsletter. It turned out that I ended up saving the different layout to the template itself rather than just as a one-time newsletter! In my panic, I realized it was too late to automatically revert any changes to the template. So I ended up using an older newsletter to manually revert my changes before my boss found out. Luckily everything turned out okay, however, I did learn the following “takeaways”:
1. Always make a backup before making any changes to anything. Anything at all.
2. Always be mindful of changes you are making to avoid making permanent mistakes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One of my first clients after becoming a freelance consultant, who also happened to have one of the larger SEM accounts I had managed at that point, heavily assisted me in forming the SEM account management process I utilize today. The client had sizable Google Ads and Bing Ads accounts they needed me to manage for their B2C SaaS service offerings. To be frank, they completely opened up my mind to a granular yet practical way of managing SEM campaigns. I was then able to combine this experience with my previous education and tailor my approach to future client accounts as I saw fit. Since I had just become a freelance consultant, I had not really developed universal management processes yet and this client was a pivotal stepping stone to achieve the successes I had later on.
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 great customer experience is essential for success in business?
1. Changes the customer’s perspective — If your customer is unhappy with your product or service a positive customer service experience can help alter their perception of that issue.
2. A happy customer will help promote you — Having a happy customer greatly increases the chances that the customer will promote you to their friends, family or coworkers.
3. Increases brand loyalty — Developing consistent, positive customer experiences can also increase customer loyalty and retention to your brand. Creating enough positive customer experiences can even cultivate communities to form around your brand. Further reinforcing retention and loyalty.
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?
A disconnect between two individuals occurs when one individual is not paying attention to the other. You cannot connect to your customers if you are not paying attention to them. If you do not pay attention to aspects of the customer service experience most important to your customers, you risk becoming disconnected from them. This can easily be overlooked when a company pays more attention to its products or services than to customer service standards.
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?
If a company has to be forced by the competitiveness of its industry to focus more on the customer service experience, that company is doing the bare minimum to connect with its core audience, and I do not believe they will be in business for very long. However, I do think competition can push a company to reflect on and analyze its own customer service experience to identify pain points and weaknesses which it could improve upon.
Yes, I believe there are many pressures which can drive a business to reflect on the customer service experience, such as:
Customer feedback — “The customer is always right” is a very applicable quote here. Direct or indirect feedback about your company may push you to make internal changes to improve the customer experience if enough customers are bringing up the same issues.
Public image — How a company is perceived can greatly impact its bottom line. Highly publicized, negative customer service experiences have pressured companies to reflect and reform their customer service processes.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Recently I took on a project for a law firm. In our discovery call, they revealed they fired a previous provider because they did not trust the provider enough to move forward with the campaigns they had built. So much so, they fired the provider before it even had an opportunity to launch the campaigns at all. After this revelation, I focused the discussion on how I treat my own clients, how much I care about my clients and how dedicated I would be to this account if chosen. They already knew I was competent enough to manage the account. They just wanted to make sure I would provide the level of service that they were looking for, which they could not find in the previous provider. As a result, they immediately hired me and scaled up the scope of the project to include additional campaigns because of how comfortable I made them feel in the initial discovery phone call.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Since then, the client has repeatedly praised me for great work and even gave me and my team a glowing review on one of my public profiles right after launching the new campaigns. This all happened before we even started looking at their campaign performance. For them, it was simply a “Wow!” customer experience.
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. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Listen to your customers.
¨ In the previous example I mentioned, the client was adamant about what they perceived was a very important quality for their provider to have. They were not really concerned with a performance during the discovery phone call even though account performance was their primary concern leading up to that initial conversation. So I simply listened carefully to determine what exactly they wanted and provided them with that reassurance.
2. Set the right expectations for your customers.
¨ When I first started out, I was working on a campaign for a dating website. The client did not mention any website issues but mentioned their top concern was their digital marketing campaigns (Google Ads campaigns) dropping sharply in performance. When we discussed the project, I took them at their word and did not ask the deeper questions that would have gotten to the root of the problem. I accepted the project and reassured them I would be able to get their account back on track in no time. Well, I was very wrong. It turned out they were having website engagement issues I wasn’t aware of, which greatly impacted anything I could do with their digital marketing campaigns. The project turned out to be a complete disaster. If I would have gathered more information prior to getting started, I would have approached the project differently from the beginning and I may have been able to save it.
3. Communicate properly with your customers and build an understanding.
¨ Misunderstandings happen and they can really damage a business relationship. This occurred with a larger client account I thought I had no issues with. The account at the time had a cost per acquisition cost twice as high as they wanted to have. During our initial conversation, I reviewed their account and felt very confident I could help them in reducing their CPA to half of what it was. I took on the account, and within three months I had greatly reduced their CPA right under the target we had set from the beginning. During a weekly call, they asked me to put together a proposal to continue moving forward in managing their account. They expected I would work on the proposal on my own time since this was an opportunity for me to obtain more work. Rather than see this as an opportunity to extend the project, I reacted by letting the customer know I would need to invoice them for that time. They immediately ended the contract, despite the performance improvements. Taking the time to understand your customers is critical to communicating properly and maintaining a positive relationship with that customer.
4. Acknowledge your loyal customer
¨ Loyalty and customer retention is a critical part of the “Wow!” customer experience because it shows how deep impact interactions have on your customer. It’s a great customer service experience barometer. You should be mindful of that loyalty and acknowledge those customers to further strengthen your connection to them. An example of this stems from a long-standing eCommerce client which has been with me for almost 4 years. Throughout this period, I have consistently acknowledged them by letting them know how much I appreciate their business; wishing them well for the holidays, sending them articles or information they might be able to use to gain insight into their industry, etc. Since then, not only have they repeatedly provided stellar reviews and praise for my services, but they’ve even gone to the extent of promoting me to their fellow business owners as well. Refreshing that connection with your customers is important to sustaining a long term relationship with them.
5. Be consistent with your customer
¨ Consistency is important to maintain any relationship. Especially when it comes to customer relationships. Another client of mine is in the B2B technology space. Before hiring, they had a recurring problem with previous providers. They were not reaching a sustainable ROI for their PPC accounts. In a last-ditch effort, they decided to hire me to try digital advertising one last time. They quite literally were going to abandon PPC altogether if this project did not succeed. At this point, so many providers had failed to find a sustainable strategy that the client felt other channels would be more beneficial for their space. So, there was a lot of precedents I would have to disprove at hire, which could only be done with consistent account performance. My endeavors to assist them on their digital marketing strategy resulted in them doubling their digital operations at the time, and most importantly, in keeping them as a client! Making sure your customers receive great, consistent service will not only help wow them but will ensure that they stay loyal to your brand over time.
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?
I touched on this a bit above. Great customer service speaks for itself. You don’t necessarily need to explicitly tell a customer to reach out to others to get them to do so. Some customers may even be put off by this aggressive approach. Simply applying the five recommendations I mentioned above, or anyone of those suggestions can greatly increase the likelihood a customer will mention your service to others and spread the word. Listening to your customers, setting the right expectations for your customers, communicating properly with your customers, acknowledging your customers and being consistent in how you treat your customers will inspire them to reach out to other potential customers.
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.
I think an online movement supporting integrity would greatly help us in creating more positive, constructive connections with one another rather than creating barriers. We are still in the infancy of the internet age. We also happen to be in a very connected age. Yet many online trending topics tend to paint a picture of a fragmented world from media outlets, which may have their own integrity called into question. Not only do we focus on divisive topics, but we also cannot even agree on the integrity of the topic we may be arguing about. I think a movement focused on bringing integrity to the internet would greatly help in guiding internet users to focus on more constructive topics overall. This would need to be supplemented by local efforts to educate and inform people about the internet in general. Many people around the world are still learning how to apply this quickly evolving technology as the “ok, boomer” meme hints at. The internet has such powerful potential, but like any other tool, it depends on how we use it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am not super active on many social media accounts actually! (I know; I should change this) But if you would like to add me on LinkedIn I would be happy to connect with you!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for having me!