Success in any avenue of life, including the business world, is never a sure thing. Most of us grew up with the assurance that if we work hard and learn to excel, we will be successful. There’s no doubt that knowledge, skill, and competency does play a role in being a success—but do they guarantee anything?

The reality is no. I may have a brilliant idea, and know exactly how to put it together. But unless that product appeals to enough people, success will not be mine. However, I can increase the chances of success by paying attention to a critical factor that many others overlook: customer experience.

Customer Experience and Social Influence

We are social animals. What others do does have some influence on us one way or the other. When we listen to someone because the person doing the talking is someone we trust—that’s where social influence starts. We’ll even buy a product based on the fact that others seem to think it’s great. But it’s not just a great product that gets social tongues wagging—it’s the overall experience with the brand when we look at that product, buy the product, and have it delivered. How many times have you been burned when buying a product you thought would be great at first blush, only to have a horrible experience with the vendor when it came to the purchase? Perhaps the website was glitchy or the navigation not very intuitive—or maybe you couldn’t complete the purchase without jumping through a million hoops. Or you couldn’t return the product for a full refund if you weren’t happy.

We all want our purchase experience to be smooth and trouble-free, whether we’re at a traditional store or buying something online. And when things go south, we’re more than willing to complain about it on social channels. That’s the negative side of social influence—and it’s a powerful force. There have been many great products invented and marketed that could have done well, but poor planning around customer experience killed them. Experience is one of the biggest factors in success, and today’s lightning-fast social word of mouth can have a make-or-break influence.

Does Good Social Influence Predict Success?

So if poor experience has such a big impact, wouldn’t it be safe to say that a great experience would have an equally big impact? Not exactly. No one can absolutely predict success with any degree of certainty. Based on the quality of what we come up with by testing, sampling, and repeating as necessary, we can project the potential for success, but many times the fickle nature of people online throws a curve ball. You may have a lot of great social influencers talking about their experience with your product, but you never really know what’s going to appeal to people on the larger scale—what’s going to go viral, or what’s going to flop. However, there are things you can do to even the odds a bit.

Use a Portfolio Approach

Because success depends on so many factors, you may do better by using a “portfolio” approach and not putting all your eggs in one basket. Take several approaches to the market, or try one approach across several products. But your common denominator should always be to strive for the absolute best customer experience possible. Think of ways you can surprise and delight people with every aspect of their experience. Whether you take one approach or several, listen to the responses you get and always be tweaking and evolving based on the feedback.

You can increase the odds of success by varying your approach and paying close attention to the buyer experience. Social gives us many opportunities to tap influencers, listen to consumers, observe and test, test, test. Success can never be guaranteed, but use the social tools you have to pay close attention to customer experience at every juncture, do everything you can to make those experiences “remarkable,” and your you’ll increase your rate of success significantly.

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