Martin Ellingham, product director, Aptean Respond, looks at what makes a successful customer strategy in 2020, and defines the five most important building blocks necessary to deliver on it.
With numerous studies showing that 2020 will see customer experience overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator for companies, it’s no wonder we’re seeing increased impetus and investment in this area.
In a society where brand loyalty is in decline, and consumer transiency is on the rise, delivering an experience which exceeds consumer expectations is king, with a positive customer experience fast becoming the most important metric for business success.
Against this backdrop, it’s never been more important to ensure positive, seamless interactions with customers as a means to garner goodwill and loyalty. But what are the most important aspects to consider when creating a strategy which consistently delivers and delights?
Top down, organization wide
The concept of a customer-centric culture is often talked about when discussing the customer experience. But in many cases, the buzzword has overshadowed action, with anyone and everyone who holds a belief that the customer is important, claiming to have a customer-centric culture. While this is of course a positive step, sentiment alone is unlikely to achieve the kind of customer experience many aspire to, or indeed help win market share.
In real terms, creation of a customer-centric culture has to be led from the top down, be joined-up and span the entire organization. This means focusing on the employee experience first and foremost, ensuring the right skills and creating brand ambassadors across every department.
There is no point in delivering a consistent experience within the confines of the contact center, if communications with other departments are excluded and the quality of customer interaction varies according to who they take place with. The right culture ensures that common values and priorities are delivered every time, irrespective of touchpoint.
Listen to feedback
In a world where consumers are increasingly demanding, and less forgiving of experiences which fall short of expectations, an increase in complaints seems inevitable. On the face of it, this is often viewed by companies as a burden or cost center. However, it’s absolutely crucial to consider that the way in which complaints are managed can make or break a customer relationship.
A poor complaints experience will often result in a customer leaving, never to return, while a positive one can be incredibly powerful. Managing a complaint in the right way provides a platform to not only retain that customer, but create a brand advocate who will spread goodwill and help expand market share.
In either case, the feedback gained as part of the complaints process is hugely valuable, typically providing more in-depth insights than might be gained at other stages in the customer lifecycle. To ignore this is to miss an opportunity to learn and refine strategy going forward.
While speed of response, or speed of complaint resolution, is often cited as one of the most important factors in the customer experience, this is not always the case. For many, the most important aspect is delivering against expectations.
While an Amazon shopper might (reasonably) expect a fast response and refund for a damaged phone case that costs around £10, for more complex industries such as financial services, where queries are rarely straightforward, and span multiple agencies, this isn’t the case. Setting the right expectation, and following up with regular updates, is often a much better way to achieve the best customer experience and outcome.
Automate to accumulate
The complexity, number of touchpoints and sheer volume of customers most companies now manage means that automation is synonymous with best practice. Manual processes typically risk inaccuracies, and are at odds with a need to deliver consistency.
The best customer experience management systems not only allow queries to be processed faster and with greater accuracy, helping agents to focus on value-add or cross selling opportunities, but reduce support costs. In fact, many experts predict that by the end of this year, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without the need for a human agent.
We live in digital times. The majority of customer interactions now involve some form of digital communication, whether it’s via a form on a website, app or on social media. It’s important to keep in mind that consumers will judge your brand not only on the messages it communicates, but on the ease, speed and level of personalisation involved in an interaction.
With 2020 billed as the year of the customer experience, forward thinking companies are already building or refining strategies based on these building blocks. For those yet to embark upon such an approach, there is little time to lose.
About the Author
Martin Ellingham is product director at Aptean Respond. Aptean is a provider of supply chain management, compliance and enterprise resource planning solutions for businesses.