A positive customer experience is vital if you wish to run a successful organisation and it remains a constant throughout the business world, independent of the type or size of organisation. A great customer experience, from start to finish, not only encourages brand loyalty and repeat business but it will likely generate recommendations too -which is free business. A bad customer experience comes with the opposite effect and its ramifications – such as negative reviews – are much harder to correct, with 13% of unsatisfied customers typically sharing their negative experiences with at least 15 other people 1.
So how can you increase you changes of getting it right every time?
Research from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) shows that 84% of customers don’t believe that customer-facing staff have an appropriate level of training 2. This is a very high number and indicates a problem with the way in which certain staff approach and handle customer queries.
Staff may very well be trained in all aspects of their role but fall down on interpersonal skills, or vice versa. Another possible cause is that they may not know how other departments work. Customers rarely know the ins and outs of a business and its departments, they just want their queries to be resolved.
Addressing these training issues must come with a holistic approach – focusing on one area is not enough. In addition to product, service and process training, it’s important you teach your team how to improve their emotional intelligence and communications skills. Training in problem-solving and creating connections with the customer will help them to think about the whole experience, not just resolving an individual issue.
Understand your Audience
Personalisation is becoming more important to consumers with 69% wanting a more individual experience 3 and 75% more likely to buy from retailers that recognise them by name and recommend products based on their past purchases 4.
Gathering data and metrics on your customers can help you customise your messaging but sometimes “Big Data” is too far removed from a customer’s needs. Companies often confuse segmentation for personalisation, suggesting new products or services based on what others do. Just because a customer has Product X and is aged 30-35 it does not necessarily mean that they would like Product Y when others who match those criteria do.
Another problem with relying entirely on data is that it can conflict or be incomplete where computer systems and communication channels break down. So you will need to carefully consider how all these systems operate and develop processes that ensure data can be linked accurately. For those with the time and budget, building an integrated system that covers all of your channels will not only help you collect accurate data but will also provide a smoother experience for your customers.
Listen to Feedback
Part of making a customer feel valued is listening to their feedback and acting on it. Feedback can come through a wide variety of sources and by any means, positive or negative. It is good business practice to look into the comment and what it really means – not just reading into the symptoms of it, but addressing the root cause.
If you don’t receive a lot of feedback, it can be advantageous to ask your customers for feedback through a yearly survey or after a product purchase. Making it clear that you always accept feedback no matter where a customer is in their journey. Not only can it help you to see how successful your changes have been, but it will also help you spot other areas that may have contributed to any reported issue.
Should the worst happen, and a poor customer experience results, you can prevent things from getting worse, and even potentially rescue the situation, with a robust complaints procedure. Have a set series of steps and actions for when a complaint is raised – and make sure to document them.
For all staff, explain how to recognise a complaint and how to escalate it. For those dealing with formal complaints, explain how to address these correctly. You should also make the complaints procedure publicly available to customers so that they know what to do and expect.
Getting senior and experienced staff to deal with formal complaints is also a good idea. Their authority will reassure the customer that they are being taken seriously, and their experience will ensure they are able to address all of the customer’s concerns and understand how the complaint impacts on all areas of the business.
Understanding the goals and needs of a customer is paramount. If you know what they want to achieve and what they need to accomplish this you’ll be able to implement changes that improve their end-to-end experience.
Streamlining the customer journey is a good place to start. Review the journey, making sure that is is logical to follow and that all call-to-actions are signposted. Make sure to remove road blocks or interruptions such as error messages or extraneous processes.
Research shows that by improving the customer journey businesses can increase customer satisfaction by 20% and, as a consequence, lift revenue by 15% 5.
Being customer focused is one of the 7 fundamental principles of the ISO 9001 Standard. The International Organisation for Standardisation believe that by focusing on your customer, you will be able to deliver a greater service by retaining their confidence, creating more value and driving continual improvement.
3. Research by Cloud.IQ ↩
5. Research by McKinsey ↩