Customer Focus: The blueprint for an excellent customer experience
28 July 2014 |
Natasha Clark investigates the growing trends that could boost your business’s customer experience and finds out why customers like them so much.
Customer service is just a small part of all the interactions users will have with a brand, leading to the cumulative title of ‘customer experience’. With so many brands and businesses offering good services and excellent products a smile, offering your customers an amazing experience is fast becoming the way to stand out. How can businesses create a great customer experience?
According to research from Forbes, only 26 per cent of companies have a well-developed strategy in place for improving their customer experience, which implies that companies either do not understand the full extent of customer service, or do not deem it worth investing in.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience is the sum of all experiences and interactions that a person has with any one business or brand, over the grand total time of their relationship. This can be a long process, from discovering a new shop, exchanging tweets, shopping online, getting a delivery, and more, right until they cease to engage with the brand.
In simple terms, you may only call up customer service hotlines to fix your internet connection once, but your experience is the time when you engage with the brand when you get the bill through the door, view the website for potential upgrades, pop into a store, or see an advert for them on a billboard. What can businesses do to turn a good brand into great customer experiences and loyalty?
A seamless experience across all channels – both online and offline
Jim McCall, managing director of digital agency The Unit, insists that the experience needs to be the same across all channels to provide a united front.
“Whether it’s through online or offline channels, today’s consumers are constantly connected,” he said. “Brands need to adapt to the always-on consumer and ensure that they deliver an informative service across multiple channels in a cohesive and joined-up manner, and make it easy for customers to switch channels.”
A strong brand is also key to this. Customers shouldn’t see differences between on- and offline marketing and the firm’s identity should remain similar.
James Ramsden, executive creative director at creative agency Rufus Leonard, said that the brand identity for Lloyds Bank was developed with a strong, single vision, from the credit cards, to branches, the website and uniforms. “The experience is consistent and recognisable. As such, it invokes security and trust which provides customers with a great brand experience and, ultimately, a great customer experience,” he said.
Being contactable and visible
Mr McCall added that it is vital to be responsive as much as possible on social media and other channels to be able to adapt quickly to happy and unhappy customers.
“To maintain control, brands must be responsive across all channels,” he explained. “If a consumer has chosen to communicate by phone and their responses aren’t met quickly enough, they may well turn to an online platform as a means to publicise their issue.”
Sue Haley, 54, from Poulton-le-Fylde, said that Next’s customer service is excellent because they are always easy to get hold of. “The website, the directory and the stores are all so accessible and you can always rely on them to have what you want,” she said.
Reliability and consistency
Customers want to get to the products they want quickly and easily, and be able to do this repeatedly, no matter which channel they use.
Marcus Law, head of marketing at SLI Systems, said: “In-store this means visual merchandising and dressing the store effectively and with an intelligent search solution integrated on the website it will allow businesses to connect shoppers with the products they are looking for quickly and easily, ensuring the customer experience is a good one.”
As more and more interactions with brands come from mobile devices, it’s important that they ensure their websites are mobile-friendly, says Al Simpson, co-founder of creative digital agency Fanatica.
“If your website doesn’t work perfectly on every device, for every operating system, and on every browser, your customer isn’t going to like you or use you,” he says. “Data-driven insight from mobiles also can make their customer’s next experience even better and more profitable.”
It is also vital to provide a consistent service, as one bad time with a brand can ruin a customer’s experience overall.
29-year-old Lucy Ashbrook recommends online retailer ASOS for its consistently good service. “As part of their premium club I know that if I order an outfit for the next day it’ll be waiting for me when I get back from work, and if it’s not what I was after I can get send it back straight away.”
Make your customer feel valued and provide good service
Helen McCabe, 31, from Leeds, loves Jo Malone: “I love that when you walk in any of their stores or departments you are treated so well. The little touches they offer and complimentary hand manicures are all little touches that make me keep going back.”
Delivering unexpected additions to a brand can be a key way to make the customer experience stand out, even if the product is identical to many others.
“Great customer experiences are those which surprise and delight us,” says Jez Rose, author of Have A Crap Day, about delivering a resolution in customer experience.
“For example, in a restaurant, tea and coffee at the end could be free. When requesting assistance, a good customer experience is when they go out of their way to help you, even if it’s “not their job”. The unexpected things and the small things are often those that make the biggest difference.”
The secret to delivering a fantastic customer experiences comes down to more than just having a good customer service department, and good products. It originates from having your customer’s perspective in mind during all aspects of delivering them your brand, and trialling their experience with every point of contact they could make. Customer experience is the new battleground, and ignoring it could have a big effect on your business.