A customer’s experience is shaped by the entire interaction with your brand, product, service, or company--from beginning to end. Here are the seven principles to crafting a customer experience for people not like you.
1. Website/Digital Communication
Most people will initially find you online or will visit your website or Facebook page to check you out if they heard about you via word of mouth. You want to make sure that your website and your social media pages are welcoming to diverse groups. The least you can do is feature people who don’t all look the same if you use pictures of people on your site or pages. People always want to identify with someone who looks like them, so be certain that you display a range of representation when it comes to showing people. If you want to really put the welcome mat out for a particular customer group, flag them with a question or call out on your page.
Your website is also a great way to cater to a group who speaks another language. You can let them know this by clearly posting these other language(s) at the top of the page in which a customer can navigate. If it’s too costly to develop an entirely separate website in another language, a smart alternative is to create a page that has the most frequently asked questions or most sought-after information. You have to create only one or two pages in another language with this approach; it ’s a cost-effective way to let customers and prospects know that you understand they may prefer to navigate your site in their native tongue. And don’t hide it if you do have a website in another language; feature it prominently.
2. Product or Service Tweaks
To reach people not like you--or not like the customers you already have--sometimes you need to tweak your product or service. Modifying a product or service in this way can mean a great deal to someone of a specific market segment. It can be a small change, such as creating an iPad app for your business that tech-savvy Gen Y customers will want to use, or it can be a bit more involved, such as adding traditional Indian, Vietnamese, or Hispanic foods to a menu. It can also be a big alteration; for example, perhaps you create an entirely new product to serve someone different from your core customers.
3. Hiring and Staffing Diverse Talent
This is truly your single best tactic for creating a fantastic customer experience for people not like you. Who knows better than a Gen Y person what another Gen Y person may want, need, or value? A bilingual employee who speaks Spanish as well as English will be a huge asset, because he or she is likely to understand the culture, not just the language.
When you hire people who are not like you, you’ll see your business grow with new customers very quickly. That’s because we all have a network of friends, neighbors, and family--people we tell about where we work and what we do. So when you hire someone who is tapped into a whole new network, word will get around that your place of business is the place to go.
4. Advertising and Marketing
Once you have a diverse team in place--or even just one person on your staff who is different from you--you can effectively advertise and market to that new customer group or groups.
There is a yoga studio directly across the street from my house. They post their class schedule, complete with type of class, time, and instructor name, on their window. Just from observation, I’d guess that 90 to 95 percent of the people who take classes there are young women, in their 20s and early 30s. I never used to see any men of any age go there. Then one day, I was walking by and looked at their schedule posted in the window; prominently featured was “Introducing New Ashram Yoga Class with Yogi David Fordham! Beginners Welcome!”
I know the studio owners, and they told me that 25 percent of their students/attendees are now men, up from less than 5 percent just a year ago. Having a male instructor makes other men feel comfortable. They don’t feel out of place, like they‘re the only guy in the class. When you hire and staff with diverse talent, you’ll see your business grow with new faces.
5. Staff Interactions
Train. Monitor. Coach. Reinforce. That’s the mantra. First you have to train your great employees to actively engage with diverse customers in a meaningful way. But you also need to monitor them to ensure that they are on the right track. Listen in on their conversations with customers, observe how they work with diverse people, and pay attention to customers’ reactions. If you’ve got someone who is performing well in this regard, then praise him or her. Let that person know that you have noticed how well he or she is doing and that you appreciate the efforts.
When you review positive examples like this with your staff, you accomplish two important things:
1. You recognize an employee’s efforts and publicly praise that person for a job well done
2. It teaches other staff members what to do and how they can handle a similar situation. It sets the bar. It also continually reinforces that this is not just some “initiative flavor of the month” but that you care about this, that you’re paying attention to it on an ongoing basis, and that it is a company priority.
6. Customer Service and Support
We all expect that a company will stand by its products or services. But you can enhance the customer experience for people not like you by thinking through all aspects of what it’s like to do business with you, for people of all backgrounds and situations.
One example of great customer support for different groups is one for a public storage facility near a military base. They have three types of customers: people who simply have too much stuff and would rather store it than sell it, young people who have lost a job or a home and have had to move back in with their parents temporarily, and members of the military who are being deployed and need to store some or all of their belongings. This storage facility realized that the payment needs of their various customers are very different. So the storage facility created different ways that customers can pay. This is a great example of ongoing customer service and support to different types of people.
7. After the Sale
Of course, the customer experience doesn’t end after you’ve made the sale. Even though the purchase may be complete, the “ownership” experience is just beginning. After the purchase comes loyalty and finally (hopefully), advocacy. To become--and remain--loyal to your product or service, the customer has to continue to have a great experience. Part of that is how your product or service performs, of course. But the other part is what the ongoing experience is like for your customer.
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Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Crafting the Customer Experience For People Not Like You: How to Delight and Engage the Customers Your Competitors Don't Understand  by Kelly McDonald. Copyright (c) 2013 by Kelly McDonald. All rights reserved. This book is available at all book sellers.
Kelly McDonald is the president of an award-winning advertising and marketing firm, and has been featured on CNBC, in BusinessWeek, CNN Money.com, and SiriusXM Radio. She is the author of How to Market to People Not Like You: "Know It or Blow It" Rules for Reaching Diverse Customers, which reached number 7 on the Inc. magazine list of bestselling business books for 2011.
[Image: Flickr user Giorgio Gatti ]