Four Characteristics of a Seamless Customer Experience

Everyone’s talking about customer experience, whether they are coming from the view of a customer (since we are all customers of something really) or if they’re coming from a strategic business perspective, wanting to improve customer experience for a competitive advantage.
Don Peppers of the Peppers & Rogers Group wrote about his top 4 characteristics of a seamless customer experience, here’s our take.

We believe that branding is the promise you make; customer experience is the promise you keep. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep promises that’s why it’s important to continually check, is your customer experience seamless? Does your customer experience have these four characteristics?

  1. Reliable: Products and services built to break or are full of holes aren’t reliable nor are they set up to have a promising future for both the customer and the producer. “Your product or service should perform as advertised, without failing or breaking down.” Keep the promises you made when your customer first signed up and that will ensure you a base of happy and loyal customers.
  2. Relevant: Don Peppers sees this characteristic as what he calls “customer competence”. He mentions that companies should, once they have learnt a customers’ details, it should be remembered. To add, we believe it is extremely important to know and understand your customers. If you think you know what your customers want, you’re probably wrong because only they know and the only way to find out is to get to know them. So listen to your customers!
  3. Valuable: If you make yourself relevant to a certain target customer, you should also make yourself valuable to them. Not only should your product/service provide your customers with great value for money but they should also become something that is seen as irreplaceable. These companies are called charismatic brands, where customers can’t seem to find an equal or second option for your product/service. Therefore build your brand as valuable to your target customer so that your customers become true fans.
  4. Honest: Genuine honesty creates a human organisation and will build brand stories that are unforgettable and therefore truly valuable for your company. We’ve mentioned this before in our previous post (2. Always put your customers first).

Read the Peppers article here.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Customers can be really difficult sometimes. Sure, it would be great if we could just make those customers just disappear…but that’s just unrealistic. Unsatisfied customers are extremely likely to spread their frustrations faster than you could ever hope to keep them quiet especially in this age of easy web access.

Instead of treating these difficult customers as a burden, try seeing it as a business opportunity for change. Negative customer feedback should always be taken as areas of growth. In a 1to1media article, it is pointed out that some companies actually “seek to understand what issues consumers keep encountering so they can adjust their approach and improve the customer experience for all.” Imagine that! Companies that are actually interested in what you the customer, is frustrated with!

Ok so how should you deal with “difficult” customers?

  1. Address their concerns: First and foremost, when customers are facing difficulties with your company, they want to feel acknowledged. Customers want to know that they are important and that their concerns will be addressed. By addressing customer concerns, you show that you are taking responsibility over it. Rather than patching up a common issue, “brands must look to the primary causes if they hope to rectify the situation.”

  2. Always put the customer first: This might be a difficult one for some because this means that no matter what cost and no matter what choice the customer may make in the end, their interests come first. There will be times when a customer will chose your competitor over you. Instead of leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth, make the customer’s experience with you a positive one, until the very end. Being extremely honest with your customers about where they can find better priced or better suiting plans/products will result in raving fans who will tell your story for years even though they aren’t exactly “with” you. That is far more valuable than an unhappy customer kept with a dishonest company that cannot provide what they desire.
  3. Don’t forget your internal customers: By internal customers, we mean your employees. Your employees are just as valuable as your external (end) customers for they are what makes your company work. They are the frontline staff and the “face” of the company. The morale of these internal customers are especially important since they communicate this throughout the organisation through their work. Therefore, support your staff while they deal with difficult customers especially when they are confronted with abusive behaviour. This will encourage “them to advocate for the brand and offer superior customer service, as they can rest assured that the company at hand is certainly one for which they want to work.”

Read the 1to1media article here. 

Transparency = Competitive Advantage

How can transparency become your competitive advantage?
We’ve broken it down to three areas that you can bring in transparency into your company so that you can transform it into your competitive advantage and why.

Transparency in:

  • How much your colleagues are earning: Transparency on the cost structure of your company can prove to create an incredible bond of trust within the organisation. This not only shows how much each position earns but clearly explains why. No one is left out and there are no hidden deals behind closed doors, which gives employees a sense of clear direction and certainty.
  • What your colleagues are doing: This helps employees keep track of where they are personally on a project but also what areas their colleagues are tackling, how much time they’re spending on it which holds people accountable to certain tasks. “In addition to sharing daily learnings and progress, everyone on the team also shares where they struggled and how they’re trying to improve.” This can be used to help people become more efficient and part of the team.
  • What your business goal is: Having a clear business goal that is apparent to both your internal customers and your external customers makes a statement about your company. Not only does the world know that, Google’s company mantra is “Don’t be evil”, but it is something that they will be held accountable for. Similarly, you will have to stand by your business goal and this gives your company a great amount of transparency and therefore trust in your brand.

“When you’re treating employees well, transparency is a very simple proposition–it’s just telling people what you do…it’s as easy as telling the truth.”

Read more on transparency in your business here. 

Being a Meaningful Brand

“Make consumers’ lives better.”

This is what businesses and brands must do. Makes sense, doesn’t it? More often than not, brands fail to meet this need. A Co.Exist article discusses the need for brands today to create meaningful lives. Umair Haque, blogger from Harvard Business Review claims, “The next global economy isn’t just about stuff, it’s about human lives.” Over time, what consumers look for in a brand has drastically changed over time from what the product does to how it makes you feel to who you are. Today it is about making a better you.

The marketplace is cluttered with businesses that sell “throwaway” products in the name of consumerism and brands that are stained with negative experiences, making it difficult for anyone with a conscience to associate with. There are however, amidst it all, brands that do it right. These are the customer centric businesses that genuinely want to improve the livelihood of its customers.

“Your customers, are beginning to take a quantum leap into an era where a life meaningfully well lived is what really counts.”

In order to keep up in this era, some brands may have to undergo internal rebuilding so that fulfilling the customer’s desire for a more meaningful life is achievable. This might mean realigning your core values with your customers and creating a cultural change within your work place that focuses on your customers’ ultimate need. Keep up with the new era of change and be the brand that is far more meaningful than ever before, be the brand that makes your customers’ lives better. At Proto Partners we can help you to do this. Our goal is to “help organisations enrich the lives of customers, one customer experience at a time.” hence making a more meaningful brand.

The Omnichannel Retail Experience

Retails stores worldwide struggle with the threat of online shopping. In our previous post, we looked at how retail stores can include mobiles in their customer experience. However, what are the other channels that retail can explore? What are other ways that retail can stay relevant? Is it possible to have an omnichannel retail experience?

John Lewis, a department store in Great Britain has proved that it is possible. The retailer has offered numerous innovative shopping experiences through digital channels explains Natalie Brandweiner in a MyCustomer article.

We already know the popularity of mobiles worldwide and throughout generations today. John Lewis has utilized this well by providing an app to complement the customer journey in stores. The app allows customers to scan barcodes and to place new orders for stock. Their “Click-and-Collect” service has also proven to be a success in creating their omnichannel presence. Andy Street from John Lewis justifies, “We know that about 60% of our customers buy both online and in shops so the approach is to make it absolutely seamless … So they can research in one place and shop in the other, they can buy in one place and pick up in the other – the art of sales is consistent across channels…They’re not even supposed to know or see or realize which channel they’re using because it’s one overall customer offer.” 

So how can retail compete for their existence? Install an omnichannel experience that’s relevant to your company where “all purchase channels are seamlessly connected, therefore allowing consumers more flexibility and convenience.”

Read more here.

“Showrooming” and Mobiles, Retail’s Enemy or Friend?

“Showrooming” is when people come into store to look at products and go away from the retail store to view it online to find cheaper options. With “showrooming” on the rise, how can retail stores keep customers in stores? A realbusiness article suggests says it’s as simple as using mobile in store.

Research shows that most people who showroom actually use their mobiles during their shopping experience. Mobile is a threat to the retail environment, however there is also an opportunity to make friends with the enemy. Companies can now interact with their customers while they shop through their mobiles, perhaps there could be a mobile retail assistant? Or perhaps specials made available through mobiles or even product suggestions as you browse the store. “It’s the perfect tool for businesses to find new ways to make buying in-store the convenient option.” By truly understanding how mobile are used by customers and their retail journey experience with you, opportunities for a successful new form of interaction with your brand is made possible.

Read the full article here.

5 Rules of Customer Experience Across Channels.

With advancements to technology ever increasing, how do businesses adapt (or not) for their customer experience in digital channels? Does digital customer experience have to break the rules of conventional customer experience? Does it have a new set of rules? In an article by bizcommunity, Chantel Botha discusses the rules of customer experience she believes applies across all channels.

  1. Be Personal. The more human an interaction is, the better. Customers react positively to humanly responses. For example when responding to your customer emails, use their name rather than the word “customer”. It is the little things that make people feel special and most brand miss out on this simple way to make another personal connection to their customer.
  2. Make it Effortless. Customers lives are busy and complex enough. Make their interactions with you as effortless and simplistic as possible to allow for a seamless experience. Customers often expect to fill in their personal details once, for example and not have to deal with filling in the same details time and time again.
  3. Give your Customers Control. Customer don’t want to be told how to interact with a company but to have the freedom to access a company through various channels at a time that suits them. The freedom to choose how they interact with you, gives customers comfort in their decisions.
  4. Make it a Conversation. Broadcast less, and converse with your customers instead! Customers are more willing to express their opinions online due to its accessibility and anonymity. Use that opportunity to listen to what they are saying and engage with your customers. Botha mentions, “I truly believe the scale of digital communication that allows one to communicate with many or even millions will force brands to go back to basics and re-evaluate their purpose, values and personality.”
  5. Keep your Promises. At Proto Partners we believe Branding is the promise you make; Customer Experience is the promise you keep. A great customer experience is one where a customer can rely on a company to keep their promises and to keep true to their brand values. It is far better to be upfront and honest about wait times and delays than to keep your customer in the dark or feeling like you’ve ignored or forgotten them.

Most importantly: Listen. “…brands that don’t listen to their customers have really large gaps between what their customers expect and what the actual customer experience is”

Read more here.

Retail Sales: Online vs Offline

There is a shift in the way customers interact with retail experiences and that’s of retail sales offline (physical stores and kiosks) to an online offering. In many cases this shift is an inevitable evolution of the retail experience but what about those customers that require that extra effort, care and human interaction when making purchases? How can you determine what your customers prefer? Don’t guess, ask them! The key is to better understand your customers through leveraging existing data, talking to your customers, listening to your customers and understanding their experience with you through a customer journey map. A Forbes article suggests using “data-driven marketing insights to empower employees, so then these employees can elevate the customer experience and treat shoppers the way they want to be treated: as individuals with unique buying behaviors and preferences.”

 

Read more of that article here.

Customers = Brand Experience

In an article from MediaPost, Ingrid Froelich emphasizes that “brand experience is defined by your customers’ perceptions of their interaction with you.” The way that your customers experience your brand across channels whether they are active or passive in this, all affect the way they see your brand. This can make your break your brand experience.

“To stand out, organisations now need to meet and exceed customer expectations.”

So how is this done? First, you need to know your customers and what exactly are their expectations.

  1. Know your customers. The easiest way of doing this is not by assuming what they know but by simply listening to your customers. Take an ‘Outside In’ perspective to help you to understand and emphasize with your customers because the customer voice can strongly affect the way your brand is perceived. “By hearing the customer voice, the organisation can prioritize change and support the most valuable touchpoints.” Every channel has value, however, by placing your focus on the areas your customers most value, it will become a win-win situation.
  2. Don’t be a stalker. It’s great knowing your customers but not in the same way a stalker knows their victim. To create a genuine brand experience, it is important to give your customers privacy. Combine your real-time data with information your customers have volunteered to give to you. “Responsible use of customer data enhances loyalty by responding to preferences.”
  3. Weave customer-centricity throughout your organisation. Customers do not necessarily think about the operations and different departments behind their experience with your brand, whether they are good or bad. “All of the good intentions in the world and all of the speeches from CEOs and customer advocates in your organization cannot replace the need for a fundamental customer-centric culture and process.” Therefore every aspect of your organisation must maintain customer-centric goals so that the customer experience is seamless and consistent.

Read more of MediaPost’s points here. 

Digital CRM, the New Way Forward?

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) manages customers’ interactions with a company. This helps companies to analyse their customers’ behaviours, predict their wants and to deliver a customer experience that is more fulfilling.

An article from TechTarget claims that a digital CRM is the new way forward for every industry (from Disneyland to dishwashers). With this knowledge, organisations can personalise their products to suit their customers’ needs. The article explains how a smart refrigerator by Samsung can track its contents allowing users to share shopping lists and notify them when someone has bought the mustard. Using a digital CRM to improve  customers’ experiences with your service/product will of course, create happy customers who are more likely to attract more business and remain loyal to your organisation.

The data collected from digital CRMs however, can also be used for targeted marketing. Details such as the time and date that customers use a certain service/product is one of the many pieces of information that is noted. In our previous post, we explained that companies should stay away from being stalker-like. Of course there are certain limits of using sensitive data to sell to marketers. If companies begun to do so, customers’ trust would be greatly affected, giving your brand a bad name. This will have serious affects on your customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Read the full TechTarget article here.