Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
I bet that almost every company today has been there and done that: they have had innumerable brainstorming sessions over market research, social media engagement, and customer feedback data to develop a breakthrough strategy on improving customer experience. Indeed, the employees get pumped up with ideas after such discussions, but in a matter of few days, things are back to status quo. There is that state of confusion across the company that brings everything back to square one, not knowing how to convert ideas into action.
Unfortunately, the growing needs of customers and their access to information is out-pacing the most innovative companies. It is time we let that sink in and begin to act on those ideas. When it comes to delivering exceptional customer experience, interestingly, a lot of companies still don’t have a clue where they are going wrong! Therefore, in order to understand what should be done to overcome this situation, it is important to start with acknowledging what’s going wrong.
Our memories are stories full of emotions. We tend to remember things that surprised us (exceeding expectations), things that shocked or saddened us (not meeting expectations), and people who made a difference in our life. Companies usually fail to understand that any given experience is strongly linked to some form of emotion. This is why when Apple said YES!, and gave away a free iPad to one of its customers, and when Opryland charmed one of its guests by sending their personalised alarm clock as a gift, and when a barista at Starbucks had cup talks with one of the regular customers, they were not merely creating great customer experiences, they created an emotional bond with these people, which turned into great customer experience stories. These are examples of how brands can personally bond with their customers to enhance the experience.
No matter how big a company gets, it should always remember that, in the end, they are dealing with people who associate memories with emotions. Just ensure that you deliver a positive emotion with your product, and your customers will fall in love with you.
Companies today have a plethora of channels through which they have access to all sorts of information regarding their customers. From their name, age, and gender, to their online behaviour, likes, dislikes, the places they visit, and the brands they regularly buy from! Then there is also the customer feedback data that directly tells what’s ticking with the customers and what’s ticking them off. On top of all this, companies also have big data insights delivered through powerful analytics and AI engines like IBM Watson and the likes.
The problem lies in synthesising all this information and drawing out a simple, clear, customer-centric plan of action. Information that is scattered needs to be put together in a way that it gives structure to the characteristics of your customers. Then it is a matter of making it easy for your employees to understand: how does their action (or inaction) impact the customer’s experience, and what they need to do to deliver that out-of-the-world customer experience! Companies also need to connect the dots in order to send timely and relevant messages to their customers.
Only by being focused on taking action and doing it in the most customer-centric way, can companies make the best of all the information they have access too?
Imitation is everywhere, ranging from design to strategies. Samsung apes Apple, Apple steals ideas from many and the list can go on and on. While imitation in itself isn’t as sinful as it is portrayed to be, it definitely is ignorant to do so without understanding the impact on your customers. In an article, HBR offers a beautiful critique: “You’re Doing Customer Experience Innovation Wrong.” Citing a Forrester Research report on customer experience innovation in this article, Kerry Bodine, argues that with so much investment in customer experience innovation, results are disappointing. She points out that, in the same year as this research, “only 8% of the companies in this annual benchmarking survey received a top grade from their customers, while a whopping 73% of interviewees say they plan to launch innovative customer experiences in the upcoming year — and two-thirds believe that they already have.” Here’s a snippet of the report:
What’s important to note is that without keeping the customer at the core of their innovation, these companies would never achieve their goals. Presumably, customers of Apple are those who like to be surprised. Therefore, Apple products suit them. On the other hand, Samsung is loved by its customers for its flexibility to let them customise the product to their taste and mood. Not understanding what your customers expect from you and blindly copying your competition paints a very wrong picture of you, thereby affecting the customer experience.
The idea is to make the innovation associated with the customer experience. Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s Siri are a few noteworthy examples of innovation that kept customer experience at the core and, not surprisingly, have been loved by customers since launch.
Customer experience is indeed a battlefield. The one who understands his customers survives. The one who acknowledges and starts working on things that are wrong is on a path to victory!
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