Maximizing a customer experience can lead to increased sales, better product exposure and increased profits for any company. With the advent of internet search engines today, there are many success stories that can be found via minimal effort. What is sometimes harder to find is how can you take these success stories to transform your business environment.
There are multiple components to maximizing the customer experience and entire books related to this subject such as:
- Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service by author Renee Evenson
- Customer Service Skills for Success by author Robert Lucas
- The Service Culture Handbook by author Jeff Toister
These books all talk about ways to maximize and improve the customer experience to change the environment in an effort to drive success.
Personally, I think the most important items these books touch base on is two-fold:
- Improving customer interaction – Take the time to listen to what people are saying.
- Increasing customer engagement – Talk to your customers, not just when they have a problem.
Over the years I’ve asked what improving customer interaction means to different people and depending upon the person and their position, I’ve gotten different answers. This seemed perplexing to me at first, until I really spent time thinking about it. Having been doing customer service for most of my adult life, I asked myself, “did I react to customers the same way 10 years ago or even 20, then I do now?” To be honest the answer was no.
This pushed me to the next question of why? Was it just having gained more experience, were the dynamics different now then before, or was it something not so obvious? The answer I found, is really a little bit of all of these points.
Bob Dylan wrote a song entitled “The times they are a changing.”The business world is different today then it was 10 or 20 years ago. People have grown accustomed to having answers at their fingertips. I mean who hasn’t been in a discussion about something, only to have someone if not themselves, pull out their phone to get an answer. Unfortunately, sometimes answers aren’t that easy to come by. When they aren’t, ensure you explain what the next steps are to find one and when that will happen. Follow up to keep the customer informed on progress and then again afterwards to ensure their needs were met. Improve customer interaction by keeping them informed every step of the way reinforces their importance to you and that there issues are your issues.
The not so obvious was recognizing that different people in the organization play different roles. From the person that answers the phone, i.e. the first point of contact, to the person that ultimately resolves the issue. They all play a part in that customer interaction. They all have to be on the same page, working toward providing a solution that satisfies the client needs. This is the part that really involves the most attention, to ensure everyone is on the same page and providing a customer interaction that is as seamless as possible. Keep the customer informed, notify them as things change and ensure the issues is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction to improve overall interaction.
Clarabridge, a company specializing in providing companies engagement strategies states:
“Customer Engagement is the emotional connection between a customer and a brand. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty. Providing a high-quality customer experience is an important component in your customer engagement strategy.”
How is this statement translated into an action plan and how is it performed? For a professional service company, increasing customer engagement equates into doing two things routinely: talking to your customers, not just when they need you, and obtaining customer feedback routinely to gauge your effectiveness.
Making connections with your customers involves investing time to talk to them. These conversations can be as easy as calling to see how things are going, asking if there is anything you can help with or even just talking about life. The important point or target here is to listen to them. Sometimes just understanding pain points a client is experiencing can lead to helping them. A great example of this is the experience we’ve all had over the last two years, creating similar situations for all businesses in the healthcare industry. Having routine conversations can lead to shared experiences and being able to provide what others have done in similar situations. The key is having these conversations routinely reinforces the fact you are there to help where you can.
Customer feedback is the basis life blood on any business. Follow up is the cornerstone measuring how your efforts are perceived by your customers. This is often done in multiple ways, using automated contact surveys as service is provided, independent phone calls and routine industry standard polling. Automated contact survey’s average a 5-30% response rate. Those that are on the lower end of that score typically have little customer engagement. For these to be successful you have to read them and then follow up when ratings are below average. Phone calls typically are done for larger engagements and higher severity issues. It is critical to ensure these types of activities have a personal touch as they often have a broader exposure in the customer’s organization. Routine industry standard polling, often referred to as an NPS Survey, are accomplished twice a year and are intended to gauge the company’s overall performance. Using all three approaches helps to monitor your efforts and build the relationship.
There is no one approach that fits all to maximizing the customer experience. The two components of improving “customer interaction” and increasing “customer engagement” are the two most important. Listening to your customers ensures you’ll know what their issues are and with engagement you’ll know what they need now and in the future. Contact the experts at Harris Affinity to learn more about how we can help you maximize your customer experience.
-Steven Place, Vice President, Support Services