Who are your favorite companies, and what makes you brand loyal? People typically answer this question based on how well a business understands and meets their needs. Buying decisions go way beyond price as we often pay a higher cost to shop at a particular place.
Consider coffee, for example. Customers, including me, spend triple the price at Starbucks compared to other local coffee shops. Why would we pay more money on purpose? The reason is that the most reputable brands, like Starbucks, proactively LISTEN to the voice of customer (also referred to as VoC) and use feedback to deliver personalized experiences that exceed customer expectations.
Research prove the value of doing CX right, such as a study conducted by PWC. People were asked: “How much would you pay for the following product or service if the company provides a great customer experience?” As shown in the image below, the answer is a lot, and getting it right is real!
The price premium for great customer experience:
Best in class companies also care about employee views and empowers their staff to deliver customer excellence. Their competitive edge comes from humanizing business, and you can apply the same principles no matter where you work.
THREE WAYS TO DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BRAND
#1. Leverage Voice of Customer (VoC) In Everything You Do
VoC is a valuable research method that enables you to understand the difference between customer expectations and how well you deliver what they need. Even if you believe there is no gap, your customer may think differently, and you must know that to adapt your strategies. Customer perception is YOUR reality.
Asking customers about their overall satisfaction level helps you gauge the likelihood of them continuing to purchase and recommend your products and services. Getting high-level feedback is good, but the magic happens when you dig deep into the customer journey. I highly recommend you ask customers to rate their experiences and provide comments about EVERY interaction point, commonly referred to as “moments of truth.”
If you have not launched a business and do not have customers yet, then co-create a journey map with your target audiences (also referred to as personas). There are plenty of resources on the internet to guide you through the process, including my blog, DoingCXRight. My point is that getting Voice of Customer feedback in the right way and at the right time is essential for business success.
Most people rely on surveys as their Voice fo Customer source. While valuable, it must not be your only method of getting customer feedback. Additional useful data comes from:
- Website contact forms
- Interviews (online and in-person)
- Social media
- Ratings and Reviews (on your site & external rating pages)
- Website visitor behavior analytics
- Customer Care Call Data
- Website Live Chat
I recommend aggregating and centralizing all VoC insights to understand your customers’ views from a holistic perspective. It’s a critical job function, so either assign the role in your organization to someone who has the right skill sets, or outsource the work.
Step 2: Turn Voice of Customer Data Into Actionable Insights.
Obtaining customer feedback and analyzing the data takes time, but it is well worth it. You can’t possibly develop products, services, and market messages without understanding what your customers think and feel.
There are tools to help you compile, analyze, and prioritize data so that you know where to focus your improvement efforts. Some reputable time-saving platforms include Qualtrics. Medallia. Hubspot. Clarabridge, and more. They vary in capabilities and costs. If you have minimal or no budget, then start with manual methods of collecting customer feedback and using the data to inform your business decisions and changes.
#3: Close The Loop With Customers
If you ask customers what they think, then inform them what actions you took because of their feedback. For example, if you lead a focus group to design a new product, follow up with participants to show what you created because of their input. Even better, offer a discount that is not available to the public to express appreciation. If you have a centralized survey team, who calls customers share recordings and notes with your sales teams so they can contact customers, rectify issues, and thank them, too.
THE GAME CHANGER
Top performing companies combine Voice of Employee (VoE) and Voice of Customer (VoC) as part of their decision-making process. Asking employees for feedback makes them feel heard and valued. And, when that happens, their commitment and engagement to deliver customer satisfaction increases. Happy employees fuel happy customers. That is the formula for Customer Experience (CX) success.
15 Customer Experience Best Practices:
- Ask employees for feedback as it serves as a valuable data source, but VoE must never replace VoC.
- Respect customer intelligence. People know when companies are claiming to be customer-centric but are actually “checking a box.”
- Make the feedback process easy and convenient. Provide options such as calling, texting, or emailing.
- Improve your customer journey based on both qualitative and quantitative data. A smile or frown by itself does not reveal much. Learn the “WHY” and “WHO” factors.
- Thank people for their time in giving feedback. Inform what you’ll do with their input. Communication and gratitude go a long way.
- Actively listen. Do not sound like a robot or reading from a survey script.
- Personalize your customer communications. You will gain better response rates.
- Choose your questions wisely. If you don’t ask correctly, you won’t get actionable answers.
- Capture feedback often. Customer and employee needs are changing rapidly.
- Listen to what customers say across different channels. Improve experiences based on a 360 view.
- Share feedback results with internal stakeholders. It helps drive a culture where everyone owns CX.
- Knowledge is power. Do not let the fear of responses be a reason you do not ask for feedback.
- Assess satisfaction & establish benchmarks for year over year comparisons. You cannot fix what you do not measure.
- Recruit and hire customer-centric individuals to achieve your CX mission. It’s all about people!
- Create a culture where EVERYONE owns CX and is accountable for customer excellence, not just leaders at the top.
Proactively ask for feedback and use the insights to improve customer and employee experiences. Let them know of what changes occurred because of their input, as that is how you gain loyal brand advocates. On the contrary, if you do not follow CX best practices, people will switch to a competitor. According to PWC,
“1 in 3 will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.”
It costs a lot of time and resources to make up for one unhappy experience.
I can’t say it enough….
Customer Experience must be intentional and never an afterthought. Make sure you are NOT just TALKING about it but actually DOING CX RIGHT!
Happy employees fuel happy customers. This statement may sound strange but it is true and dependent on great leadership. They go hand in hand. When employees feel included, valued, and appreciated, they often go above and beyond to deliver excellence.
A common question is how can leaders create a customer-centric culture with engaged, motivated employees?
I find the answer is through authentic leaders who apply a “crawl, walk, run” approach.
The Meaning Of ‘Crawl, Walk, Run’
Life is a journey. You cannot go from 0% to 100% goal attainment automatically or overnight. Success comes from setting mini goals and appreciating each milestone conquered. This applies not only to elevating a company culture but also to starting a new business, switching careers, relocating homes, and other big shifts that take time to evolve. I’ve seen people fail because they run at full speed before learning and implementing the basics first.
My mentor, and someone I’m grateful to call my friend, Dan Lynn, is the one who taught me about the “crawl, walk, run” approach and to never give up — even when I’ve nearly reached my goal and had to take many steps back in order to move forward again.
So, here are some best practices I’ve learned to make this approach most effective and, through it, create an authentic, customer-centric culture for my team.
10 Leadership Best Practices To Follow
1. Strive for quality over speed. Set realistic timelines and establish small goals as they collectively have big impacts.
2. Expect the unexpected. Obstacles will occur and are unavoidable. Don’t let them stop you from being a change agent and moving mountains. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
3. Surround yourself with passionate, authentic people. Hire and retain them. Attitude is contagious.
4. Celebrate small wins. Don’t wait for the end results. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
5. Stay creative and open-minded as ideas come at unanticipated times and from unexpected places. Some of my best ideas were written on the back of napkins during meals at restaurants.
6. Prioritize and hold yourself accountable. Not every idea or project can be number one. Break down tasks and categorize each activity by “now,” “soon” and “later.” This can help you to stay focussed and minimize stress.
7. Be OK with starting over or with what feels like going backward. Sometimes you’ll start walking or running, but then you might have to revert to the crawling stage because of unpredictable circumstances. Trust the process. A setback often pivots us in a better direction. We just don’t understand why at the moment.
8. Focus on relationships and strengthen your network. Lean on your allies. It often takes a village for change to happen. Make every day count and show appreciation to everyone who helps deliver your mission.
9. Take the leap. “Just do it,” as Nike says. But do it in a methodical way. I’m a fan of testing concepts and implementing pilot programs. Once you’ve proven success, then continue at a faster rate and scale what works.
10. Ignore the naysayers and live your passion while remembering to pace yourself (crawl before walking, and walk before running). Don’t accelerate too fast, or you’ll miss important steps that are essential to achieving long-term goals.
Change is not easy, even when it is your own choice. It takes resilience, patience, endurance, and trust in the journey, and that journey can be a slow process. Remember not to get ahead of yourself and that small actions often have huge impacts.
Get more leadership tips in my other article about “The Four Agreements.” I write about a famous book explaining how being impeccable with your words, avoiding assumptions, not taking anything personally and doing your best ultimately contribute to better leadership, especially in CX. You will attract the right people and relationships, which may include profitable customers, too
I had the opportunity to join Kesiena Aaron – Efe to discuss business success stories and ways to differentiate your brand based on non-traditional proven CX methods.
During the podcast, I answer questions including:
- How do you get a Customer Experience job if you’ve never had one?
- Why is CX a booming field, and is it a fad or here to stay?
- What does Employee Experience have to do with mastering CX to gain a competitive edge?
- What are good resources to elevate your CX skills to differentiate your brand?
Listen To Podcast Below. Tell Me What Resonates Most.
Who owns customer service? Is it strictly the companies we buy from or do consumers have a responsibility in achieving a positive outcome too? This is the theme of my newest article featured in Psychology Today, co-written with psychiatrist and author, Dr. Grant Brenner. We discuss ways to use emotional intelligence to have great experiences.
Here’s a cringe-worthy story. You finally find that perfect product, a new laptop, home fitness equipment, or maybe a gift for your partner on a big anniversary. A few days later, the package arrives in the mail, and, like a kid getting a long-awaited present, you eagerly open the package. But oh no! It isn’t what you expected. So disappointing. Clearly you are unhappy—or, really, irate—so, what do you do?
Apply The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz’s best-seller, The Four Agreements, focuses on positive change drivers. Ruiz “advocates freedom from self-limited beliefs that cause suffering and limitations in a person’s life.”
While his recipe is simple, it takes intention and persistence to succeed:
- Do not make assumptions
- Do not take anything personally
- Be impeccable with your words
- Always do your best
We elaborate on these agreements to empower consumers to partner effectively with businesses to achieve the best possible resolutions.
8 Strategies To Get Great Customer Service:
1. Know what you want.
Define what you want and the questions you have in advance while staying open to possibilities. Be impeccable with your words, crafting your message based on the key principles to move the conversation toward a good resolution, within the limits of what is reasonable and possible. Ruiz explains that “impeccable with your word means you don’t use your words to speak ill of yourself or others.” Approaching with clear goals and a curious, rather than accusatory stance, will set the right tone. Pay attention to HOW you speak to customer service associates as well as WHAT you say.
2. Take responsibility for your own actions.
As Ruiz suggests, you are entitled to expect a great experience from companies you buy from but do not have a right to be mean to innocent people. Customer service reps may be having a worse day than you are. If there’s a contract, make sure you’ve read it. You have to know what you agreed to, and also what you are entitled to get.
3. Be patient, especially during a pandemic.
Mistakes happen because we’re HUMAN! Let’s say you ask for no mayo on your sandwich. The waiter brings your dish without accommodating what you wanted. You can make a scene, or you can stop and think. If you help diffuse stress, rather than amp it up, the waiter will likely apologize, make it right, and maybe throw in a complimentary dessert or appetizer. But… don’t be afraid to politely but firmly seek attention from a manager if it isn’t going anywhere.
4. Bring out their best through basic human decency.
If you anger service representatives, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how you would want to be spoken to and then act accordingly. Be kind, not irate. Avoid displacing your pain points onto the other person, even if their company is at fault. If you liked the way they handled it, give them a compliment. You’ll feel better about the interaction, regardless of the outcome.
5. Make a human connection.
Relationships are powerful. Each time you get on the phone or chat with a customer service rep, deliberately establish a connection and be sincere. Realize that the money is important to the company, and reps are closely monitored for performance. For businesses, “talk time is expensive”—but this does not mean your needs are unimportant. On a more basic level, you are two human beings looking to solve a mutual problem.
6. Customer ratings may become the trend.
It’s integrated in the way Uber runs its business and will likely spread. It makes sense. Why would companies spend their time with people who are unkind and disrespectful? Don’t wait for customer ratings to scale across the world. Make sure your personal brand is what you want to project.
7. Provide customer feedback.
Companies typically learn what customers want based on asking them through surveys, focus groups, social media comments, and more. Take advantage of the time to provide recommendations as most brands are listening and care to improve experiences based on customer and prospect feedback. Provide positive input as well as your complaints. Give the company a chance to respond before going after them on social media. Judge fairly and realistically before tarnishing a reputation, and be open to revising ratings when there’s a resolution.
8. Use aggression wisely.
If you are feeling irate, it’s probably for a good reason. But how do you use anger when you can’t pivot, rather than letting anger use you? It’s critical at such moments to maintain self-control. Take a few deep breaths, pause, and review what your goals are. Use voice control—it’s OK to let them know you are not happy, and that it is painful for you. This will engage empathy. Anger often comes from threat, injury, and helplessness. Know where it is coming from before you displace pain onto others.
The Customer is Always Right?
Like it or not, the old adage “the customer is always right” is not always true. Caveat emptor— “buyer beware” still holds, though. If you signed a two-year contract in which you agreed to pay off an expensive product, it’s unlikely that you can argue your money back. But you can still try and problem-solve with the company to find a middle ground.
Developing our own personal “code of conduct” as consumers, based on the above principles, minimizes the negative impact of customer service negotiations while maximizing the chances of a best-possible outcome.
Customer experience is a top priority for many companies because a great customer journey is the difference between a great company and a long-term relationship, versus an OK company and shopping around. According to neuromarketing, people buy based on how brands make them feel and other psychological factors beyond services and product prices—including identity and lifestyle implications of brand-use.
So, who owns customer happiness? Customers or companies? The answer is both! The onus of customer satisfaction does not strictly fall upon businesses. We as consumers also need to take responsibility for the experiences we have every day… including how we interact with others whose job it is to provide service excellence.
Read more about how to apply The Four Agreements to win in business and life.
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