However irresistible your product, price or brand, nothing will boost loyalty and revenues like excellent customer experience. There’s so much competiton out there now that customer experience is where your business must stand out from the crowd.
Consultants PwC, for example, found that 65 per cent of Britons view customer experience as an important factor in any purchase, and about a third of consumers will stop doing business after a single poor experience.
As businesses embark on instilling excellence into their customer experience, it’s worth examining the common pitfalls they should avoid.
Not taking customer experience seriously
Let’s start at the beginning. Failing to give customer experience the resources it demands is a frequent problem. Achieving real improvements requires investment in technology and people, along with the backing of those at the top of the organisation, no matter what its size. It’s worth remembering that it costs five times as much to obtain a new customer as it does to retain an existing one, who is also likely to spend more.
Being unable to hear what consumers say
Many organisations monitor their markets in minute detail, yet still don’t know what customers think about their own products and services. Conventional surveys are expensive and fail to capture dynamic shifts in demand. If you retail cosmetics or fashion, for example, major trends can emerge overnight. The solution to this organisational deafness is to encourage your customers to give you their honest opinions in the form of review feedback. Research shows that 94 per cent of consumers consult reviews before they decide to buy products and services, and 84 per cent think them more reliable than advice from friends and family. Reviews will attract the eyes of prospective customers and give you the insights you need to make improvements.
Take the temperature throughout the journey
Don’t make the mistake of only listening to customers after they have bought something from you. Customer experience is about the entire customer journey, from first contact to after-sales and loyalty schemes. The travel business is a great example. Operators can gently request feedback of their customers after booking, on arrival and so on, all the way to when they are back at home. Problems can be fixed immediately, restoring faith in the business. Companies also see where their efforts are paying off so they can build on successes.
Don’t hide from reviews and never fake it
Don’t be tempted to think of customer feedback as a private resource. Publicising reviews, good and bad, is how you establish your reputation for honesty and transparency. Banning negative reviews is a huge error, too. Their absence sets alarm bells ringing in the minds of consumers. And never use paid-for reviews to boost your ratings or employ false feedback to spam a rival’s review system. The risks of going down this route are potentially catastrophic, once exposed.
Ensure the integrity of your own feedback by deploying an invitation-only system that publishes reviews from real customers. This has another great advantage – it gives a ballistic boost to your reputation for trust.
Respond to gripes and concerns quickly and provide a solution
One of the more common elephant traps is to get involved in online arguments with reviewers who post unfair or highly negative content. This is a big mistake. Of course a business needs a policy to ensure promptness and consistency in responding to feedback. Yet how it responds is one of the biggest factors shaping reputation and customer experience. The tone must be sympathetic and there is no point in seeking revenge.
If a customer is complaining about late delivery of a surprise wedding anniversary gift, you need to apologise very quickly, make clear you’re investigating to ensure it never happens again, and maybe, send some flowers. A single response can turn a disgruntled customer into a happy one, grateful that the company has listened and taken action. Consumers want to do business with companies that care about them. The right response can be the difference between choosing one company or another.
Use feedback intelligently to transform your customer experience
Neglecting or underestimating the true value of review content is another major mistake. Feedback is not just a resource for customers wanting fast access to the details that most interest them, it provides a wealth of crowd-sourced insight for customer experience managers. Advanced platforms use artificial intelligence to extract key sentiments, words and phrases from thousands of reviews in near real-time.
Consumers can use these tools to find out precise details that interest them, such as the true MPG of a car. For businesses, however, the insights reveal where changes and improvements will transform customer experience. A fashion retailer, for example, may discover that customers repeatedly return a style and size of dress because the sleeves are too tight or the fabric looks cheap. This can trigger important improvements in sampling or even lead to a change of supplier. Every size of business can benefit from analysis of what customers are saying in feedback, provided the insights are shared right across the organisation.
The pitfalls discussed here are not the only potential difficulties for businesses searching for customer experience success. But they are the most common.
It’s only by having the most effective mechanisms for listening to real customers and extracting insights from what they say, that a business can start transforming the quality of its customer experience and build genuine, longer-term loyalty.