Walk A Mile In Their Shoes…

CustomerExperience Walk A Mile In Their Shoes…

Embracing the Customer to Change Your Company’s Service Paradigm

As business owners and managers, it is often too easy to de-humanize our customers and simply view them as a single number in a sea of existing and potential business. But isn’t it true we’re all consumers? You no doubt have made purchases from other companies, and statistical evidence suggests that the majority of you reading this article have conducted consumer transactions online.

How did that purchase turn out for you? Were you pleased with the process from start to finish, or were you left with a bad taste in your mouth, swearing off ever doing business with that company again? In other words, how was your experience? As business owners, we need to jump into the shoes of our customers and understand the emotional and psychological connection forged with our company during their buying process. We need to ask ourselves: What is their experience?

One of a company’s greatest assets is its customers. Not only do they represent current value, but they also hold the promise of future lifetime value as well. It’s preposterous to ignore their worth by taking for granted that they will stick around. Why shouldn’t you capitalize on the potential underneath your own nose? According to a report from Deloitte, it is estimated that companies can boost profits 25% -                    125% by retaining a mere five percent of their current customers. Wow! Can you imagine doubling your revenue without working to bring on even a single new customer? With opportunities like this, why are companies continuing to sink monies into an extensive advertising campaign only to allot the bare minimum into improving the customer experience? The truth is, there needs to be a balance – why invest time, money and energy into drawing potential customers in only to drive them away kicking and screaming?

Not only is this scenario disheartening, but it can be potentially damaging. Customers who have a positive experience with your brand are more likely to conduct future transactions as well as recommend your products and services to family and friends. On the flip side, consumers who feel shunned, confused, or annoyed by their interaction with your company may take more drastic action than simply choosing a competitor next time. According to the Ohio State University Fact Sheet, a consumer having an unpleasant experience with a company will tell up to 10 people while 13% of these will spread the word to almost 20 other consumers. With the growth of social media outlets, including blogs, bulletin boards and network groups, even one bad review online can go viral and spread to millions of online viewers. This can destroy your brand credibility and public perceptions of your company value.

What Does Customer Experience Involve?

Studies1 show that 66% of consumers note “quick resolution to questions and problems” as the characteristic they value most in a B2C relationship. Forty-nine percent say “knowledge of product and service,” 35% say “being easy to reach,” and 35% say “understanding requirements.” The truth is, the customer experience is the total of all these qualities – and much more. Implementing a customer experience program includes the comprehensive management of every company/customer touchpoint. Measure all transactions between people, products, service and the brand itself in order to gauge favorable or negative responses to your company interface and gain deeper insights in the wants and needs of the customer in order to facilitate positive change that will positively affect the customer experience, and, consequently, the bottom line.

  • The Customer – How well do you know your customers? Not just their names or locations – but how well do you really know them? Can you pinpoint their wants and needs, and, more importantly, can you foresee their future requirements? Though there is no crystal ball, by gaining an intimate knowledge of your customer’s innermost thoughts and behaviors, you can logically estimate their future requirements. And when the need arises and your company is waiting in the wings with the perfect solution, the business is as good as yours. And if you maintain a customer-centric policy, it will stay that way.
  • The Environment – This should be the feelings and sentiments enveloping every customer that comes in contact with your brand. From your search presence to your website to your follow-up communications, every interaction should be targeted toward deepening the relationship, providing value and credibility, and, ultimately, increasing revenue. Surprisingly, in a Ventana Research report, it was uncovered that most companies with a website did not design their pages with a mind toward ease in commerce. If fact, only 52% of respondents testified that their websites were specifically targeted toward customer service whereas 89% stated that the main purpose of their website was to provide information.  Though informative content is highly desirable, customers often become annoyed with sites that offer no personality or interest, looking not for a corporate site that talks at them but instead one that connects with them.
  • The Technology Infrastructure – This includes your power behind the scenes. Though it’s not the “star” of the show, people will surely know when your technology and operational processes are not up to standard. Your infrastructure should seamlessly take consumers from one page to the next, quickly and efficiently transporting them through the buying process and easily completing the checkout. Infusing your site with the latest technological advancements will create a stir with consumers and web crawlers alike, driving your search rankings higher and higher. Maintaining a higher degree of technology in your customer experience will naturally inspire significant impressions of trust and comfort.
  • The Brand – Infuse your website and online communications with your logo, tagline, and product information. There is comfort in continuity, and when your target audience continually is exposed to your brand, they develop a level of trust and acceptance that money just can’t buy. If you make a point to deliver informative and relevant content under your company collateral, your business becomes synonymous with value in the eyes of your target audience. And when the time comes for purchase, like clockwork, your company will be the “go-to” provider in their mind.
  • The Attitude – Set a corporate mindset and get your employees on board. After all, your customer experience can only be as good as the people who provide frontline services. Employees unhappy in their own job or who have confusion about the defined customer experience goals cannot feasibly be responsible for ensuring your objectives are fulfilled. Hold training sessions to reiterate the importance of targeting all communications and touchpoints to the benefit of the customer. To stoke the fire, offer a variety of employee incentives for those who incorporate company goals into their personal business approach and reward them for dedication to the cause. Genuine recognition and appreciation for their efforts will go far in keeping the flame alive.

Why Worry About Customer Experience?

It’s not rocket science – your business is only as good as your customer base. If you can’t draw in customers and make them feel valued and appreciated, your company won’t survive. If consumers aren’t buying your half-hearted attempts to win their business, they certainly aren’t buying your products and services. If that happens, you might as well get ready to close up shop because in an ever-increasingly virtual world, your competition is a mere click away. And once your potential customer is gone, it is usually for good. Adios profit!

We’re In A Recession! Isn’t Customer Experience a Luxury I Just Can’t Afford?

Many companies think that in this economy they cannot afford to invest in the customer experience. The truth is, you can’t afford not to! Truth be told, this is the most important time to turn your focus to improving your interaction with customers. During a time of economic belt-tightening, many companies will pull monies from customer relationship endeavors, leaving open the gate for a whole lot of customer dissatisfaction. Then what happens? You begin to lose customers (and their money) while you’re already struggling to survive financially. In what world does that make sense?

  • Low Cost Programs Equal A Bigger Bottom Line – Performing cost-effective “Voice of the Customer” research and then implementing change based on these reviews can create significant improvements to your customer experience without breaking the bank.
  • Take Advantage of the Situation – As costs skyrocket, consumers are staying in and doing more online research and shopping. Don’t pass on this opportunity! Create an atmosphere that builds rapport with the customer and then gently guide them through the conversion process.
  • Pick Up Your Competitors’ Slack – If your competitors tighten the purse strings during the down economy and initiate funding cuts from their customer relationship programs, it won’t be long until there is a mass exodus from their online sites. Wouldn’t you like to be there to help pick up the pieces of their disappointment? Maintain a customer-centric focus even through the hard economy and when business once again picks up, you’ll realize even greater profits from the loyal customers you’ve served.

How Can I Implement a Successful Customer Experience Program?

  • Attain Visibility – Identify potential customers that are aligned with your product and service offerings. Make this your target audience and elicit feedback and employ web metrics to define their interests.
  • Gain Deeper Understanding – By gathering intimate knowledge about your customer’s business goals and objectives, you are more aptly prepared to anticipate their future needs – even before they bring them to you. Imagine the value and trust you bring to the table when you are prepared with an immediate response to their needs.
  • Formulate the Infrastructure – Taking into account your target audience, optimize your web presence and customer relationship modules to supply total customer satisfaction at every touchpoint. Test repeatedly to uncover stumbling blocks and then remove these ASAP to ensure a seamless, pleasant customer experience.
  • Connect With the Customer – Forge a relationship built on trust, credibility and reliability. This foundation will lead to loyalty – and a continued lucrative business relationship.
  • Open the Door to Opportunity – Once trust and loyalty is established, there’s no limit to where you can take the relationship. Embrace opportunities to cross-sell coordinating products and services or maintain E-Mail communication by providing promotional offers, interesting and relevant articles, product updates, etc.

The customer experience – it’s all about remembering that your customers are your lifeblood and treating them like so. Call it the golden rule of business: “Treat your customers the way you want to be treated.” Give respect to get respect; Give attention to get attention; Give loyalty to get loyalty. It’s just that easy.

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0 Comment   |   Posted in Blog May 29, 2010