Keeping up with the pack is essential, but leading the pack and staying ahead of it is where the game changes. How does one ensure that your customers have an exceptional experience when dealing with your company?
A Gartner 2012 study showed that the top business priorities for CEOs over the past five years has been retaining customers, attracting new customers and cost reduction. But today customers demand a lot more than good service or a nice product. The reason for this, is twofold. Firstly, as Generation Y has moved into the consumer market, they expect us to know who they are and what they want. They are critical, outspoken and demanding. Secondly, with the rise of mobile technologies and the fast rate of technological innovation, this consumer-generation is also hyper connected – telling their friends and families about their experiences with your brand on every available social media platform.
Today’s consumers are more demanding; exposed to an array of options and providers for all facets of their daily lives, and with switching providers becoming easier, keeping customers happy is a major priority for any business.
“There’s always a mismatch between what we think of ourselves as a business and what our customers think of us, and that is why it is so important that you realise your customer experience can only ever match the employee experience. They are your best advocates,” says Lloyd Ball, group managing director of the PLP Group of Companies.
Employee satisfaction not only affects employee commitment and employee loyalty, but it also has a direct and indirect impact on customer satisfaction. The literature offers several explanations as to why employee satisfaction affects customer satisfaction. Satisfied employees are motivated employees and they have the motivational resources to deliver adequate effort and care. Satisfied employees are empowered and they have the resources, training and responsibilities to understand and serve customer needs. Satisfied employees have high energy and willingness to give good service. Most importantly, satisfied employees can provide customers with empathy, understanding, respect and concern which have a significant impact on customer satisfaction.
“Our entire approach should be: It’s about our customer, not about us. We must ensure we give customers positive experiences, and not only products and services. To do this, our employees must be engaged and have the resources to provide that experience,” Ball says.
“Being about the customer” today is not the ‘customer-centric’ stories that organisations have been promoting for the last five years. Today it means using digital technologies to understand what customers are really looking for and not just bundling what you think they want. It’s a “Don’t tell me, don’t sell me, just ask me” philosophy – and the future belongs to those who can bravely ask those questions,” Ball continues.
Ball coined a phrase in his business: “Getting the customer on the trust journey.” How does it work? He poses the question: “Would you buy a vehicle from your cellphone provider?” The answer is usually “Absolutely not, my telco provider gives me data and airtime – why would I trust them to sell me a car?”
“But imagine for a moment that you order flowers for a loved one using your cellphone provider – if the experience is positive, you might book movie tickets, organise a baby sitter, arrange a holiday, and if all of these experiences work, you will eventually trust them enough to buy a car or finance your house using your cellphone provider,” he explains. “Once your telco has earned your trust, with each engagement, the trust journey grows, as does the perception of the telco and eventually the user dependency changes from just airtime to everything.”
For your employees to take your customers on the trust journey, they need the skill, knowledge and capability. Every experience is an opportunity where brands get to exceed customer expectation. Your employees are directly linked to your business’ success. An adequately skilled employee must be available to handle the interaction and to elicit the desired outcome, be that a sale, a query resolution, or a service.
Employees must be empowered with knowledge and support to provide positive customer experiences and businesses that don’t embrace this will become redundant. CEO involvement is not optional – all leaders must constantly reinforce the message of the importance of the customer.
“The culture of an organisation should be: If we are not here for the customer, why are we here at all?” Ball emphasises. “Disruptive technologies such as Airbnb and Uber are changing the way business gets done. Customers have real choice with an on-demand economy, and rapidly changing technology is changing the way we do business forever. Every employee must have a customer connection, understanding that whatever they do today, moves the business forward for a better customer experience.”
Customers need to have multichannel accessibility – and the service should be personalised, consistent and interactive. Providing feedback loops gives us the opportunity to listen to the voice of the customer. “Every engagement should be measured and those brands that put their employee performance up against the actual customer experience, will understand that they have their customers on the “trust journey”. When employees and customers are happy, the trust grows and the business is winning. You can’t have one without the other,” Ball concludes.