Customer Experience Is The Next Competitive Battleground
Posted: 08/03/2009 12:00:00 AM EDT | 3
Editor's Note: This article was first run on Customer Management IQ on 6/29/2009.
In an unforgettable scene from the blockbuster film When Harry Met Sally, Sally told Harry “I want it how I want it,” and he just snickered. But that was 1989. Twenty years later, the tables have turned. Not only do more customers want it how they want it, they increasingly expect it.
As customers adopt a variety of technologies that allow them to browse, purchase and obtain customer service around the clock, companies have had to change the way they do business. Almost all business-to-consumer companies now sell their products and services in stores, online or via call centers and catalogues.
The Brand Promise
With so many routes to market, you need to work hard to maintain your brand promise and create a coherent customer experience, irrespective of the channel that the individual customer chooses. customer loyalty and repeat purchases increasingly depend on the quality of service provided and whether a customer feels that his/her opinions, desires and attitudes are taken seriously.
The 2008 Gartner CRM Summit provided some interesting food for thought for all businesses in the current economic downturn. Speakers cited customer retention as a key area of focus for the executive level. CEOs increasingly look to reduce attrition, increase customer loyalty and compete effectively in a world where switching to a competitor’s products is increasingly commonplace and building an enduring relationship with the customer is harder to achieve.
Customer Loyalty and Switch Culture
Research carried out by the Strativity Group corroborates this point, finding that 95 percent of executives think that customer experience is the next competitive battleground. Developing an effective Customer Strategy that allows an organization to build long-term customer relationships in order to counteract the "switch culture" is essential.
The situation is even starker now that cash and credit are less readily accessible. Customer defection is as likely to be to the sidelines as it is to be to the competition.
You can best enhance customer experience, customer loyalty and customer advocacy by first measuring it and then showing customers that the customer opinions count. Feedback Management initiatives enable you to create a two-way dialogue with customers to find out how they feel about a product or service and what factors impact their decision-making process. Such a dialogue serves as a vital component of any successful Customer Experience strategy. Only by tracking individual "pain points" can you change business processes to improve customer experience, enhance a product offering or provide a personalized service that differentiates you from your competitors.
Customer Feedback Technology
As with sales channels, feedback technology has evolved to the point where you can communicate with your customers both "how they want it" and "when they want it," whether in-store, online, via IVR or the contact center. And you can leverage that feedback into an enterprise-wide program that directly impacts business results. With Feedback Management software you can turn the multi-channel environment into a highly-effective communication and marketing mechanism. More than just market research, in which the company solicits the answer to a specific question at a particular time from a large population, feedback seeks data on each customer’s experience on an ongoing basis.
Driving action through the business upon receipt of the customer feedback, whether through automated system alerts triggered by very strong responses to specific questions, or through trending attitude over time, gives you the ability to integrate the voice of the customer into every facet of your business.
By combining real time understanding of customer attitude with key business performance metrics, you will be in a much better position to differentiate your business on the basis of customer experience, customer loyalty and quality of service.
First published on Customer Management IQ.
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Great post, Gary. I agree and would like to add that, in addition to knowing the “how” and “when,” companies need to know the “what.” Exemplary customer engagement comes down to actually knowing what kind of information your customers want to receive, as well as when and how they want to receive it. Today’s customers expect—and in many cases demand—that information be tailored to their ever-changing needs and interests.
As you point out, it’s also important to create an experience. In my line of work, I spend a lot of time helping companies of all types engage and activate customers, and one surprising segment of small to mid-sized businesses – orthodontists – has really opened my eyes to the opportunity to truly communicate and engage with customers in a way that encourages behavior change. With GenZ making up the bulk of their customer base, orthodontists have had to adapt, and I believe most businesses can leverage some of their learnings to engage and activate customers.
For example, all businesses desire to build long-term relationships with their customers. With this in mind, many companies are employing the use of notifications technology such as e-mail and text messaging to provide ongoing customer care. For example, one progressive orthodontist I work with communicates with GenZ customers between visits to ensure the patient is managing his treatment at home. If part of a patient’s treatment is to wear headgear at night, the orthodontist schedules a series of text messages to be delivered a few nights a week reminding his patient to wear his headgear:
• Monday’s message: dnt 4gt 2 wear yr headgear (Translation: Don’t forget to wear your headgear)
• Thursday’s message: brush yr ivories n zzz wel (Translation: Brush your teeth and sleep well)
• Saturday’s message: 1ly 99 nyts lft 2 wear headgear (Translation: Only 99 nights left to wear headgear)
• Monday’s message: headgear = gr8 ivories n lots of d8s (Translation: Headgear equals great teeth and lots of dates)
This same orthodontist has kids and knows Generation Z customers are all about video. So, he e-mails his GenZ customers YouTube videos with tips from their peers. To give you a feel for what I’m talking about, view this YouTube video that shares tips and tricks for wearing elastics. How cool is that?
By leveraging what I call “engagement communications (EC),” notifications technology, and some imagination, companies can deliver a more personalized customer experience, increase customer loyalty and reduce churn. So experiment, have fun and, most importantly, engage your customers – whatever the generation – with relevant, personalized communications that create a positive customer care experience.
Scott Zimmerman, President at www.televox.com
Well said, however the challenge always comes back to implementation of the theory. There a fine line between keeping it simple for the customer to engage with in providing the feedback, and in the quality of the information you end up receiving. Also with technologies changing at the rate they are, new opportunities are emerging every day. The proliferation of cell phone technology has created a new powerful channel to engague with your customers. J Branson, in answer to your comment on this article, we've been working very successfully with this channel making use of SMS/text messaging to collect and report on fairly complex customer experience data. Feel free to contact me should you wish to find out more about it.