Improving Customer Experience Levels

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs

The ‘association’ between a customer and a business begins long before the company realizes it. When customers browse the internet searching certain products / brands / services, they chance upon a business or they may receive a reference from a friend or associate – this is the beginning of a possible association. However, if during this time, the customer experience levels are low and unsatisfactory their ‘search’ may never end in a business association. A company must therefore ensure that each person within the organization is committed to consistently improving customer experience levels – the good news is that there are a large number of tools and techniques to do so.

Improving customer experience levels should be top priority for any organization since if customers feel great about a company, it will prove to the crucial competitive edge in today’s highly volatile business environment. Customers want human service such that they can feel comfortable in providing feedback and know that the company would listen to their voice – such a feeling of trust and being listened to raises customer experience levels, engages customers and enhances their loyalty toward the company. Given the rising competition but the same number of limited resources, maintaining customer service teams and call centres becomes a tough and seemingly insurmountable challenge for companies. Smart companies however, would use the low cost alternatives to optimize customer experience levels and create service that is humane and affordable.

Most customers today are ‘hooked’ on to smart devices with a plethora of functions, apps and features. With just a click, they are able to gain access to any information they seek and most would first ‘check out’ the company’s online presence – website, social media sites and others. Since customers want the maximum information before actually contacting a company, they should be able to find answers to most of their questions swiftly and companies that provide FAQs, Live Chats and other self-service tools, are more likely to be able to raise customer experience levels. Research has shown that at least 67% of customers use the self-service knowledge base provided by companies to find answers. This would mean that for this large percentage of customers and users, the customer experience levels would be high if they were able to get most of the answers sought.

In order to display a commitment to enhance customer experience levels, customers should perceive the company as being available and approachable. The contact information of the company should be easily findable and reachable. In the event that a customer has a complaint and would like to speak with a senior level person, that too must be easy to do. The premise of enhanced customer experience levels is that the customer must always feel welcome and must not get the impression that the leadership or any other member of the company considers it a burden to speak with them. Customers are highly perceptive and if they feel ignored, they would not hesitate to take their business elsewhere – everyone knows the ‘cost’ of losing customers.

We have spoken about the importance of the voice of the customer in an earlier exposition. For enhanced customer experience levels, it is imperative that a company does not just listen to the feedback and insights the customers provide, but also respond swiftly and effectively to them. By keeping a check on what customers say and regularly monitoring your company’s responses and the customer experience levels based on the responses, it would become simpler for your company to gain a better understanding of its customers.

Oft repeated but still ignored is the fact that get employee feedback – especially the frontline staff – is crucial to the company’s endeavour to improve customer experience levels. They are the ones that deal with the happy and highly agitated customers on a daily basis and therefore would be the most ideal ‘candidates’ to know what customers expect, need and demand and where the company is matching up and failing miserably. Just as customer feedback is important, employee insights at regular intervals could work wonders in enhancing customer experience levels.

It is a well-known fact that customers are using multiple smart devices and the many channels of communication to remain connected. They now prefer to conduct their own online research before buying any product or service – a fact that extensive research has corroborated. In order to ensure high customer experience levels, companies must be able to provide consistent and uniform service across all contact points at any time that customers deem appropriate. This could translate to setting up round the clock operations, increasing the knowledge and skill base of the frontline associates, upgrading technology and other such business practices that would up the customer experience levels. Customers have a large number of options – so in order to stand out from the crowd, a company must be able to provide distinct and top of the line service and customer experience.

As mentioned, customers can connect through any channel and at any time, hence it is imperative that companies manage these expectations of customers. They must remember to constantly update and maintain the sources of information for their customers since any gaps in the knowledge and content base could lead to customers getting inaccurate information, which would cause dissatisfaction and even annoyance. Disgruntled customers are sure to ‘broadcast’ their poor experiences for all to see – not good for any company.

Customers are a busy lot – they would hate to do business with a company that made them wait or wasted their time in any way. For them, one of the top ways to enhance customer experience levels is by ensuring that they never need to repeat their problem or go over their ‘history’ with the company each time they interact with the company. Every company must maintain customer data as a centralized resource such that anyone within the company can view it to understand the company’s relationship with the customer. This saves the customers time and effort and makes the company appear efficient and aligned to the needs of the customer. This data also serves as a knowledge base for all within the organization – each person would have the same information and would be able to ‘speak the same language’ across all channels. Such a unified front leaves a good and lasting impression and serves to enhance customer experience levels.

Personalization and courtesy play a huge role in raising customer experience levels. Automated responses that are politely and professionally worded and express thankfulness to the customer for connecting are a great way to get the attention of customers. When customers provide feedback, ensure that they receive a personalized thank you and possibly even a gift coupon or freebie for doing so. When customers feel valued and important, they are sure to return to a company and refer others as well. Give customers reasons to come back and they will.

While advances in technology do mean that customers can gain answers for themselves via self-service portals, it also means that their expectations and demands rise too. They expect, no, demand, that companies are agile and respond to them almost instantly – their tolerance for shoddy service has reduced. This translates to lowered loyalty and they would not hesitate to switch companies if they are dissatisfied with their current ‘business partner’. Delivering high customer experience levels consistently will help reduce customer dissatisfaction and churn and give a company a truly distinctive competitive advantage.

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