What Customers want – Convenience and Choices

“Wonder what customers really want? Ask. Don’t Tell” – Lisa Stone

Is not the basis and very premise of customer service to know what customers want? However, in order to know what customers want a company must be willing to consistently ask them and implement their suggestions. For the most part, it would seem that the overriding desire of customers is convenience and choices. They have become busier than ever and any company that can lend convenience and choices would be preferred. That is probably why customers are moving towards ecommerce and online interactions. What customers want is to be able to choose what they want and at a time and place convenient to them – not that of the company’s. Companies are scrambling around trying to ensure that these two ‘wants’ of customers are met consistently because if they miss out, their competition is ready to ‘steal’ the customers.

In understanding what customers want, convenience and choices it would seem drive loyalty and repeat business. Affording them ease and options may not be as easy as it sounds – since convenience and choices go way beyond what may currently exist within a company’s capability. Customers present a number of opportunities to companies to improve and get closer to what they want. Many times companies tend to overlook, miss out or even ignore these ‘indicators’. Companies that do recognize what customers want and consistently focus on providing convenience and choices are able to attract and retain customers and end up with a loyal and profitable customer base.

The most pronounced indication of convenience and choices as being what customers want is the rise of online interactions – shopping, dining and services. Companies are offering one-click interactions and showering the customers with rewards, benefits, incentives and freebies in a bid to attract and keep them. Customers are always on the go – waiting has become out-dated – they want to get whatever they need – now! What customers want is to know that every step of their ‘journey’ with a company focuses on their convenience and provides for their every need and choice. Such service in turn breeds loyalty and brand advocacy – two pillars that very often ensure the success and sustainability of any company.

Being able to conduct business of any kind at their own pace and convenience means that customers have a lot more flexibility and time on their hands. This works very well for the hurried and harried customers, as they would be able to manage their tasks and routines a lot better. Technology has made it easier for customers to access sites and information from wherever they are and at any time of the day and night. Smart devices and apps ensure that customers spend huge amounts of time on using them for ecommerce. Companies that know what customers want, proactively create ‘pages’ of their company and its offerings that would be compatible with these devices, thereby increasing the number of choices customers have and the amount of convenience they experience while buying and accessing these choices. Some companies lend a personal and humane touch, to these otherwise faceless interactions, by adding interactive videos, customer testimonials, live chats and call to action. This enhances the customer experience and suitably complements the convenience and choices already available.

The key to truly understanding what customers want when they emphasize convenience and choices is by thoroughly understanding them – beyond just the business transactions. Every customer has other parts of their life and needs that could be driving force behind their reasons to buy or not. By getting to know customers, companies can put together customized offerings that would enhance the convenience and extend the choices customers have. For example – while it may be convenient for them to buy products online, this would serve no purpose if companies delay the delivery of such products – a gift bought for a special occasion loses its significance if not presented on the day. This means, what customers want is certainty as part of convenience and choices. They are happy to take a trip down to a store in order to pick up whatever they want.  For companies this means that they must not only have an online store but also a real world one. Many customers still find the ‘touch and feel’ experience more convenient and easily relatable and would want to have that choice.

A company’s customers can be from any lifestyle, any profession, age group, and ethnicity  and represent other differences. What customers want in order for the experience of buying to be brimming with convenience is that they get something for everyone at one place. A great example of this are the shopping malls of today – food, movies, shopping, business, play areas for kids and a host of other options define these places. They are convenient and have choices for families and individuals – the more convenience and choices, more often would people visit these places enhancing the earning of all the businesses in the area. What customers want is that companies understand both their business and emotional needs and cater to them with the same amount of care. If a company is enriching and making a customer’s life easier, it can be sure that customers will come back to them and encourage their friends and associates to follow suit. This simply means that what customers want is that their craving for the social and humane aspects of business is catered to – shopping, dining, entertainment and quality time with loved ones – all are made possible in one trip. Convenience and choices, as mentioned, go beyond offerings – rather it is about receiving a multifaceted experience that would indulge all their senses.

What customers want as part of convenience and choices is to be able to conduct research online – make comparisons of range and price – and then visit the nearby store to ascertain what they want. There is a friend, who as a rule, never buys shoes or cosmetics online. It is an idiosyncrasy, maybe, but she conducts a ‘search’ online but will buy only from the store after she has had an opportunity to ‘experience’ the products. Very often she ends up adding a lot more to her basket! This is good news for the stores – more business. When visiting a real world store, what customers want, is that they be greeted pleasantly and be afforded the importance and attention they deserve. This makes for convenience since customers are more comfortable and happy buying from companies that care and show empathy.

While shopping online, what customers want is free shipping. Being charged for sending the products to them is a big turnoff and often customers end up buying the least expensive item to fit in the shipping cost. On the other hand, if shipping is free, not only is it viewed as being convenient, customers often add more items to their list and would not mind buying items that are a few bucks more expensive. In addition, to add to convenience, what customers want is the ability to track their ‘shipment’ – it gives them a sense of control. A survey revealed that at least 97% customers are happier and find it convenient if they can track their package en route.

It is within the control of companies to extend as much convenience and service to customers, as they want. While many companies focus on making it easy to buy, their return policies are harrowing. What customers want is easy, hassle free and no-fuss returns on items. Clearly specifying the company’s return policy on the website and in-store would help customers make better choices. The company too would save itself a lot of trouble and cost on returns if the policy were easy to implement and understand.

Whatever a company decides to do – the focus must remain on providing maximum convenience and choices to customers. Changing your company’s policies and strategies to fit in with what customers want can prove to be a game changer that brings benefits and profits to your company on a sustainable basis.

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