“We are meeting the most demanding customers in the world, used to high quality and high service levels. Anyone operating in this market has to satisfy these demands.” – Tommy Kulberg
There is no doubt at all that the expectations and demands of customers are rising – and fast. What is worse is that companies are seemingly unable to keep pace with these demands, and therefore unable to keep customers happy enough to stay. Not only do companies then go through customer churn, but also their reputation is damaged severely in the market, and in a time of so much competition this does not bode well for any company. Customers have evolved over time. They have become smarter, more intelligent, better informed, and less tolerant of sub-standard service and offerings. This ‘evolution’ seems to be continuing unabated, and companies that are unable to keep pace, will lose. Technology has had a major role to play in the ‘evolution’ of customer demands since it has ushered in and made stronger the ‘instant gratification’ culture. Customers have easy access to information – instantly and from anywhere given the many apps and affordable smart devices.
Research shows that most companies seem aware of the rise in demands of customers and at least 95% of the leadership at companies believe that they their overall business strategy encompasses top class service and experiences as priority, in order to gain a competitive advantage in the market. However great this concept may sound, the challenge lies in the successful implementation, and many companies fall short. Another research shows that only about 37% of the leadership in companies have a budget solely focused on customer service initiatives, which is a paltry number given the pace at which demands of customers are rising. Companies therefore possibly do not even know what customers expect, and what would make them loyal. Without such ‘knowledge’, it would be impossible to even meet the demands of customers, let alone exceed them – the reason why customers seek companies that seem better equipped to cater to their expectations.
Does your company know which the top demands of customers are and what needs to be done about them? The topmost of the demands from customers is that the company makes them feel important and valued, through increased personalization. While it may seem like an unreasonable demand, given that most interactions are now ‘digital’, which effectively reduces the number of personal interfaces customers have with companies. Well for customers, personalization is all about giving their issues, preferences, and demands the attention they deserve. Customers expect that the company would have all the information with regard to the products and or service it offers in an easily accessible place and one that they can navigate through easily. There are several instances where customers ‘abandon’ shopping carts if they experience a delay of more than a few seconds, or if they are unable to find instant answers to the problem, they may be experiencing. Personalized and instant problem resolution therefore, features in the top demands of customers. Irrespective of the query or size of the customer’s business, it is imperative that a company provides personalized experiences and ‘unique’ solutions in order to make each customer feel valued and special.
As mentioned, technology has opened up many avenues for connecting and information gathering. This means that customers expect that a company would be able to respond swiftly and effectively through any channel and mode of communication that customers choose to connect. Many customers still prefer to pick up the phone in the hope of being able to speak to a responsive, knowledgeable, and empathetic representative of the company, who would provide personalized information for their ‘unique’ query. In addition, customers expect that the service and responses across all channels would be uniform and seamless, and would be speedy irrespective of the channel used. This means that if a customer contacts a company through one channel and follows up through another, the service representatives on either channel must know the history of the customer’s conversation such that customers do not need to repeat or explain themselves.
We know that customers are a busy lot, with a host of activities that require their attention. Hence, in the top demands of customers, when connecting with a company, follow up and maintaining constant communication from the company is imperative. Customers must not need to put in extra effort to do business with the company – the company’s representatives, reaching out to them to check on what customers need, would reduce customer effort. This regular contact and follow up benefits a company too. It would remain in the mind of the customer, have the ability to deflect other ‘distractions’ in the form of offers and schemes from competitors, and have a better chance of securing repeat business from the customer. This in turn would reduce customer churn, enhance customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and profits, and reduce the costs the company would incur. Getting sufficient information at regular intervals through the channel of their choice is one of the top demands of customers, and companies that do not comply could have a very tough time keeping customers.
Right communication and messaging, as discussed in previous expositions, does not just happen. It must a meticulously planned strategy and part of the culture of the company in order to get messages and communication right each time. One botched up communiqué could turn a customer away for good – low tolerance and patience levels ensure that customers do not stand for anything substandard any longer. They demand that companies give them top class experiences through every interaction, and each touch-point delivers service excellence.
Another of the top demands of customers is that a company truly and actively listens to them. Companies can comply by sending out intelligent and answer evoking feedback surveys. However, for customers to know that the company is listening, they expect to see the feedback loop closed by solid action taken basis the opinions and feedback given by them. Not only must companies implement feedback where possible, they must also let customers know what they have done and how they have used the ‘voice of customer’ to make improvements or enhancements. Without giving customers the opportunity to provide feedback, your company could lose a lot of business, both existing and prospective. In addition, if a company does not use the feedback provided, customers could stop providing responses, which would mean that a company would never be able to know what customers expect, and without understanding expectations, meeting them would be impossible.
As mentioned, customers do not want to wait and a company that wastes the time of customers would be violating one of the top demands of customers. In the interest of saving time and effort of customers, it would be prudent for a company to provide more training and coaching to their frontline staff, which in turn would make them more knowledgeable and in control. It would be a lot easier to then, empower them to make spot decisions that would alleviate minor problems and issues of customers, without waiting for approvals and becoming caught in ‘red tape’.
Catering to the top demands of customers may not be an easy task and possibly no company can claim mastery in this area. The key however, is to focus consistently on keeping customers happy, and constantly learn more about them such that your company is able to keep pace with what customers expect and demand from time to time.