Digital UX & Fries

Lessons in UX learned here

PRYOR, Oklahoma – If you’re looking for a perfect lesson in how to master CRM in the digital age drop by the Mid-America Grill, along U.S. Highway 69, more than 250 miles from the nearest big city. You can also get a pretty good New York Strip while you’re there.

I certainly wasn’t looking for marketing strategy when I ran into the grill. Actually I was trying to escape a hellacious Oklahoma thunderstorm, the kind where the sky takes on unnatural colors and the rain is moving sideways. But what I got was a lesson on how easy it really can be to connect with your customers.

Yet study after study demonstrates that companies are failing to deliver on even the most basic customer interactions online and off. Nearly half of the public want to interact with brands online a recent study on Toluna found.

Stop to think about that. Imagine a stadium full of potential customers with money in hand. And half of them say they want to talk to their favorite brands online. Can you imagine that any business would turn them away? And yet that’s exactly what’s happening.

A study by IQ found that more than half of Tweets to Fortune top 50 companies went unanswered, and last fall Maritz Research found that nearly two thirds of consumers who reached out to companies via Twitter got no response. That’s like a business failing to answer the phone two thirds of the time. Unbelievable.

CRM reminds us time and again that it’s much easier to grow an existing customer than to find a new one. The emergence of social media has just injected that logic with adrenaline. It’s no longer about just keeping long term customers happy, but instead turning them into your best sales people. The extraordinary value of creating loyalty to the bottom line is proven, just read the classic “The Loyalty Effect” by Frederick Reichheld. All of which brings me back to dinner at the Mid-American Grill.

Culinary note here. If you’ve never had chicken-fried steak then you have to understand that it is neither chicken nor steak like you’re used to. And it can be either very good or terribly bad. So I casually asked our waitress if she vouched for Mid-American’s version. She never got a chance to answer.

“Buddy that thing is bigger than your head and will blow you away,” the guy across from us said. He then launched into a foodie tour of the menu that was amazing. He didn’t know me from Adam, and I doubt he had any incentive to boost the restaurant’s sales. But he was an enthusiast and he wanted to share his affinity for the food.

It would be very easy for a diner in a small town like Pryor to decide the Internet has noting to offer. After all, the owners likely know just about everyone who matters. But the Mid-American Grill understands how to use the enthusiasm of its customers. In fact one of the first things our waitress asked us was how we’d found the place. Then she told us how flattered the staff was by all the reviews on Yelp. And she promised us that our experience would be just as good…. So if we liked it we could share too.

So simple, yet so powerful. Here was the real world connecting to the digital world; a recognition that every interaction is a chance to make a fan, and that all it takes is the effort to give them an effortless, worthwhile and hopefully, delightful experience. And it makes so much sense, because it is increasingly your digital outposts that are most likely to be your main consumer touch points. So the critical question becomes how good is your digital UX on your website, email, apps, Facebook page etc? Does it meet customer expectations? Does it differentiate your brand?

When you then link these user experiences with social media you start to see the real marketing potential. Of course it can be a bit scary if you don’t have your act together. But we’re well past the point of discussing if you should. It’s time to just man up and get on it.

Back at the Mid-America grill the user experience was excellent; the server was attentive and wanted to make sure we had exactly what we wanted. The manager stopped by to ask how our food was, even the busboy made sure we were happy.

Every point of contact was concerned about our experience. So I wasn’t surprised when I checked out the grill’s web site and found this under About Us:

Everyone in this company, regardless of position, has the responsibility and authority to do whatever they believe is necessary to be sure you, the guest, have a great time every time you dine with us.
Mark & Marty Marsh

The lesson here, which many big brands should pay attention to, especially in digital channels, is that the basics are still what counts: great product, great service and great user experience.

An hour later, after the sky regained its natural color, we rolled out of our booth – stuffed, and very satisfied that we’d found a gem in the middle of nowhere. And there by the exit was a sign encouraging us to share our experiences with friends.

And so I have, which brings us full circle.

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