Our customers are presented with so much choice in the way they shop, communicate and interact with us. They have a wealth of options at their disposal, from digital technology embedded in the home to devices kept in their pockets. Brands have to be smarter than ever to drive a seamless experience across all of their popular channels, optimising the mobile experience and effectively targeting shoppers. As the customer journey continues to twist and turn we've also seen an rise in services specifically built for consumers - such as price comparison sites and apps, empowering consumers and enabling them to be confident in the purchases they make.
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Differentiating purely on price is another huge challenge for brands and with the rise of apps like 'Wish' we're seeing huge competition from global markets. Businesses need to focus on what they can do to add value to the their customers' lives, delivering exceptional experiences and harness emotion to create meaningful connections with their customers.
As customer expectations continue to rise, here are 5 ways you can go above and beyond for your customers.
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Brands and businesses need to stand out from the crowd
One of the key things that brands can do to differentiate, is to prioritise both the customer experience and the employee experience. Think about the service or product you offer and how you manage customer or employee expectations, is the on-boarding process seamless and quick? Do you utilise a channel that's 'always listening'? Can your customers and employees tell you how they feel after an interaction with your product or service?
If you're not satisfying customers then you can forget about delighting them, start by creating a journey without friction and keep customer effort low. In a perfect world we'd see every brand delighting their customers on a daily basis, however the research tells us that 80% of businesses believe they deliver "superior" customer service, yet only 8% of customers believe they experience superior service from those same businesses.
The priority for every brand and business is to turn this around, the result is that by simply providing a superior customer experience you'll differentiate yourself from competitors. It all starts with you getting the basics right first though, there's no jumping straight to the finish line. This will ensure a future for your brand and shed light on all of the areas you need to focus on to continue to succeed. Remember the instrinsic link between employee and customer engagement as you push this initiative and you'll reap the rewards.
Never forget the power of people
There's a reason that First Direct were Britain's most recommended major bank in 2017, they have the highest customer satisfaction scores, they build strong relationships through their people and they understand exactly what a customer-centric business should look like.
The interesting thing about their approach is that they aren't using elaborate methods or fancy technology to drive results, they simply understand how to get the basics right. They recognise and value the soft skills, like having knowledgeable, polite and friendly advisors - the things that people want when they reach out to your brand. They ensure waiting times are minimal, keep customer effort low and when these things don’t happen the way they should, they go above and beyond to look after the customer to keep them happy.
“People connect with things they trust and find safe, transparency helps this. Don’t be afraid to show customers how you’re doing, regardless of score, it helps to drive meaningful change. If new strategies don’t start with the customer then we need to consider if we’re really working on the right things.”
- Paul Instrell, Sales & Marketing Director, Calor
It’s about making sure that things are working in a way that your customers want and expect, this is just one way you can start to build trust. If they want to make changes to their account, make a payment, or view their recent bill then the process is smooth and straightforward. Another way to think about it is like a basic hygiene factor, nobody notices if the office kitchen is clean, but they notice straight away if it’s dirty and untidy.
Truly add value to the relationships you have with your customers
Imagine if a brand reached out to you to offer something of value, they could make you aware of a new promotion built from your previous purchases or past behaviour, saving you money, or alternatively they could help educate you around upcoming changes to your account or service so there's no confusion.
Businesses are realising the benefits of adding value to the relationships they have with their customers, and using any applicable channel such as email, SMS and voice are cost-effective and cost-saving tools to do this. In a post-GDPR world, it will be easier for customers to opt-out of communication so brands need to give their customers a reason to opt in. They need to demonstrate the value of keeping these communication channels open, so they are creating a dialogue that improves their customer’s experience.
We know that DPD use text messaging to confirm delivery slots, this keeps the customer in the loop and also starts a dialogue, asking the customer if they need to change their delivery slot - ensuring they make life easier for the customer.
Don't throw away customer or employee insight
There’s no point in asking for feedback unless you’re going to do something with it. Customers want to know that their feedback has been considered and how it will be actioned, this is what we refer to when we talk about 'Closing The Loop'. Make sure that you acknowledge your customers’ comments and ideas by taking action, improving your products or services and communicating back any changes you’ve made, do this at scale and you'll see a huge uplift in customer loyalty, they'll feel like you actually listened and this is a huge driver for customer satisfaction.
Most brands are effective in gathering feedback but quite weak on getting any follow up action from the insight. When you map out your programme it's essential that you have a clear process in place as to how you will prioritise the insight you've surfaced and then how you'll filter this through to leadership. Once it's in their hands there should be a structure for how follow up communications will be handled, allowing you to close the loop by setting customer expectations.
The same goes for your internal employee engagement programmes, if you go out to employees and solicit feedback and they see little action you're likely to do more damage than good to your culture. You need a plan of action and you need accountability to ensure that you drive a truly customer-centric business.
Deliver the unexpected - what customers don’t even know they want!
When you've got the basics down (which is no small feat as we've discussed), you're in a position where you can start looking at delighting your customers and going above and beyond the basic. The way to do this is to deliver what the customer didn't even know they wanted.
It’s a real challenge to get to this stage and we believe that most brands still have serious work to do around the basics. For those of you that have cracked it, this relies on being able to anticipate what your customers are likely to want and need, based on what you already know about them. This is about measuring customer emotion and understanding the feelings of your customer base, understand the different concerns that each customer segment has and make sure the service proposition is tailored to what the customer needs.
To deliver the unexpected, you need a concrete understanding of your customer journeys and their key touch points with the brand. Otherwise, your efforts to delight can easily miss the mark. Most brands are still working towards building block one or two, where the focus is about delivering consistent and reliable service. But understanding where you can progress to and work towards will help you to shape and build your offering, both now and in the future.
Are you using the right metrics at the right time along the customer journey? Click here to get your copy of The CX Rebels Guide to Measuring Customer Experience.