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Connecting Employees and The Company’s Brand


March 22, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.” – Meghan Biro With the competition becoming fiercer and cutthroat, companies need everyone working therein to pull their weight not just for their own particular job … Continued

“Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.” – Meghan Biro

With the competition becoming fiercer and cutthroat, companies need everyone working therein to pull their weight not just for their own particular job roles, but also in the realms of customer service and branding. Let’s face it – whatever the employees of a company say about it, would be extremely relevant and people would tend to believe the employees. Hence, for a company’s brand to become and remain successful, connecting employees to the brand has become critical. When we say connecting employees, we mean making brand advocates out of them, ensuring that they speak highly of the company and the brand, and provide the best kind of customer service to the company’s customers because they feel warmly towards it.

While surveys reveal that at least 90% of companies said that they were connecting employees and engaging them in brand advocacy or were planning to do so in the near future. However, ironically another study revealed that in several companies, employee engagement continued to be low, with only one in every three saying that they trusted their company and that the company cared for them. When the fundamentals of trust and care are missing, connecting employees to the company’s brand is sure to be a lost cause. Just as providing top service to external customers is imperative companies must understand that employees are equally critical to their success. They must constantly ascertain what their employees think about the brand, whether employees like working in the company, do they feel a sense of security and trust towards the company’s leadership, and would they willingly support the short and long-term goals of the company.

In order to ensure success of their promotional and marketing campaigns, connecting employees to the company’s brand would be the first step. In order to know what customers feel, companies use feedback surveys – that is they simply ask customers what they feel. In the same way, to get a handle on how engaged employees feel with the company, the best way is to ask. The system of feedback however, must be consistent, specific, relevant, and should encourage and enhance employee engagement. Connecting employees to the company’s brand and ideals is not a given or something that would happen overnight. In order to get clear and transparent answers and feedback, companies must first exhibit integrity and transparency in their dealings with their employees. The leaders of the company must constantly display a willingness to listen to what employees have to say, and act on the relevant suggestions. Doing so consistently, will not only serve to guide employee behaviour, but would also close the trust gap between employees and management.

Before connecting employees with the company’s brand, it would be necessary to understand what areas interest employees and what they consider important and quintessential to encouraging commitment from them. When a company can gain such understanding, they would not only be able to market the company better, but also their promotional campaigns would reflect the true essence of the company, and therefore be a lot more effective in and relevant for the target customers. The purpose of connecting employees to the brand is that it is through their efforts the brand would come alive and customers would see it in the way the company hopes to portray it. When putting together a branding strategy, companies must be mindful of the profound role that employees can play in making a brand stand out and appear distinctive.

Connecting employees to the brand is the key purpose of internal marketing. By making a connection with employees, they would be able to provide invaluable suggestions on how and to whom the company should sell the products / brand. Connecting employees to the company’s brand is about getting them aligned with the expectations the company would be setting for customers through the branding exercises. Employees are the ones who would be responsible for helping the company to either come true on the expectations or falter on them repeatedly. Employees must feel one with the brand – they must feel for the brand, since disengaged employees would bring more harm than value to the company and its brand.

When people care about their company and its brand, they feel happy to come in to work each day, are motivated to put in their very best, their loyalty increases, and they are more likely to work cohesively and without conflicts with their co-workers. When a company succeeds in connecting employees, the employees would remain united and inspired with a common sense of identity, purpose, and goals. Unfortunately, companies tend to forget this crucial aspect, and undermine the importance of ‘convincing’ employees of the essence and power of the company’s brand. Additionally, the departments responsible to spread awareness and put out relevant internal communications are usually not skilled enough to bridge the divide between employees and the brand. What does happen though is a ‘talking down to’ employees through memos, newsletters, the intranet, and other means – allowing no leeway or way for employees to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the company and the brand they are expected to support and ‘market’. There seems to be no attempt at connecting employees to the company’s brand – it is more forcing the concepts at brands at them.

For effectively connecting employees to the company’s brand, companies must apply the same rules as are relevant when advertising to external customers. This would lead to a better understand of and even passion for the brand on the part of employees. The idea is to get employees to ‘live’ the brand, while working in the office and outside. Employees that carry the vision and brand of the company are more likely to be more convincing and effectively spread the benefits of the brand when speaking to existing and prospective customers of the company.

Everyone resists change for one reason or another. Branding and connecting exercises for employees would meet the same fate unless the company seeks advice and opinions from the employees from the start. By bringing everyone ‘on board’ from the start, employees would be a lot more receptive to the changes, and would in fact be amenable to provide solutions and accept the guidelines from the company. The fact is that trust, engagement, and connection are not things that can be bought or forced – they would need to be inculcated and encouraged through sensible initiatives, which would take time, effort, and may be even have some monetary implications. However, at the end, the company’s efforts and resources would bring it a lot many benefits, which would more than justify their investment.

For connecting employees to the company’s brand, a company must make the effort to weave the brand’s message and essence into the everyday operations and work life of the employees. Spreading the brand to others, should become instinctive and a happy habit for employees, thus making them effective marketing personnel and brand ambassadors of the company. The fact is that a company must care about its employees as much as it cares about its customers and business – for it is employees that would serve customers and take the business to the next level. Treat employees poorly, and you could be digging your own grave. Focus on connecting employees to the company and the brand, and they would become the company’s most potent ‘tool and weapon’, contributing to its success at every step.

 

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Customer Service Failures


March 21, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Sh*t happens is an unacceptable excuse for poor customer service”. – Bill Quiseng Customer service failures are an inevitable part of businesses. However, why do these failures occur and why are some companies unable to ‘recover’ from them, whilst others … Continued

“Sh*t happens is an unacceptable excuse for poor customer service”. – Bill Quiseng

Customer service failures are an inevitable part of businesses. However, why do these failures occur and why are some companies unable to ‘recover’ from them, whilst others do a better job at providing service to all their customers. It would seem obvious that customer service failures occur either because of some ‘bad and poor behaviour” on the part of a company, and at other times, due to the failure of the company in doing what the customer would expect.

What kinds of customer service failures do customers face, and as a company have you been able to fix them? One of the most frustrating things for customers is having to wait long to have their issues addressed or problems fixed. Most often, if a company messes up or a product is faulty, the duration taken to fix the problem often runs into weeks, by which time customers are at the point of leaving and spreading their negative experiences with others. This is perceived by customers as an attempt to either ignore their problems, or lack of experience and expertise to find the most appropriate solutions. In either case, the reputation of a company is negatively affected, and customers often deflect to the company’s nearest competitor.

Another extremely irritating and annoying of the customer service failures is when a company sends expired, or substandard quality products, or products that would be an older version of a ‘shiny and bright’ new version of a product. Why would customers accept products of inferior quality or those that would be obsolete (or nearly so)? It is the responsibility of a company to ensure that the packaging and transportation of products is the best, ensuring that they reach customers in perfect working condition and as they are meant to be. The fact is that even if a company offers ‘free shipping’, most often, the cost of shipping is already woven into the cost of the product, and customers are aware of this fact. In any case, customers deserve the quality of products that they would be paying for.

Customer love to and need to know. This means that they expect companies to keep in touch and communicate with them, such that they know what is happening on their order or any other matter they may have contacted a company to start with. It is imperative to update proactively the customer, rather than forcing the customer to check back constantly. Failure to communicate and keep customers informed is one of the gravest customer service failures, and too many repeats can turn the customer away for good.

What companies fail to realize is that customer service failures can prove to be extremely ‘costly’ and this is aside from monetary losses. Studies within the US showed that companies lose approximately $83billion per year owing to customer churn and abandoned ‘shopping carts’. Among other ‘costs’, the studies further show that at least 75% of customers believe that companies make them wait far too long before they can access a live service representative. About 78% customers leave a company owing to poor customer service – the service representatives were unable to respond to their queries swiftly and effectively enough or that the overall service provided was extremely dissatisfactory. The reality is that for companies to curb their losses and improve customer experiences, they must act immediately to get at the root causes of the customer service failures and prevent them at any cost.

Let us go back to looking at some of the gravest customer service failures on the part of companies. The one main reason why most interactions and transactions have become online is that people do not have time to waste, and everyone expects these interactions to be fast paced and efficient. Hence, when customers call a company, they do so expecting swift and effective responses, but become extremely irritated and disillusioned when they face long hold times, are transferred from one agent to the next, or the person ‘attending’ to their call proves ineffective in resolving their problem or seem uninterested in making any extra effort to help the customer. Long hold times for one customer has a trickle effect – the other customers who would call in, would also need to wait ‘in queue’, and may just ‘hang up’ after a few minutes. This amounts to poor customer service, and results in a loss of customers and revenue for the company.

Over promising and under delivering seems to be a ‘common ailment’ in several companies. From not keeping simple promises such as a call back, to displaying irresponsibility to replace faulty products, all amount to customer service failures, and are reasons enough to make customers ‘see red’. One of the most irritating things for customers is when they receive a wrong delivery order from a restaurant, and the company does not seem apologetic or take swift action to make the amends. Imagine receiving a non-vegetarian dish, if you were a vegetarian, or receiving a gravy item when you actually ordered pizza. It would seem obvious that these errors should be made right but companies seem to struggle with ‘putting themselves in the customer’s shoes’ and hence would be unable to meet the expectations of customers.

As a customer, would you want to associate with a company with poorly trained, inexperienced, slovenly, and discourteous staff? Yet, this is the common scenario for most companies. These companies fail to train their agents, equip them with updated technology, and do not empower them to make spot decisions to satisfy the needs of customers. When existing customers call, they expect that just providing their name would enable the service agents pull out their previous communication and ‘history’ with the company. However, when the agents seem ill-equipped to provide service and expect the customer to repeat their information, customer ire would be inevitable.

It is the age of multi-channel communication, and customers expect that a company would provide seamless and consistently good service across all the channels that the company makes available. Customers want to be able to get service when they want, and from any of the channels of communication available to them. Companies that are unable to do so, or provide erratic and slovenly service on even one of the channels, would be committing one of the worst customer service failures, and since customers have a wide range of companies and offerings to choose from, they would not hesitate to leave a company that disregards their needs.

To avoid and may be even eliminate customer service failures, a company must have some defined and written ‘definitions’ of service – a service level agreement, for example. Everyone in the company must remain aware of the promises made therein, and must know their role in keeping the promises made to customers. Having a robust service level agreement in place will ensure that each person in the company would understand the dangers of flouting the agreement, and hence would remain focused on the customer. A customer-centric culture and values would ensure that customer service failures are at a minimum, which in turn would prove beneficial to companies. It is possible that your company ‘suffers’ from some or all of the customer service failures mentioned – it would be important to lend immediate attention to the problematic areas, since even small efforts, can turn customer service failures into long-term successes for the company.

 

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Managing a Multigenerational Workforce


March 20, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Statistics show that Millenials, those born between 1980 and 2000, will soon become the largest segment in the US workforce. While they may seem to have unique needs when it comes to motivation, there are more similarities than differences across … Continued

“Statistics show that Millenials, those born between 1980 and 2000, will soon become the largest segment in the US workforce. While they may seem to have unique needs when it comes to motivation, there are more similarities than differences across generations. If you focus on that, you’ll be far more successful” – blogoctanner.com

The times have changed – this is perhaps the most obvious and clichéd statement ever! The reason for mentioning the changed times is to draw attention to the fact that the ‘change’ has affected the working and the workforce set up of companies today. It would be hard to find companies where, for example, only elderly people sit at the helm of affairs. Today’s companies have a multigenerational workforce – ranging from people just about to attain adulthood, to people in their early 30s and 40s, to older people with years of experience either in the same company or a variety of companies. Whatever the ‘mix’, the fact is that almost all companies today face the challenges of managing a multigenerational workforce.

Even though it is challenging, a multigenerational workforce is necessary today since a company’s customers too would be multigenerational. Every generation has their own set of skills, knowledge, work ethics, values, expectations, and ‘style’ of working – which can prove to both an advantage, and one of the top reasons for conflict when ‘generations come together’. It becomes necessary for a company to put together strategies and tactics to manage their multigenerational workforce, or face possibly insurmountable problems. The older generations tend to be more loyal, focused, and hardworking, while expecting tangible rewards, while the younger generations would be more amenable to working in teams, earning what they require to meet their daily needs, and have fun while working. The differences in expectations, mind-sets, and refusal to ‘step down’ from what these varying groups expect from a company and their jobs, is what causes the problems.

Managers need to have the skills and expertise to manage the multigenerational workforce. They must know how to treat all employees fairly and as equals, while acknowledging the obvious differences in perspectives, experience, and skill sets. As the face and expectations of customers change – meaning that the younger generation is now more active, and is usually the largest set of customers for any company. Companies need to keep pace with this ‘trend’, which has therefore caused a massive surge in the number of younger workers hired in companies today. Customers expect to see and speak with smart, perceptive, and knowledgeable representatives of a company – they want to connect with those who would be ‘in tune’ with the latest information, newest apps and technology, and other such ‘in the now’ information – criteria met by the younger generation workforce. At the same time, customers want to know that they are dealing with an ‘intelligent and experienced’ company, which would be able to use its experience to solve their problems effectively and speedily. Hence, while it may be a tough ask to manage a multigenerational workforce – companies cannot hope to be successful without such a mix of employees.

What steps does your company take towards managing its multigenerational workforce? Is your company successful in keeping the balance between the varying mind-sets and perspectives? We believe that just as it is important for a company to first understand its customers in order to serve them well, so also it is imperative for a company to ‘study’ its multigenerational workforce in order to get the maximum output from them. The study of the demographics of the current workforce, and projected ‘make up’ of future employees will help a company to determine expectations of their workforce and put in place strategies and may be even job titles to keep all segments of their multigenerational workforce happy. The idea is to understand what matters to different sets of employees, what the company can do to attract both younger and more experienced employees, and what human resource strategies would work best to do so. Not only will a company be able to keep ‘a finger on the pulse’ of their workforce, it would also be able to keep issues arising from a multigenerational workforce at bay.

Irrespective of the varying mind-sets and generations of employees, a company must have a set of workplace policies and processes, non-negotiable for all employees, irrespective of age and designation. Putting these policies in writing and easily accessible for all employees would ensure that the multigenerational workforce would understand and would be required to accept standard norms and expectations from the company. Each person should be made responsible for adhering to these policies, by making them an inextricable part of each person’s KPIs and standards for progression in the company. Setting expectations early on and for all employees is a solid method to manage a multigenerational workforce. In the spirit of expectation setting, a company must encourage open conversation and communication. In case there are signs of stress or conflict owing to multigenerational differences, it would be necessary to address them openly, swiftly, and effectively. Often times, problems within companies escalate because companies hope and believe that the issues will sort out on their own – a misconception.

In the quest to manage and get the best out of a multigenerational workforce, a company must encourage regular meetings and discussions to help their employees understand the varying manner of working and approaches to a job that people of different generations may have. When employees gain an understanding from an older or younger employee perspective, it becomes a lot easier to accept the difference and make efforts to respect the differing views. One of the major causes of conflicts in a company is the ability and willingness to deal with change. Each generation would have their own unique way of dealing with change – the common thread though, would be that everyone feels threatened by change, and would react differently. In order to manage a multigenerational workforce it would be important for a company to understand the concerns and doubts of each ‘generation’ and put in steps to make the transition and change easier to deal with.

When dealing with any kind of workforce, and particularly a multigenerational one, it would be important to treat each employee as an individual and their role as vital to the success and progress of the company. It would be important to understand what each employee (even within the same generation) seeks from their job and the company, and what they would be willing to offer in exchange. A company would need to provide relevant and consistent responses to its employees when they seek answers to their problems and questions. Showing empathy to employees would mean that they in turn would behave in the same way with customers. Building empathy with its multigenerational workforce helps to increase efficiency and create stronger relationships with them.

While each generation would have certain characteristics, the leaders and managers in the company must understand that each employee is an individual. There must be no assumptions that employees would understand another person’s perspective, and managers too, must not assume that they understand or ‘get’ the perception of each person within different generational categories. The fact is that a multigenerational workforce is the most potent way to serve and keep a multigenerational customer base happy. As a company grows and move through different stages, the mix of its workforce continually evolves (as it should), but only those companies that can navigate those changes and effectively manage the multigenerational workforce would succeed.

 

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Reduce Stress for Customer Service Staff


March 19, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers” – Shep Hyken Customer service staff has the important responsibility of dealing directly with, and managing a company’s customers. This means that they are ‘in the … Continued

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers” – Shep Hyken

Customer service staff has the important responsibility of dealing directly with, and managing a company’s customers. This means that they are ‘in the firing line’, withstanding the worst of customer ire, problems, irritation, and even inappropriate behaviour on the part of customers. Customers react this way when the company would have failed in keeping its promises, in the event of a service lapse, and or when a product does not work in the way that it is expected to. All this leads to stress for customer service staff, since it is their job to remain calm, pacify the customers, and provide the most effective solutions to the customer problems. To continue doing their job effectively, it is the onus of the company to find ways to manage and reduce stress for customer service staff.  The most important thing to ‘teach’ this section of employees is that they must never take customer ire and shouting personally – they must distance themselves emotionally from the interactions. This however, does not mean appearing robotic and inhumane.

We know that work related stress is a common occurrence now, but stress for customer service staff is one of the worst kind – simply because they are unable to vent their ire back on the ‘rude and shouting’ customers, and additionally must remain polite and patient throughout the difficult interaction. Stress for customer service staff can ultimately lead to low morale and confidence, irritability, and poor health, which in turn could be the cause of internal conflicts with other team members. The performance of service staff could be affected adversely and in the longer term could result in physical and mental ailments / problems. It is therefore necessary for a company to take immediate and appropriate steps to not just reduce stress for customer service staff, but also work towards eliminating it if possible – since ignoring it could over time, mean the failure of the company.

Customer service staff is an indispensable asset for any company today, and it is necessary for a company to care for them, prevent stress, and make them feel valued and important. A company must train its employees to recognize signs of stress and bring it to the notice of the leaders (without fear of any kind), since ignoring stress or repressing any other kind of negative emotions would only compound the problem, leading to bigger and unmanageable problems in the future. Today, every company must divert resources towards OSH (Organizational Safety and Health), for the well-being of its employees and the business. Among the many things that companies can do to reduce stress for customer service staff, the most important is training and coaching. This would involve ‘teaching’ the staff to first care for themselves – this may seem obvious, but is one of the most forgotten aspects when on the job. Everyone must be coached on maintaining good eating, sleeping, and physical exercise habits – these are essential for anyone to remain mentally and physically strong. This must be encouraged in office by affording employees enough free time and breaks when at work, proper distribution of workload, time off, work from home opportunity, adequate compensation, proper appraisal system, and a robust reward and recognition program.

As part of training and coaching, one of the best ways to reduce stress for customer service staff is to teach them to apply the ‘power of thinking positive’. This is the belief that problems are smaller than the person is, they would be able to deal with any challenges, and that the company and its leadership will stand by them at all times. With such a mind-set and approach, it will not be hard for the service staff to manage tough situations and the inevitable difficult customers. Of course, attention to and regular monitoring of the behaviour and moods of service staff, is necessary to note any significant negative changes. When each staff member remains aware of what ‘stress looks like’, they would be more inclined to help themselves and their co-workers. Providing an environment that is cohesive to collaboration and support, would ensure that the service staff would feel more relaxed even when dealing with tough situations.

As mentioned, affording breaks and time-off are important techniques to reduce stress for customer service staff. Affording such time allows the staff to engage in hobbies and other relaxing activities to reduce stress and unwind. When the staff do return to work, they would come back rejuvenated and energized. In fact, many companies today have recreation rooms, games, and hobby centres, in the office premises, for their staff – these serve as places for staff to relax and unwind during their break time while on the job, which serves to improve greatly the quality of the work and overall well-being.

Among the top relaxation techniques propagated by experts in this field, humour is one of the top ways to reduce stress. For their own sanity and work performance, service staff must learn to keep a sense of humour, and genuinely smile even when faced with challenges. This is easier to say than to actually put into practice, but it does prove immensely helpful. We do not mean that service staff must continually joke with each other, or that they should make light of a customer’s problem – all it means is keeping a cool head even when situations are not conducive and happy. A company should encourage its employees to speak about their concerns, and problems rather than ‘suffering in silence’. When employees know they can express their grievances and share their problems, with hope of getting respite, they would be a lot more relaxed and would be able to do their jobs better. They must know that they can seek support from within their peer group and the company’s leaders. Everyone would experience similar issues and hence would be better equipped to understand and empathize. Such measures prove highly effective to reduce stress for customer service staff, and other employees too. The feelings of being ‘united’ and ‘in it together’ are relaxing and stress alleviating.

Given that customer service is inherently a stressful job, it would be necessary for the company to reduce stress for customer service staff through regular praise and recognition for their good work and efforts. The company must have a culture wherein each person would be encouraged to recognize their own efforts and openly praise them along with the efforts of their colleagues. Praise and recognition are feel good mechanisms, and help to alleviate negative thoughts and emotions. While regular improvements must be a focus, praising whatever has been done well, is also equally critical. A company must have also a robust reward and recognition program, through which consistently great service and good behaviours should be rewarded with tangible gifts, such as a monetary pay-out, incentives, plum projects / assignments, overseas short-term assignments, promotions, and other such rewards. Not only do these incentives serve to reduce stress for customer service staff and other employees, they also encourage the top performers to do even better, and serve as encouragement for others to achieve top spots.

The reason a company must focus on reducing stress for customer service staff is that the job is tough and highly taxing by its very nature. The employees working in this role are more prone to burnout and would over time fall ill and or quit their jobs with a company that does not care for them. We know that today employee attrition is one of the biggest problems and is the cause of huge expenses for any company. Rather than try to assuage the problem when it becomes too big, it would be prudent for a company to ‘nip stress in the bud’ for its service staff and all employees.

 

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Using Customer Service as an Advantage


March 18, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Strategic service is not just about how an individual representative reacts to an individual customer; it’s about how the company as a whole reacts to its customers”. – PWC In today’s business world, competition has become fiercer and customers more … Continued

“Strategic service is not just about how an individual representative reacts to an individual customer; it’s about how the company as a whole reacts to its customers”. – PWC

In today’s business world, competition has become fiercer and customers more demanding and aware of what they deserve. Customers want value in whatever they buy, and this goes beyond low prices or good quality in products. Despite the demands and expectations of customers, they are quick to recognize and appreciate a company that affords them with seamless and top class customer service. Studies show that there is a strong correlation between the growth of a company and high customer service levels. It would make sense therefore for a company to use customer service as an advantage – since service excellence, is one of the top demands of customers today. The successful companies of today all seem to have one common link – top class customer service to all customers, consistently.

Recognizing that customers seem impressed by top class service, many companies talk about the importance they place on this aspect, but the truth is that only a handful actually can deliver. The only way to use customer service as an advantage is to deliver service consistently – it must be a continuous experience for all customers. A company must focus on being of help and adding value to its customers throughout their ‘journey’ with the company – including the stage when customers seem to ‘browsing’ the offerings of a company. For a customer any interaction with a company should be an experience worth remembering – and this would happen if the customer receives top service across multiple channels and even when interacting with several people in the company.

It becomes obvious then that the key word to remember for using customer service as an advantage is consistency. The reason so many companies fail at providing the kind of service customers expect and demand is their misconception that customers value brief and few moments of delightful and extraordinary service, rather than consistent, quick, and convenient support. The harsh reality is that poor experiences with support teams raise the likelihood of customer disloyalty by as much as four times. Customers would much rather prefer to use the self-service tools rather than speak to inefficient and discourteous support staff. They prefer to get quick answers without the obligation of speaking with company representatives unless absolutely required and necessary. Hence, in order to use customer service as an advantage, companies must support customer requirements through efficient self-service tools and a proficient and polite support team. There is a huge opportunity to succeed for companies that do provide service and use the ‘right tools’, in the way that customers expect. Today survival depends on service – service is no longer a choice that companies can take or reject.

The reason for being able to use customer service as an advantage is that when afforded consistently, it results in customer loyalty. Friction free service and minimum effort on the part of customers leads them to like and trust a company. Customers must be able to perceive a company’s commitment to helping them at the right time, in the most appropriate way, through the medium of their choice, and in the swiftest way possible. All these aspects make service relevant and personal, resulting in a company’s ability to use customer service as an advantage. An advantage that would accelerate the growth of the company, help it to outrun competition, and gain sustainable success. The fact is that at least 89% of customers say that personalized service is extremely important to them – they expect to be treated as individuals with unique and special requirements and needs. Customers want to know that they are not just sales numbers – they want customized and seamless experiences and proactive service, which would mean that their issues and problems would be resolved even before they actually happen.

For using customer service as an advantage, a company would need to make an effort to truly know and understand its customers. The more a company knows about their customers – who they are, why they would buy, their lives, what they expect to achieve when associating with a company, and what their pain areas are – the better it would be able to serve them. As mentioned in the past, for a company to build and sustain any kind of culture, it must percolate from the top. The same is true for a customer-centric company – it must have leaders that truly care and uphold customer service ideals. Each one must support the company’s values, while having their own, and build a company that cares more about its customers than short-term profits. To use customer service as an advantage, everyone in the company must emulate and exhibit these values and display them in their actions, and this would mean hiring the ‘right’ kind of people. People, who genuinely care about others, are both competent and have strength of character, and have an unfeigned desire to serve their customers.

We know, (customers do too) that customers are not always right, and sometimes a company would need to let them go (fire them!), but before doing so, a company must make every effort to make the ‘relationship’ work. Using customer service as an advantage means ensuring that it becomes a practice and a ‘habit’ in the company. The focus of a company should be to achieve win/win – to make a real difference in the lives of customers and helping them move closer towards their goals. Using customer service as an advantage is about moving from the myopic view of short term profits, to looking at the ‘big picture’ – long-term profits and success for all involved. A company that truly believes in customer service would ensure that its employees

When a company uses customer service as an advantage, it helps the company to differentiate itself from competitors, and eventually turn even some customers who may have been dissatisfied, into loyal brand ambassadors. Customer service becomes an advantage when customers feel important, special, included, and in control of their relationship with the company. Top class service consistently is a company’s opportunity to show customers what the company stands for and believes – it is a demonstration of values and the assurance that promises to customers will be preserved always.

Using customer service as an advantage is more than just solving problems – rather it is a path to turn existing customers into the most potent and strongest assets, and would help to gain more customers without much effort and expense. Customer service becomes a company’s most powerful tool, enabling everyone to work better and faster, and ultimately emerge as ‘heroes’ for every customer the company may have ever had, currently has, and could have in the future. Using customer service as an advantage is about ensuring that the service teams know the value of going the extra mile, making that ‘wee bit’ more effort, and doing whatever possible to give customers what they want, expect, and deserve.

Using customer service as an advantage is about a smarter approach to service, making it one of the sustainable advantages a company could have, using it grow profits, and investing resources consistently in this important business aspect. Lip service does not suffice now – every company must make and meet the goal of exceeding customer expectations, because in the long-term it would translate to humongous benefits for a company. Are you ready to use customer service as an advantage?

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Why and How to Measure Brand Awareness


March 17, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – vitaldesign In the previous exposition, we discussed about the importance of building brand awareness and reach. As per the quote, any initiative must be ‘measured’ and monitored to understand whether … Continued

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – vitaldesign

In the previous exposition, we discussed about the importance of building brand awareness and reach. As per the quote, any initiative must be ‘measured’ and monitored to understand whether it is achieving its goals and pre-determined purpose. It therefore, does not suffice to take actions towards gaining visibility for the brand, a company must also measure brand awareness strategies and campaigns to ascertain the efficacy and success. Brand awareness is described as the portion of customers in a market who are able to recall and name a brand, and this is one of the most effective ways for a company to gauge the visibility and success of its brand. Brand awareness is indispensable for the success of a company – a unique, strong, and standout brand helps a company attract more business and other positive interest from the market. However, unless a company is able to measure the brand awareness strategies it has in place, it would be extremely tough to remedy any problems, or enhance any of the good features.

Being able to build brand awareness would usually be the foremost aim of advertising and promotional activities of a company. In order to build interest and engagement for a brand, customers must first know about the brand, hence ensuring that people know your company and brand exist, and the value they bring, become crucial. Marketing and PR experts say that the most potent form and most obvious way to measure brand awareness is that customers think about and turn to the brand when they need to buy a product within the categories offered by a company’s brand. Repeated exposure and consistently delivering top quality customer service and products are great ways to ensure engagement with the brand. An increase in sales, repeated purchases, and strong referrals are all indications and ways to measure brand awareness and success.

Another way to measure brand awareness is by measuring the growth of your brand equity. This goes beyond the actual products and services offered by a company. It is about the reputation, greater selling potential, and overall perception of the brand’s value – if there is an increase in these areas, a company can be sure that the awareness around its brand is increasing. In addition, a great indication and measure of brand awareness is when the larger audience ‘hears’ about a brand through ‘word of mouth’ – existing customers talking highly about the brand. Over time, stronger relationships with customers, a surge in the customer base, and positive attention from the market – all together would be the way to measure brand awareness.

The good news is that being able to measure brand awareness is now a lot easier, with the evolution of the internet, and digital technology that seems to be new every minute. People have better and consistent access to information and news about companies, brands, products, and other data, and are able to access this information from anywhere and anytime via their mobile devices. Additionally, people are using social media tools and platforms increasingly to communicate with each other about a brand – both good and bad comments. For companies and brands, this means that the reputation could either be built or destroyed, depending on how customers view the company and its brand. To measure brand awareness therefore, it would be necessary for a company to know what customers believe about its integrity, business practices, and its involvement with community issues and causes.

We repeat and reiterate that even if a company’s brand is great, and people do not know of it, or have never heard of it, the company and brand may as well shut down. To build and measure brand awareness would be the first steps to eventually gaining customer loyalty. Customers must not only recall the brand, they should have strong positive feelings about it – strong enough to make them use it repeatedly and recommend it to others too. Measuring the brand awareness strategies is critical to know if the initial and continuous branding campaigns of the company have been and continue to have the desired effect. An increase in traffic on the website and social media sites of the company is a good measure of brand awareness.

It is important for a company to establish first its goals for the branding campaigns. Once that is done, it would need be necessary to put in strategies to measure brand awareness through statistics of ‘visits’, conversions, and referrals. The idea is to get in front of as many people as possible within the target audience and even beyond. You never know who might become a customer in the future! While it is understandable that most advertisers have a branding goal of creating awareness, being able to measure brand awareness is equally important to know how effective the strategies are in achieving the ‘goal’. The fact is that it would not be useful to a company if many people know about the brand and yet do not buy – one of the ways to measure brand awareness is obviously then, increased sales and revenue. Another sure shot way is increase in reach and frequency of an advertisement or promotion to customers. A higher reach means that the promotion is exposed to a larger number of potential customers, which in turn means enhanced brand awareness, and frequency deals with the number of times a potential customer was exposed to the promotion over period. An increase in either would be a good measure of brand awareness.

Brand recognition and recall are two other techniques to measure brand awareness. A company should aim to make the name of its brand the first name that customers would measure when asked to ‘recall’ a brand in a certain category. This is important since it would mean that when customers actually decide to buy, the brand they recall the easiest and quickest, would be the brand they would purchase. Brands that are able to ‘acquire’ top spot and ‘front of the mind’ position are more successful because of their competitive edge. Additionally, the customer’s ability to identify a brand through colours, font, and logo design better than they identify any other brand, means that the brand has achieved brand recognition. The brands that achieve low recognition could work towards refining / revamping their content and design, as also marketing techniques and communication.

Tracking the ‘following’ and ‘likes’ of a brand over social media is a sure, effective, and useful way to measure brand awareness. By measuring brand following, a company can monitor the growth or decline in the levels of enthusiasm in their existing and potential customer bases. Since people share candid feedback via social media, it would be prudent for a company to take serious note of the comments and ‘discussions’ around its brand. While all publicity is good, a company must aim to gain only positive comments and likes.

A popular management mantra is to have goals that are specific, achievable, time bound, and realistic. However, one can never know if the goals meet these criteria unless they are measured. Hence, the way to know whether your brand is achieving its goal of reach and visibility, it makes sense to measure brand awareness.

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Building Brand Awareness and Reach


March 16, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Branding is the process of connecting good strategy with good creativity” – Marty Neumeier There is a popular quote, “what is seen, will sell” – hence, even if a company may have the best products, unless customers know of them, … Continued

“Branding is the process of connecting good strategy with good creativity” – Marty Neumeier

There is a popular quote, “what is seen, will sell” – hence, even if a company may have the best products, unless customers know of them, the products will never sell. It is therefore obvious that one of the most critical tasks of any business would be building brand awareness and reach. To ensure that the brand / products get the maximum visibility, a company would need to use a wide variety of marketing and promotional strategies – depending on the market, products, and the customer base. Once a company is able to attract customers, it would be imperative to ensure that product and service quality remains at a high level, since brand awareness and reach also happens through word-of-mouth from happy customers – a no cost, yet highly effective promotional method. A company can ensure optimum prominence and prominence for its brand in several ways and every company must assess which method work best to do so.

Today every business must have a digital presence, and the ‘face’ of any company is its website. Hence, creating an easy to access, navigate, and use website would be the top most method to build brand awareness and reach. By using focused keywords, adopting search engine optimization, and top class content a company can gain top ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs). In addition, a company could leverage the strength of popular websites and place advertisements of their brand and products on those websites. Today, networking and piggybacking are extremely effective methods of building brand awareness and reach.

Almost everyone today has at least one social media site. Presence of these high visibility and real-time comments platforms has become an indispensable tool for building brand awareness and reach – irrespective of whether the brand belongs to a company or an individual. Social media sites allow customers to discuss businesses, their own lives, likes, preferences, things they bought or intend to buy, and other such aspects of their lives. If a customer loves a product or a brand, they are sure to let others know about it – posting comments about a brand for all to see is free publicity and is one of the most potent ways to increase brand awareness and reach. The easier and more convenient a company can make it for customers to share links about the products, brand, and the company itself – the more number of people it would be able to reach, thereby increasing the visibility of its brand.

While the new methods of advertising and promotions are great, one cannot deny the usefulness and critical nature of traditional methods too. Continue to use print media, advertising through television and radio, hoardings, and other traditional methods – they are still effective in helping to build brand awareness and reach. Use these methods to display products and brand of a company prominently, while explaining the benefits and value customers can get by using them. Of course, it is necessary for a company to understand its customer base well such in order to use the publications and advertising methods that would be most preferred by customers.

Customers today are becoming increasingly aware about social causes, and prefer to work with companies that display commitment to such causes. It would make good business sense and would be a great way to build brand awareness and reach, by sponsoring or contributing to a social cause / charity event. The company’s name and brand could be displayed at the event prominently, which would not only enhance visibility for the company, but would also help the company to gain favour and trust for contributing to a social cause / charity. Apart from sponsoring such events, a company could also use its hold, to network with other business leaders, politicians, media, and other such influential groups – not only would such ‘networking’ benefit the social cause / charity, but it would also help the company build awareness and reach for its products / brand.

In addition to sponsoring social cause events, a company could also hold a promotional event of its own – having a live audience is a great way to grab attention of both existing customers, and potential ones. The company could share insights, knowledge, and expertise with attendees, which in turn would increase brand awareness and reach. The event should be at a time and place that would be most convenient to attend for a larger audience – even if someone may not require a company’s offerings, they could refer it on to their friends, or business associates that may immediately require the products of the company. Even if a company does not have the bandwidth or in-house capability to organize a large-scale event, there are several agencies, which professionally manage and promote such events.

As mentioned earlier, whatever is visible would have greater potential to sell. Hence, it would be necessary for a company display its products prominently in its stores, ensure flashy and eye-grabbing branding – essentially placing products in ‘high traffic’ areas, such as the check-out counters. The longer a customer looks at products, the more likely they would be to recall them, when they actually have use of the products. It is not surprising then that companies place their best products at eye-level, and on ‘standees’ at the entrance of their stores. Companies also ensure that the packaging and design of products is bold, attractive, and colourful, so as to draw instant attention – the more notice a company can gain for its brand, the higher would be the brand awareness and reach.

Being part of exhibitions is another popular (albeit expensive) way to gain brand awareness and reach. Placing an attractive stall in large exhibitions is a great way to highlight the brand to the hundreds of people that attend – even if they may not be immediate customers. The idea would be to attract their attention, and sustain it long enough such that they feel engaged and want to know more about the brand. A company can even look at organizing a competition with giveaways to attraction and sustain more attention. The giveaways could be novelty items with the company’s branding, and when people carry these, they would become walking ‘advertisements’ for your brand. What better way to brand awareness and reach than through existing and potential customers.

Even if your company does not take part in exhibitions, it is a great idea to spend resources on creating company merchandise for promotional and awareness purposes. Small, but elegant and thoughtful corporate gifts not only increase brand awareness and reach, they are also a highly effective way to thank customers for their business and show them heartfelt appreciation. When a customer would use the gifts – for example a reputed brand’s pen – with the company’s logo, the customer would essentially be advertising your company, and even those who come to visit the customer would become aware of your company and its brands.

There is severe competition today and no company can afford to rest on laurels or hope to survive without constantly focusing on ways to build brand awareness and reach. Customers have far too many options and would not take the trouble to find out about a company and its products, which seem to be ‘hiding’ or in oblivion. Every company needs to get ‘out there’, make its products, and brand known and visible to the market and larger customer base. The number of ways to build brand awareness and reach are numerous. A company just requires some imagination, a budget, and a thorough understanding of its target customers – there would then be no limit to the attention and awareness it can achieve for its brand.

 

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About Customer Satisfaction Scores


March 15, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“A well satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.” – J C Penny Companies seem to be constantly worried about what customers think and feel about them, and in order to know accurately, they seek to measure levels … Continued

“A well satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.” – J C Penny

Companies seem to be constantly worried about what customers think and feel about them, and in order to know accurately, they seek to measure levels of customer satisfaction. Customer Satisfaction Scores and Indices are the way to measure the company’s performance with regard to customer satisfaction and happiness. The assumption underlying such ‘measurement’ is that customers who are more satisfied have a greater likelihood of becoming loyal and hugely profitable. For any company, it is vital to monitor the customer satisfaction scores since the happiness of customers is critical to the health and growth of the business. Even so now, in the digital age, unhappy customers wield greater power and more force than ever – one angry comment, nasty review, an irate discussion via social media, all have the potential to cause serious, long-term, and sometimes irreparable damage to a company /brand. On the other hand, consistently satisfied customers would be happy to ‘play’ brand ambassadors, and would be willing to promote and recommend their most preferred ‘brand’ to others, thereby contributing to the revenue and profits of, and loyalty for the company.

Companies use varying approaches to arrive at customer satisfaction scores. The first one being a customer satisfaction index, which is ‘created’ from combining the scores of various customer surveys across various business aspects, to indicate the overall satisfaction level of customers. The underlying principle of this method is to attribute importance to each aspect depending on its ability to drive customer satisfaction. For example – customer service could be responsible for 50% of the customer’s satisfaction, while pricing and other factors could be the remaining fifty. Hence, the index must reflect these percentages and balance.

Customer satisfaction scores is the other approach to gauge customer satisfaction. A single question in a survey is how it is arrived at, and companies need to determine which would be the best question to ask, in order to gain an understanding of customer satisfaction levels. Companies usually ask customers either of two questions. One – asking customers to rate their satisfaction keeping in mind the overall experiences they would have had with the company – on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most satisfied). The other question would be asking customers about the likelihood of rating the company to others – on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most likely). Market experts however, warn against complacency and smugness on the part of a company that may receive high customer satisfaction scores from either of these questions. This is so since while the high customer satisfaction scores may reflect the current state of mind of the customers, they would not provide an indication of how engaged customers are, and what their likelihood of loyalty would be.

The harsh reality reflects through research, which shows that most customers that leave a company for another are the ones who would have given a high satisfaction score. What does your company do to understand the difference between high customer satisfaction scores and actual customer loyalty? Is it possible to prevent ‘highly satisfied’ customers from leaving? The most important thing to remember is that satisfied customers do not necessarily mean loyal ones – they could have used a company’s product simply because their primary option was not available.

To gauge the robustness of customer satisfaction scores and to know whether they indicate customer loyalty, market experts recommend the net promoter score (NPS). This, according to the experts, is a better measure of customer loyalty since it ‘asks’ customers to rate the likelihood of whether they would recommend the company to others (friends, colleagues, associates, and other businesses), and customers are expected to rate on a scale of 1-10 (as mentioned above). Based on their answers, the NPS system would categorize customers as promoters (those with scores of 9 and 10), passive customers (those with scores of 7and 8), and deflectors (those with scores between 0 and 6). The ‘top scorers’ are the ones who would most likely continue buying and could also refer the company to others. The middle scorers would be the satisfied but not engaged customers, and extremely likely to deflect if they receive better offers from a competitor. The last ‘rung’ of customers would be the unhappy and dissatisfied ones. This set of customers would be the ones most capable of damaging the reputation of the company by not only leaving but also spreading the negative word of mouth, consistently and vociferously.

Going a step further to understand the true meaning of customer satisfaction scores, companies must not stop at the one NPS question, even though it may provide some clarity on the likelihood of whether customers would stay, it does not provide answers on what the company can do to improve and insure loyalty. It is important therefore, for companies to get customers to provide their suggestions through open-ended questions, the answers to which would be in detail, allowing customers to list out exactly what they would want. For customers attributes such as value, trust, and transparency are extremely important and help build loyalty for a company. People seek brands that display their understanding of the needs of customers, and would be able to provide a speedy and within budget solution. However, it is imperative for a brand to seek feedback continually from customers to know whether the company is keeping pace with their changing needs and expectations. If the company seems to be slipping, it would necessitate action to remedy it, in order to prevent customer churn and dissatisfaction.

In addition to speed, a company must remain flexible and agile in order to alter swiftly their line of products and or services based on the existing needs of customers. The fact is that customers do not have the time or patience to stick with companies that seem incapable to matching their pace. The products and services must be able to serve the current needs of a wide customer base, while being flexible enough to grow and change as required by customer preferences. In addition to offering top-notch products, a company must also be highly dependable and trustworthy. This means that they would deliver on their promises, keep to timelines, and do everything possible to ensure top class customer experiences. If the product was good, but every other aspect was below average, a company can be sure to receive abysmally low customer satisfaction scores. Poor experience and shoddy customer service is sure to ruin the image of a company irrespective of how much customers may like a company’s offerings. When trying to ascertain customer satisfaction scores, a company must ask customers to rate both its products and service, and afford them the opportunity to provide a short text of why they hold a certain opinion – good or bad.

Whatever a company does, it is imperative to remain consistent and transparent in its dealings. Transparency and consistency affords customers a feeling of ‘knowing’ and in control. For customers, these aspects are extremely important and are among the top reasons for them to stay with a company. What a company should try to achieve through customer satisfaction scores is understanding whether customers see it as loyal, and whether they would remain loyal to the company. A great company is one that always considers the needs of customers first, and does whatever possible to enhance their experiences with the company. If your company seeks to gain the customer’s trust, you can be certain that your customer satisfaction scores will remain high, reflecting all the good feelings customers have for your company.

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Deciding Between Product-Driven versus a Customer-Driven Business


March 14, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Most products are still created in a vacuum, driven by what is technically feasible rather than what is needed by customers.” – Kristin Zhivago In today’s highly competitive business world, it is extremely important for companies to look at every … Continued

“Most products are still created in a vacuum, driven by what is technically feasible rather than what is needed by customers.” – Kristin Zhivago

In today’s highly competitive business world, it is extremely important for companies to look at every aspect of their business. One of the important aspects would be not taking for granted the significance of having a customer-driven business as opposed to a product-driven business. Most companies would argue that both business models would serve the same purpose of profitability and growth, and hence it would not matter which model a company followed. However, market and industry experts disagree stating that there is a marked distinction between both the concepts / models, and understanding the differences would help leaders know how run their business and the kind of decisions they must make.

While making a profit and growing are extremely critical aspects for any business, they are not the only ones. Understanding the other aspects requires a company to identify whether a customer-driven business would work or whether it would benefit from a product-driven business. When a person ventures to start a business, it would be necessary to understand the type / kind of business to be set up, and once that is decided, the vision is a lot clearer in terms of the direction that the business would take. However, the fact about any business is that it never remains the same – there would be changes in its operations and basic structure, with a genuine need to redefine the business. Hence, the hallmark of a good entrepreneur / manager would be to be able to identify the difference between a customer-driven business and a product-driven one.

A product-driven business would be one that would pay more attention to the product – to its development, and then seek to find buyers and a market for it. The assumption would be that a great product would instantly attract top class customers, which in turn would lead to revenue, profits, and growth. The common scenario of a company with a product-driven business would be a set of knowledgeable and talented people, headed by a senior leader sitting together to discuss top class ideas around the development of a product. The focus here would be on the opinions and brainstorming ideas of the individuals, without really taking into account the current trends in the market, and more importantly without considering the needs, expectations, and preferences of the customers – the end users. Every aspect of such a business would be focused on the product – ranging from the features, to the use, the design, the cost of manufacturing, and several other such criteria surrounding the product.

In a product-driven business, the products are handled as standalone business segments and sometimes even as independent businesses. A group of people would be assigned to a product and all the efforts and resources would be directed towards the product and the designing. There are several examples of extremely successful product-driven companies – the ones that make their decisions around products. The main drivers of the ‘route’ a company would follow would be the people directly responsible for the products of the company. A product-driven business, would obviously then focus entirely on the product and not the customer. The reason being that such a business would assume that a large customer base would already be there for the products to be made, and hence mass marketing would be the idea strategy. A mass marketing approach ensures that a large number of the potential customers can become aware of the products.

A product-driven business must ensure that every product is unique, distinctive, and immediately usable for the customers. This means that customers should be unable to source these products from anywhere else in the market. However, if the company is unable to guarantee uniqueness, it should be able to position the product in a way that it appears to be the most beneficial and favourable, and certainly the best in the market. A lot depends on the creativity of the company’s marketing team in ensuring top class product positioning.

The customer-driven business on the other hand, as the name suggests, is one where the company focuses on the customers – their opinions and information. The products are developed based on the feedback and information received from customers. The focus of a customer-driven business is to understand consistently how to make the customer happy, what more can be done to address their expectations and needs, and how to constantly delight them. Such businesses understand that their survival depends on the satisfaction and happiness of their customers, and hence their actions are directed towards ensuring these feelings in customers. They constantly make efforts to deliver top quality offerings, complemented by excellent customer service. In a customer-driven business, the products are fashioned around what customers expect and want – that is taking their needs and preferences into consideration at all times. Even after the creation and launch of the products, such businesses constantly endeavour to personalize and customize their offerings in order to keep pace with the dynamic and evolving needs of their customers.

Despite the attention and focus on customers by a customer-driven business, there is no doubt that the products offered by such a business must be top quality – that means products that have benefits, features, and serve a purpose well. Since a customer-driven business depends extensively on the customer and data surrounding them, the company would need to focus on activities such as database maintenance, mining of data, and business intelligence. Amongst the top priorities of customers, speed is extremely important. Customers expect products and service that would speed up ‘their lives’, save them time, and make things a lot easier. For companies, providing such offerings is a means of saving themselves from the fierce competition that exists in the market today. The need for speed is possibly the reason that a number of companies now conduct most of their operations online – real time transactions, which cut down on the waiting times associated to the traditional ways of conducting business.

In addition, customers also expect speedy responses – even if it may not be in their favour. Customers are more likely to appreciate a company that responds to them speedily, with a reasonable and sensible response. The fact is that customers hate to wait and companies, which understand and satisfy their need for speed, are usually preferred by customers. Apart from speed, the other aspects important for customers are agility and convenience. The more convenient and flexible a company’s offerings would be the greater the preference of customers for them. For example – ready to use products, appropriate packaging, several payment methods, priority offered to senior citizens, and other such convenience enhancing factors. Additionally, a customer-driven business would make time and effort to keep in touch with customers, and would have a teams dedicated to support the customers and serve as a link between them and the business. Customers love companies that give them attention and importance.

In today’s business environment, having a product-driven or customer-driven business depends largely on a company’s method of operation, its products, and the customers.  A product-driven business does not assume that there would be customers for its offerings, but once they build a product they employ strategies to attract customers. A customer-driven business on the other hand, works towards understanding the wants and needs of their customers, and then building products and their operational strategies around those expectations. Whatever the approach, what really matters in the end is that customers remain happy and satisfied, in turn making a company more profitable and sustainably successful.

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Making Memorable Experiences for Customers


March 13, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“That made the experience memorable for that customer at minimal cost” – Ted Johns Reading the quote above it is obvious that making memorable experiences for customers does not always have to be an expensive proposition. Even a small gesture … Continued

“That made the experience memorable for that customer at minimal cost” – Ted Johns

Reading the quote above it is obvious that making memorable experiences for customers does not always have to be an expensive proposition. Even a small gesture and acts of human kindness can transform an average experience for a customer to a memorable one. Despite the fact that we all are human, the humane touch in customer experiences rarely happen, which is one of the top reasons for customer dissatisfaction and the failure of companies. It is in the best interest of a company to ensure memorable experiences for customers since the experiences that would keep customers coming back, and they would remember these memories when planning their next purchase. Research shows a strong connection between experiences and customer loyalty. A greater number of memorable experiences would ensure that customers would be more likely to overlook errors, forgive blunders, and more amenable to trying new products and services from a company.

Given the many advantages of making memorable experiences for customers, it seems strange that companies continue to falter in this realm. Is your company equipped at creating such memories for customers? Consistent memorable experiences for customers help in building a sense of dependability and trust, giving them the assurance that they are important and their business extremely valued, and that the company is committed to making their lives easier and successful. Memorable experiences include resolving their issues swiftly and efficiently, even at the cost of inconvenience and a small temporary loss to the company. The ‘successful’ companies of today are so because they prioritize customer experiences over their internal processes, and have customer-friendly policies. These policies make customers feel a sense of comfort and confidence in these companies. Making memorable experiences for customers is not hard, and every company can ensure they happen simply by viewing everything from the customer’s perspective and making policies and guidelines around their needs, and empowering employees the discretion to make customer-friendly decisions.

One of the top ways to making memorable experiences for customers is through empathy. This means understanding the most important needs and top emotions of customers, and delivering on their expectations throughout the ‘customer’s journey’ with the company. Understanding what customers want and expect will ensure that a company does not apply guesswork when trying to meet customer needs, and the company would have accurate information in order to personalize and customize the experiences and offerings. Problems in customer experiences often occur due to a gap between customer expectations and the understanding a company has of those expectations. This is often referred to as the ‘service gap’ and is one of the top reasons for customer dissatisfaction and churn.

Even in the realm of business, the minute details and everyday pleasantries make average experiences, memorable ones. When customers walk into a store of a company, for example, pleasant smells, smiling staff, and soft melodious tunes may seem insignificant but they do have a profound experience on the impression customers would have of the company. Having a children’s play area, with staff to manage the kids at grocery stores or a large departmental store, would ensure that while adults make their rounds of the aisles, the kids remain happy and entertained. In fact, this feature could be one of the reasons that customers return to shop. It is not easy to create memorable experiences for customers since each customer is different – their expectations and needs are unique, and an ‘umbrella’ approach that most companies seem to follow, falls flat. Transforming average experiences to memorable ones, as mentioned, is usually a factor of simple and common sense solutions, but which have a profound effect since they would find relevance and use for the target audience.

As mentioned several times, service and experiences for customers is affected through the employees of a company. This means that a company should hire right, have adequate training programs, build a culture of service, and have a robust reward and recognition program in place for employees that exhibit the company’s values. This is especially true of the customer-facing employees since their interactions with the customers would define the experiences customers have with the company. In addition, a company must set internal guidelines and expectations for its employees that would make feel important, give them a sense of belonging and ownership, and would be more inclined to provide memorable experiences for customers. Making brand ambassadors out of employees is one of the surest ways to gain customer appreciation, loyalty, and brand advocacy.

Another factor in the building of memorable experiences for customers is expectation setting. It would be necessary to set realistic expectations with the customers, since false expectations are one of the top reasons for botched experiences and customer ire. Putting in place written service level agreements will ensure that customers know what to expect, and what could be an unrealistic demand on their part. Unrealized expectations cause disappointment and annoyance, and could ruin a potentially great experience for customers. It is therefore, imperative for a company to manage experiences and commit to managing the expectations of customers. To do so, a company must work as one cohesive unit, since that is how customers view a company. If a company is plagued by silos, the good work and memorable experiences for customers created by one department could easily be negated by another through the failure to match up to their expectations and keep the promises made the service department (for example). Customers would view the failure of one department as a failure of the entire company, which would lead them leave and spread negativity about the company.

Making memorable experiences for customers or not, would be a factor of significant events – both negative and positive – that could become entrenched in the memory of customers. These events when recalled in the future could trigger negative or positive feelings and emotions, depending upon the experiences a customer may have had. Positive feelings can give rise to loyalty only when they are consistent and profound, and hence it should be the endeavour of a company to ensure that it affords experiences for customers to feel warmly towards it. Strangely, one of the most memorable experiences for customers is, according to research, top class service recovery. Customers do not expect perfection, but they do expect and demand that when a company does mess up it make amends instantly, and goes the ‘extra mile’ to make up for the inconvenience caused to the customer. Customers that are ‘dazzled’ by recovery have a greater likelihood of becoming loyal and profitable. Nonpareil service recovery ensures that company stands out from its competitors, and its efforts remain etched in the memory of not just the one customer, but also all those who read and hear about the service recovery.

The intelligent, well-informed, and empowered customers of today expect a lot more from companies. For making memorable experiences for customers, a company must ensure that the experience must meet the actual needs of the customers, and including the ones that customers may not even know they had. Understanding what customers value, and giving it to them on a consistent basis via memorable experiences, is one of the most effective ways of retaining customers for a long time, and gaining more and repeated business from them.

 

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