“We Care About Our Customers!”
Most companies say this. But is it really true?
Leaders, can you honestly say that you and your team are doing best by your customers? Do you focus on their needs or your needs? Do you have internal conversations about how to make their lives better, easier, more positive and fulfilling? If you’re not, its negatively impacting your growth and helping your competitors.
Why is providing an optimal customer experience so important? Succinctly, it's the primary driver for your business' bottom line. Customers are everything to your business. Without them, your business does not exist.
Forbes has called 2016 “The year of the Customer” and a study from the consulting firm Gartner, states that 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of Customer Experience this year. So clearly this concept is more important than ever.
Most businesses spend substantial time and money acquiring new customers and often overlook their best source of growth: retaining and growing their existing customer base. And as the old adage goes “It’s cheaper to keep ‘em”.
Depending on your business, it can cost 4-20 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
When your business develops a solid reputation for being customer-centric, it will entice more inbound leads, referrals and buzz, enabling it to grow. Just as important, you’ve earned your customer’s loyalty and now have the ability to deepen that relationship.
"Customers who have had optimal experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had a poor experience". (Peter Kriss, Harvard Business Review, 2014)
Think about it. Would you rather go to the coffee shop that creates a happy, positive environment where the servers always take your order with a smile and personalize their conversation to you or the one where they are rude, slow and may actually mock you to your face?
For years, many leaders have ignored the importance of the customer experience and sat on their laurels of being the “only game in town”. Beware! With global expansion, increasing levels of entrepreneurship and new technologies, the competitive environment has changed. In 2016, you never know where your competition may be coming from.
So yes, this isn’t just about being nice.
"Increased loyalty can bring cost savings in several areas: reduced marketing costs, lower costs in contract negotiations and order processing, reduced customer churn expenses, increased cross–selling, and more positive word–of–mouth, reducing acquisition costs," according to Emotional Intelligence Takes Customer Loyalty to a Higher Level by Michael Greenbaum.
So hopefully the benefits are clear. Here are five areas where you can genuinely show your customers how much you really care.
1. Make It Great!
If you want repeat business and customer loyalty, make it easy for your customers to love you.
Be great at what you do! Be clear on your unique value proposition and stay true to that. Deliver the best product/service that your organization can and continuously innovate. Stay on top of your industry trends, up to date with technology and prioritize professional development. Employees with more knowledge and better training are a benefit to your organization. They will be more productive, more innovative and happier. Everyone wins!
When things go wrong, which they always do, use this experiences as a teaching moment. Do not verbally attack or belittle a particular person. Very rarely is an incident solely one person’s fault. Immediately pull the team together, deconstruct the incident and determine how this happened and the changes you can make to ensure that it won’t happen again.
2. Keep a Customer-Centric Mindset
Your customers' needs should always be in the forefront of your mind when your organization is making any decision. Your customers are impacted by almost everything that happens within your organization, not just what happens on the front line. How do your systems impact their ability to access their information? How do your culture and hiring policies impact the treatment they get at every touch point?
Kronos, a leading provider of workforce management solutions in the cloud, is so committed to providing an optimal customer experience that they made it a priority for their product development team to be immersed in the workforce issues that their customers face. Determined to place their customers in the day-to-day environment of Kronos, the leadership came up with the idea of creating life-size customer cut-outs based on their well-developed customer avatars. These serve as a constant visual reminder that their customers are real people with clear wants and needs. Now the customer is “literally” in the forefront of everyone’s mind every day.
62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience
66% of B2B and 52% of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction[i]
3. Be Authentic
We all are overwhelmed with information and messages these days. Most of us have developed GREAT filters to keep the fluffy, unsupported, “mission statements”, unfulfilled commitments and meaningless tag lines out of site and out of mind.
If you genuinely appreciate your customers, don’t just tell them, show them.
Metro Bank, the UK’s newest High St. bank, created a “Culture of Yes”, that includes no stupid bank rules, being open hours 7 days per week with early and late hours, unlimited dog biscuits, free coin counting machines and many of the other benefits we wish our bank provided. This is the living embodiment of their commitment to a better banking experience and is evident every day, regardless of which store you go to. These decisions were made to ensure the customer’s life is easier, better and more positive at every interaction.
Metro Bank opened its first store in 2010 and now has 40 stores across London and South East England. In 2015, their customer acquisition rate increased by over 208,000 customers, up 46% year-on-year. They project to increase their staff by 500 in 2016.
Clearly, their strategy is working!
4. Celebrate Your Customer Service Team
Equally important to providing a great product/service is the customer experience when things go wrong. This is when your customer-centric behavior and authenticity are truly tested.
As obvious as it sounds, make sure that your customer service team has the right skills for your managing customers’ needs. No amount of CRM software can compensate for shortcomings in this area. Your CS team must be connected to your organization’s values and feel that they are an integral part of achieving over-arching goals. If a CS rep feel disengaged, poorly treated, disrespected, or taken advantage of, there is no way this person can genuinely support your customers.
Quite often organizations put young, new hires here in a windowless, bleak environment to solve issues that often, your organization knows about, but chooses to ignore. OR leaders outsource this important task and these representatives have NO connection to your organization whatsoever. They are not familiar with your vision and values. How can they provide the level of service that you may want them to offer? They don’t know your business at all.
Train your staff well and give them flexibility to make smart decisions to truly solve your customers' issues, not only to read from a script filled with empty apologetic jargon – with no true resolution.
For a great example, check out how Zappos does it!
** Also, to fully understand the customer experience, you must be tracking data. Don’t ever assume you know what your customers want or what they will accept. Ask them! There are so many ways to capture customer data today, there is no excuse not to do this. Use and share this data to make better and more informed decisions (see #2)
5. Make it Convenient and Consistent
In 2016, you need to support me where I want it, when I want it, and how I want it!
It takes time and attention to get this right, but it is worth it! Create a winning culture! Develop smart policies and procedures that make sense for your employees and your customers and enforce them. Incentivize positive behaviors and ensure that all employees understand how their role contributes to the objective of the organization.
For your customers, simple changes you can make include, having a brand ambassador (or an effective service) answer your main number, not keeping customers on hold, reducing the number of buttons people must press when using an automated phone answering system to reach a service representative, and changing your voicemail to let people know where you are and when they'll hear from you.
Use technology! Have a customer support email address that is actively managed, include live chat, and social media. Be where your customers are. If you don’t know what your customers are saying about you, it will hurt you. Be proactive and manage your online reputation.
45% of the global population share bad customer service experiences and 30% share good customer service experiences via social media
Recently I attempted to change my internet service provider when a new carrier came into my area. I called to sign up for the service and was told that I needed to go into a store to do so. I went to the store and was told I needed to wait for a representative to call to confirm the service was available in my area (even though my neighbors have it) and only then I could come back to the store with required documentation to sign up. After that, it would be 3-5 weeks until the service was activated. Talk about making this difficult for your customer to switch!
But to make it worse, after a week, I stopped back into the store to let them know I had not received the confirmation call and I was told someone would call me the next day and come to my office to complete the application….and no call came. You can be sure that we did not go with this provider.
There are great examples out there of how making Customer Experience a priority has directly impacted the growth and success of many businesses. For ideas look at the organizations referenced above as well as Southwest and Jet Blue Airlines, Gentle Giant Moving Company, Trader Joe’s (US-based grocery store) and many more.
Make Customer Experience a priority and you’ll reap the benefits. The information and tools are out there to enhance the work you’re already doing to truly be a customer-centric organization. Go for it!