Customer Experience: Turning Customers Into Evangelists

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  • 2/3/2017
    The trendy new buzzword in marketing is “customer experience” or CX. Considering that smart businesses have focused on superior customer service for decades you might be asking, “So how is this a new idea?”

    What’s new is that the customer-business relationship has changed significantly in the past five to 10 years, driven to a large extent by social media, big data, ubiquitous answers, on-demand ordering and endless options to purchase elsewhere.

    Companies that focus on customer service, that is, service delivered during the transaction itself, are missing the bigger picture. Now more than ever the customer, who has always held the lion’s share of power in the relationship, has higher expectations and is less tolerant of companies that don’t deliver on promises.

    Customer Loyalty

    A 2015 Vision Critical study showed that American consumers will stop shopping with a brand after as few as two bad experiences.

    How did this come to be? Well, this decline in brand loyalty has been exacerbated by three key factors:
    1. INFORMATION Today’s customers are better informed more so than at any other point in history. The internet is a treasure trove of information by which shoppers can discern prices, quality, location and much more, all before ever stepping into a store or clicking “add to cart.” Social media also allows shoppers a window into the sort of relationship they can expect from the brand through product reviews and customer ratings. A dissatisfied customer has instant access to an audience of millions and won’t hesitate to share that bad experience, often on the company’s own website or social media pages.
    2. OPTIONS There are significantly fewer barriers to switching brands or suppliers today. A wealth of alternatives are only a click away. Today’s global, next-day economy means the service, selection, cost and quality are likely to be just as good, if not better.
    3. COMPETITION Businesses have always had to deal with others in the same space, but competition today has the technology and resources to rapidly match or overcome nearly any product innovation a company introduces. Coupled with plummeting brand loyalty, many of today’s businesses are getting caught flat-footed as their customers are lured away by competitors with aggressive promotions and promises.
    With customers more fickle than ever and competition constantly nipping at one another’s heels, how can businesses retain current customers and continue to recruit new ones?

    The answer is that businesses must concentrate on the entire end-to-end customer journey. An organized effort must be made to assure that each touch point is part of a holistic effort to satisfy customer needs. That’s where CX comes in.

    Ultimately, the only competitive advantage that truly matters is knowing your customers better than the competition and using that insight to create a customer experience (CX) that keeps them satisfied and engaged with your brand. Because in today’s frantic marketplace, the best marketing is still word of mouth.

    In order to achieve this, silos that might exist in your organization must be broken down. It’s tempting to relegate specific business aspects to certain departments (innovation is an R&D thing, ordering is a sales thing), but this establishes a system by which the customer may have a pleasant experience with any single department or transaction, but still find the entirety of the experience lackluster.
    CX, on the other hand, considers the customer journey as a whole and not just as a series of dots that get connected as the customer travels through the sales funnel.

    Now, shifting the mindset from individual touch points to a CX model can be an overwhelming proposition. Changing deep-rooted organizational processes, systems and territories is a transformational undertaking for most companies, and that doesn’t come without a certain amount of pain.

    The good news is that you don’t have to tackle a CX effort all at once. thunder::tech has helped many customers get their CX ducks in a row. We recommend the following steps to help transform your company from product driven to customer satisfaction driven:
    1. APPOINT AN ADVOCATE As CX generally requires a multi-department, multi-disciplinary effort you must have a leader who is willing and able to beat the CX drum to organize, motivate, guide and support the effort. This person should have the authority and ability to impact the corporate culture as a whole.
    2. MAP THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY(S) Before you can understand how to surprise and delight customers throughout the entire CX, you need to understand the journey or journeys that they are taking. Begin the process with client interviews, surveys, focus groups and any other methods available to you in order to fully understand what your customers experience when they do business with you.
    3. DEFINE GOALS Consult with all stakeholders to confirm what goals you have for your CX program and over what timeline they will be executed.
    4. ESTABLISH ANALYTICS Like any business practice, if it’s worth doing it’s worth measuring. After defining goals, put analytics in place to constantly measure and report on how you are progressing toward reaching your goals.
    5. EXECUTE AND ITERATE With a plan in place, goals and measurement methods established, and a champion to lead the company through the process, you are ready to start. Be prepared to pivot and adapt if and when you run into new challenges or discover new opportunities.
    Following these steps will help shift established organizational thinking. Once this groundwork has been laid, it’s of equal importance to continue to monitor and analyze the results. In today’s fast-paced world, customer expectations may quickly change, the economic landscape itself may also change, and even the customer journey itself may radically transform quicker than anyone would expect. The only way to ensure that your company is reacting to market shifts and iterating the plan as necessary is to make sure that your finger is always on the pulse of your customers. Doing so will help you continue to provide the unmistakable customer experience that keeps them loyal and coming back for more. ::
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