Creating an optimal customer experience is challenging for even top brands. Replicating this experience again and again across multiple locations is challenging at best. The brands doing this very well have refined operations and empowered employees to deliver on that brand promise rather than to adhere to an inflexible corporate policy. They have taken steps to eliminate barriers to creating this optimal customer experience in all locations. However, doing a customer experience audit can be difficult for brands to undertake because they run the risk of uncovering how challenging they make doing business with them is for their customers. Brands that do conduct these audits work through this uncomfortable phase to push through to finding out what they are doing to alienate their customers and how they can stop it.
- Customer Un-Service
Remember, SPARKER’s number one rule: Be where your customers are. Make it easy for them to find you or risk them never trying to find you again. Your customers want to interact with your company using whatever channel is convenient for them. For some, this means the phone. But as social media use increases, customers (especially savvy ones) are looking for your brand on Facebook or Twitter. They are reaching out to complain or commend your business. Others are visiting your website on their smartphones and can’t interact with you because there is no mobile option for the site. Smart companies allow customers to interact with customer service over any of these channels. And once they do find you, brands must respond. Customers have researched and weighed a variety of choices, emotions, and decision-making once they get to the purchasing stage, so try to make the POS (point of sale) painless and easy. Avoid stipulations, too many options at check-out, be clear about return/exchange policies, and set expectations for ownership of your product.
- Problems? What Problems?
“But we’ve always done it this way!” If this is your company’s (un)official mission statement, you might as well close the doors today. Save yourselves the trouble of looking for ways to innovate and ways to inspire interaction with your brand. When fear of change and lack of desire to progress become ingrained in the management and employees, costs will go up and value to the customers will drop. Slowly but surely, this culture will kill your customer experience and ultimately, your business. Companies using customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys or feedback tools are willing to take a glimpse in the mirror, warts and all. Anyone can collect data but in order to make it effective it must be examined and recommendations made for how to improve processes and reduce service gaps to boost CSAT and drive long-term loyalty and revenues.
- Hiring the Wrong Employees
Along with empowering employees with the ability to make judgment calls over minor issues without having to involve management each and every time, we need to address employees who are not the right fit for the brand. Zappos is famous for paying employees, whom they’ve hired, to depart the company after the initial training session if Zappos has determined the employee is less than ideal to represent the company. According to a study by Wright Management, 70 per cent of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs whereas only 17 per cent of non-engaged employees say the same. In other words, engaged employees are more empathetic to customers. They anticipate customer needs and how to provide an optimal customer experience. Hiring people who are not passionate about your business or brand, or have no desire to put the customer first will damage your brand. Not all at once, of course. But over time, these employees will chip away at the credibility of your brand and leave many frustrated, angry (former) customers in their wake. When hiring, choose wisely. Hire for passion first (soft skills) because technical (hard skills) knowledge can be taught or learned.
What barriers are in place right now in your business preventing your customers from doing more business with you more often? What small but significant changes can you make to eliminate those barriers today?