I want to tell you about a story in which I recently visited one of WeWork's locations in Tel Aviv, because I was looking for a better office and love the WeWork brand.
(If you're not familiar with WeWork, it's an international brand that provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and small businesses.)
I've known about WeWork for quite some time, and I constantly praise their social media and content marketing efforts in my lectures (and other content that I put out).
I also see their ads in my Facebook and Twitter feeds almost on a daily basis, which I assume is based on website re-targeting, or because I follow them on these social channels.
So, basically, WeWork's social media and content marketing programs worked. They built up awareness and recognition, developed trust, and stayed relevant in my life until I was willing, ready and able to buy what they're selling.
Timing is everything (obviously)
Often times, people want what we're selling, but for whatever reason they're not ready to buy it. Other times, people are ready to buy what we're selling, but they're not quite willing and ready to buy it, perhaps because they don't have enough awareness and trust in us and/or what we're selling.
As I'm sure you know, social media and content marketing negate both those issues, because they give us the incredible opportunity to establish and develop awareness, trust and relevance (on a daily basis!!!) with people before they're willing, able and ready to buy what we're selling.
Clearly, WeWork did an amazing job of establishing and developing awareness, trust and relevance with me via content marketing and social media.
Customer experience trumps everything else
Customer experience is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer's attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service.
I recently heard that, by 2020, customer experience will surpass price as the number one factor in a customer's purchasing decision.
As far as I'm concerned, customer experience is already the number one factor in most -- if not all -- of my purchasing decisions, and I'm a lot of consumers would agree with me (or will agree with me in the near future).
The question for you, me and every other business out there is: Are we going to be proactive and put customer experience at the forefront of our business model as it becomes the number one factor in our customers' purchasing decisions?
Or are we going to be reactive and potentially learn the hard way about customer experience becoming this number one factor?
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My customer experience with WeWork
After walking through the doors of their location in Tel Aviv, I was greeted by a "community manager."
She proceeded to show me the only office space that they had available at the time. I told her I didn't like it, so we went back to the lobby, where I was handed off to another sales rep, who then took me back to that same office space, and tried to sell me on it again for 10 minutes.
After affirmatively telling this second sales rep that I was 100-percent not interested in this specific space, we went on a tour of the rest of the building because I was interested in their "commons" package as well (basically working in the common space area, as opposed to having my own office).
As we walked up and down the three floors, I kept getting these answers from the sales rep every time I asked her a question: "Sorry, I don't know -- I need to ask someone else." or "You'll need to check our website, where you'll find all the info you're asking for."
The CRAZY part about this whole situation is that, a few weeks before I visited this location, I called them and was told that WeWork doesn't given info on the phone, and that I would need to visit the location in order to get all the info I wanted.
So, first I was told that I needed to come into their location to get all the info; then, after I came in, I was told that I needed to go to their website to get a lot of the info. Unbelievable.
I was talking with my friends at Mindspace -- an emerging competitor of WeWork -- and they told me that, because WeWork became so big, they basically rely on their reputation to convert prospects into customers at this point.
This isn't the first time I've encountered -- and probably you too -- a business that largely relies on its reputation to attract new customers and retain existing ones.
Relying on reputation -- whether it's your brand story and history, your "cool" factor (e.g. WeWork), your "established in 1969" street cred, or old school word-of-mouth -- probably worked two, five, 10, 20 years ago.
Today, consumers care much less about how long you've been in business, how "cool" or "special" your business is, that it spans three family generations, or anything else related to your reputation.
If I didn't have a good last experience with your restaurant, I'll find another one on Yelp, or another hotel on TripAdvisor, or another jewelry store by asking one of my Facebook friends, or another watch company via Google. These tools simply didn't exist in their current capabilities 10-plus years ago.
That's why, today, people primarily care about one thing, and one thing only: "What have you done for me lately?"
If you can't live up to that question by consistently providing memorable experiences (online and offline) to your prospective and existing customers -- regardless of your oh so fabulous reputation -- there's an exponentially good chance these people will ditch your business for another one.
Just like I ditched WeWork for Mindspace.
Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive his weekly column.
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