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How to keep your customers: The secrets to simplifying your customer experience

10th Dec 2012
Share this content talks with Oracle's Danny Rippon about new research that demonstrates the growth benefits of simplifying the customer experience.

If indications that customer service has made the transition from cost centre to revenue driver aren’t enough to encourage brands to put greater emphasis on the customer experience, then soaring consumer expectations should.
New research from Oracle and Loudhouse, reveals that 81% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, with nearly half of them (41%) happy to pay a premium of more than 5%.
It’s a head-turning stat, but one that only tells half the story. Because just as consumers would pay a premium for great service, so they will also take a zero tolerance approach to poor experiences.
“The expectations of the consumer are now massively beyond what they used to be, no matter what brands they interact with,” explains Danny Rippon, EMEA CRM applications director at Oracle. “But as this survey is showing, if you’re not delivering the experience they want, they will go off to one of your competitors. 70% of European consumers stopped buying goods and services from a company after getting just one poor customer service experience. And in the UK that figure was 74%. So companies have to put customer experience as a main priority now because otherwise they are not going to be in business.”
The research report, titled ‘Why Customer Satisfaction is No Longer Good Enough’, polled 1,400 online shoppers across seven European nations who had made a complaint or enquiry to a customer services department in the last 12 months. And the findings indicate that, with less than a quarter (22%) nearly always satisfied with their customer experience, and so many willing to go straight to a rival brand to make a purchase in the event of a poor experience (92%), there is a real revenue opportunity for those that get their experience right.
“Companies need to look themselves in the mirror and look at the areas where consumers say they are getting a bad experience and ask themselves: do we give a bad experience? And if so, they need to address that,” adds Rippon.
The report identifies five areas which brands should focus their efforts as a matter of priority to improve the experience. In addition to an overall improvement in ‘customer experience’, consumers said the top changes that brands needed to make to improve the experience were: ensuring questions can be asked easily and information accessed before making a purchase (35%); adopting an easy return policy (32%); improving the overall website usability and search functionality (21%); and providing customers with a more tailored/personalised shopping experience (21%).
First call resolution
A particular point of aggravation for respondents related to being unable to have a query resolved at the first attempt – 26% reported that having to use different methods of contact to resolve an issue represented the point where dealing with customer service required too much effort, and 24% reported that having to use different methods several times was the breaking point.
Unsurprisingly, therefore the contact centre is a vital part of the customer experience – but all channels must be informative in the event they are the customer’s first port of call. “The contact centre is still one of the primary ways that somebody is going to contact you with an issue,” says Rippon. “Brands must make sure they get back to basics, with good staff training, technology to underpin them, so they are able to respond first time.”
But Rippon adds that a capable contact centre alone is not enough, as people have different preferred channels, with company websites being a popular low-cost alternative to the call centre.
“A brand’s website is a point of call, but if customers can’t resolve their issues on it, they will call the contact centre. So getting your website sorted in terms of being very easy to access information is a tangible thing that companies can do that will increase customer satisfaction and customer experience.”
He continues: “We all have our preferred channels and ways of dealing with people. So the key is to make it simple in every single channel and then join those channels so that if I do have to change channels, the context of which I was engaging with a company online when I call the call centre they know what I have done online and what the context of it is and what my issue is and I don’t have to repeat myself. So try and solve in the single channel is goal number one, by making each individual channel simple. But really also embellish that by enabling a cross-channel journey that is as frictionless as possible so that you’re not frustrating your customers as they have to repeat themselves over and over.”
Rippon believes that the clear implication of the research is that organisations must acquire a good understanding of the customer journey, from the customer’s perspective, to identify where there are problems, before addressing these pain points. But while customer journey mapping is “a good way of uncovering where your gaps are” in the customer experience, there is a caveat to this.
“Often a brand dictates what sort of customer journey you want to give somebody,” he explains. “I was at a conference recently where somebody was voicing their dissatisfaction with one of the low cost airlines, but the brand value of that airline isn’t that they’re going to serve you well, it’s that they’re going to give you cheap seats. So if you match your customer experience to your brand values, you’re probably doing the right thing. So you really need to understand the brand value and then map that into what your customer experience is – which is a tangible thing you can do first of all.”
Ultimately, what the findings do demonstrate, is that customer experience can be a strategic driver for revenue growth – and that those brands willing to devote the time and resources to improving their customer journey will reap the benefits of the customer churn of those brands that are neglectful of the experience.
“If you offer a great experience, your customers don’t defect,” concludes Rippon. “If you’re easy to do business with, your customers stay with you. And as people defect, they’ll defect to you if the word in social is saying that you are a great brand that is easy to do business with. If you are the first to offer that really simple cross-channel experience in your respective market, then it is a big competitive advantage.”

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