According to a 2014 Gartner survey, 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience by 2016 versus 36% four years ago. So it would seem that most owners and managers are getting the message on the importance of customer experience to their brand’s future success. That’s the good news. The bad news is that many companies aren’t doing anything about it. According to Oracle’s 2013 Global Insights of Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era, “91% of organizations said they aspire to be among the customer experience leaders in their industry, yet only 37% had started a formal customer experience management initiative.”
I understand that procrastination is a worldwide phenomenon that affects many people, with only a crisis or catastrophe being a catalyst for us to make significant changes and focus on what is most important, because that is a human reality. The reality is that many companies will want to develop a customer experience strategy and make it a focus of their teams, but until customers start disappearing, they will not find the urgency to do something about it. We only hope it is not too late. However, there is good news, because there are companies doing some great things to design and deliver great customer experiences. So, what are they focusing on? Here is our list of what is most important.
Save the Customers’ Time
Respect and utilize the customer’s time efficiently. We are all time-poor, so companies that don’t waste our time or that enhance our time are winning our business. This is where technology is starting to provide an advantage. Technology should be used to give us our time back. A great example is the DMV’s appointment system that allows customers to stand in line virtually rather than physical, and then to be notified to arrive around the time the name or number is called.
Create a Fun Environment
Replace the pressure-filled sales environment with an opportunity to learn and play. Brick-and-mortar stores must recognize that their advantage over online purchases is that the customer can touch and interact with the products. To maximize this advantage, they need to create an environment where customers can just hang out and play and learn. We love BMW’s introduction of their Genius into the sales process: rather than being pressured by a sales person, you can test drive and learn about any number of vehicles and features in a more relaxed manner.
Select the Right People to Represent Your Brand
Ensure those interacting with customers have the right attitude and skills to be successful. How many times do you interact with someone representing a product or service and they have a bad attitude, can’t answer a simple question, or show little to no ability to interact and hold a conversation? Brands have to understand that the attitude and behaviors of their people are defining their brand’s reputation. 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a bad service experience, according to the 2011 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer.
Companies must ensure they are selecting people with the right personalities and positive dispositions to interact with their customers. They must also invest in teaching people:
- Critical service skills of first impression management
- How to break the ice and engage customers
- How to customize an interaction and experience
- What to do if something goes wrong
- How to cross-sell or upsell effectively
One of our favorite examples is Lego, which places applicants through group tests during the interview process and then invests in highly interactive and fun learning experiences that represent their company values and how to interact with their customers in their brand’s voice. It vets the applicants for the appropriate behaviors and personalities.
Own Your Social Reputation
Follow up and follow though with online feedback. 86% of those surveyed said they liked or even loved when a company responded to them on social media, according to Maritz Research and Evolve24’s 2011 Twitter Study. You must respond to all online feedback, regardless of whether it is good or bad. If it is bad, then you are looking for an opportunity to turn the customer around. If the feedback is good, then you are recognizing and thanking customers for their advocacy.
Either way, responding to what is happening online is critical. One of the very best brands at responding to customers and engaging them online is JetBlue. Not only do they respond to any question, inquiry, or issue sent their way, but they are active in any conversation that mentions them online. Their social media team is constantly monitoring keywords and hashtags so they are always talking to their customers or potential ones.
These four priorities are simple ideas to help you formulate your customer strategy and to kick start your ability to deliver on todays customer expectations.