Leading research shows that 2020 is the year in which customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
And with competition fierce and companies under pressure, South African business leaders will be looking to claw any advantage they can over their competitors.
“As we enter the new decade, it’s important for businesses to realise that they are going to be left behind if they are product-centric. Investing in smart technology can make for a great product and selling point, but boosts in sales will be short-lived if you are not taking steps to consider the holistic customer journey and user experience,” says Nathalie Schooling, CEO of customer experience specialists, nlighten.
While budgets may limit the extent to which local brands can take advantage of this shift, Schooling shares five areas that SMEs can start addressing to win customers’ affection.
■ You can’t manage what you don’t measure
Measuring how satisfied your customers are is vital, but what’s even more important is understanding the context. What this means is that any customer feedback mechanisms should attempt to build your understanding of what your customers want, as well as what they expect. Brands can implement simple direct-feedback mechanisms to harvest customer opinions, or through unbiased third-party providers who offer this service.
■ The devil is in the detail
You can only fix what you know is broken in your customer experience. And the best way to gain that knowledge is to understand what it’s like doing business with you from the start to finish – at every single touchpoint. Armed with this information, you can create a customer journey map. This tool should then be used to track customers’ experience, and constantly refine that experience to ensure that it consistently meets their expectations.
■ Be clear and bold
This may come as a surprise, but not all your clients are aware of your unique value proposition. It is therefore essential that you clearly articulate to them why they should rather do business with you, as opposed to your competitors.
It should not be taken for granted that your customers are aware of this, and the best way to reinforce this is to communicate this internally first. Armed with this knowledge, your staff are better able to communicate this to clients and thereby win their loyalty.
■ Build a CX culture
Which brings us to probably the most effective, and least costly way to ensure that your customers receive a consistently high-quality experience – communication. Only if everyone in your organisation understands their role in ensuring that your customers’ expectations are met (possibly even exceeded) can you be assured of CX success.
You can achieve that through ongoing internal communication, training programmes (especially during onboarding of new staff), leading from the front by management and reward and recognition programmes.
■ Keep at it
Building great customer experiences and engraining that into your organisation’s culture takes commitment to continually improving. And it takes time – this won’t happen overnight.
Creating a business that differentiates by understanding what customers want and need is an iterative, ongoing process that adapts as people change and their needs and wants change.
Walk in their shoes
As a small business owner, have you taken the time and effort of experiencing your business’ current customer journey without any bias?
What is preventing repeat business? Do your clients have the space and a platform to give you feedback about how they’ve experienced your goods and services?
While big brands may lead the conversation and the shift towards investing time and money in customer experience, the reality is that as a small business you too need to start creating ways of making it easier for your customers to do business with you. Take a closer look at the way in which customers experience your products or services, and their perceptions of your company. More importantly, take note of how and where you are losing sales due to a customer journey that hasn’t been carefully thought through or mapped out.
“Let’s compare it to acupuncture, an alternative healing method that aims to address the root of the problem instead of the symptoms. In the same way, you should investigate what the root of the problem that your business is experiencing might be – the pain point,” says Social Marketing and Speaker, Amantle Mokubung.
It might be that your market has evolved over the years, yet you have not evolved with it, and it’s time to tweak your offering or to take it to a completely new market. Another possible reason that customers are not experiencing your offering positively could be the hiccups in the buying process, either in dealing directly with sales staff, or in the digital phase of the process.
Test and study your client’s entire journey in trying to buy from you, plus the possible detours which makes every customer’s experience completely unique. For example, when you are running an online boutique, you might provide customers with only one payment method, which might be convenient for some, but not for others. This might be the (pain) point at which your business experiences drop-off customers. Perhaps you have noticed a significant drop between the number of people that load their shopping cart and those that actually place an order with you, in which case it might be time to implement remarketing.
Revisit and simplify the journey, and keep open communication with your customers. Make it known that they can at any point reach out to you, and exceed their expectations in the way you handle complaints and suggestions. Your business’ next big marketing campaign or innovative idea could come from this.
“You don’t build a business – you build people and then the people build the business. This still rings true in 2020. Make sure you build a team that is passionate about working for brands with heart and are ready to carry the business’ vision. Personalise the experience for the different personas of your target market that you have created, start small both online and offline.