Studies invariably show that improving customer experience provides good returns on investment. In fact, across sectors, McKinsey estimate that organisations offering exceptional customer experiences can exceed the gross margins of their competitors by 26%. But what makes a good customer experience? And what is the barometer for it?
Despite often having the good intention to transform journeys, finding the best answers to these questions can be a struggle for many organisations. In a series of posts, we will examine how organisations can improve customer experience by looking through the eyes of the customer.
Businesses and customers approach the same interaction with different perspectives and goals. For customers, the things they value the most may not only be the products or services an organisation offers, but also the experience. However, some businesses place greater emphasis on products or services while ignoring the experience.
With 60% of customers having switched providers due to poor customer experience, it’s clear that business cannot afford to make this mistake. Now is the time for businesses to realign to focus on the customer experience.
Over the past few years, customer expectations have been transformed by disruptors like Amazon and Apple. Customers are now accustomed to being able to interact with an organisation at a time and place, and in a way that is convenient to them. In fact, 83% of consumers complain that it is ‘frustrating’ or ‘extremely frustrating’ dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them.
Organisations are beginning to respond, with 88% of global contact centre executives citing customer experience and expectations as a main driver for growth within contact centres. However, with 60% of customers using multiple channels in a single transaction, businesses need to ensure their channels are not siloed and customers can easily meander across them.
With customer experience playing an increasingly important role in how consumers evaluate and choose which organisations they engage with, organisations can no longer afford not to meet customers on their own terms.
Speed and Efficiency
Customers want a fast and efficient transaction. They do not want to spend longer than necessary speaking to agents; but equally, it is important that their questions are answered or problems resolved as efficiently as possible. It is important to guide the customer to the end of their desired outcome, ideally as part of the first interaction. A failure to do so results in costly repeat calls, with customer satisfaction dropping 15% for every call regarding the same issue.
Technology can augment agents, providing them with the tools to avoid the traditional issues that have plagued telephony channels. For example, ‘snail mail’ delays caused by sending documents in the post, or requests for customers to go into a store to verify their identity have historically been key pain points, but can now take place in real time basis as part of a phone call if the agent is provided with the right technological tools.
In order to create value for customers, you have to make them feel valued. Customers do not want to feel like a number in a queue, but they want you to understand their requirements and concerns, and tailor the service you offer to them. This is particularly important in the case of high value or emotional journeys.
Some journeys might not be simply a transaction for your customer, but rather could be a real milestone in their life. Take the examples of a mortgage or a pension. The decision your customer makes today could have long-term implications on their future. As a result, customers want to feel that they have built a relationship with an advisor, who they can trust to give the best advice based on their particular circumstance. It is important that businesses understand this, otherwise customers will merely seek advice elsewhere.
Do What you Say you’re Going to Do
This is the byword of customer service. It seems obvious to say that the product or service you offer must work as customers expect and you must deliver this when you say you are going to. Despite this, organisations across sectors are not meeting this basic demand. In fact, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index report showed that 31.5% of customers complained about the quality or reliability of goods/ services and 25.1% about late delivery or slow service.
However, customer journeys are not just about the products and services you offer. In the most recent examination of customer priorities, the Institute for Customer Service found customers ranked ‘staff doing what they say they will do’ second out of 47 different priorities. It’s therefore vital that staff meet the commitments they make, for example, calling a customer back if they say they are going to.
In order for agents to deliver the service customers expect, it is important that organisations support front-line staff. Telephony agents can be given digital tools that empower them to solve customer service problems, for example screen sharing solutions can help agents to resolve billing queries or explain complex products.
Poor communication may mean that your customers have inflated or even false expectations of you, possibly leading to mistrust. This is especially important in the case of complex purchases, where the customer has to make various considerations before completing a transaction.
Too often, within any given business, agents are not always singing from the same hymn sheet. A customer may be told incorrect or conflicting information from different agents, causing confusion and even frustration when their expectations are not met. Businesses need to address siloes across touchpoints. Whilst individual touchpoints can operate smoothly, a lack of cohesion across the end-to-end journey can result in problems for the customer.
Irrespective of channel choice, customers must be clear about the product or service you are offering. Even if a customer eventually performs a digital self-serve journey, for complex products, 48% of customers will first seek advice from a customer service assistant either in store or via telephony. It is important that these agents can provide clarity to the customer, as well as assure them that they have understood their needs and requirements.
It is also important that measurements are taken to ensure that sales processes are delivering the desired outcomes to the customer. This enables organisations to identify points at which problems are occurring. However, according to by a survey conducted by Forrester & Accenture, while 97% of brands believe gaining customer insights and feedback is useful, only 32% are consistently generating valuable data.
The Bottom Line
Looking forward, then, it’s essential to be aware of the things your customers value most. As such, it may be your service and not your product or price that dictates whether your customers will stay with you in the long term. By giving customers what they want, when they want and in a way they want it, you are much more likely to generate that oh so elusive loyalty that will determine the success of your business.
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Click here for the second instalment in our ‘Through the Eyes of the Customer’ series.