That technology has been a significant influence in nearly every sphere of our world today is common knowledge.Practically every discipline has had its fair share of the change that technology brings, and the adjustments we have been compelled to make as a consequence. Fundamentally, the following use-cases present us with clear evidence of how the new world is quickly changing how we manage feedback and convert it into useful information for making key decisions about our customers.
Using CRM, we have leveraged market automation where databases have been used to find out individual needs and matched them to products and services. The drawback here is that this approach does not necessarily explain why some services and products are so much better than others. Fast forward and strategic marketing is the next best thing that has happened. Here, we focus on what our customers want and why our products and services are so much better or different. Consumer research helps to crystallise things here.
Therefore, in tactical marketing our focus has been on the individual; whereby CRM and automation have largely driven our decisions, while strategic marketing systems have triggered processes in marketing, market research, and shopper marketing. The two sides of the same coin we are looking at are how we discover and make decisions about prospects (‘to be’ customers) and existing customers. To sum this up, CRM helps to make informed decisions and present opportunities to our would-be customers at the tactical level while research helps to understand the customer from a strategic perspective. The bridge here is customer experience, where we know our focus is on the transition from traditional customers to what is technically referred to as experiential design.
The significant difference here is that we are now getting more personal about the customer and abandoning the ‘navel-gazing’ approach. So, issues of concern now to a supermarket would be “Did we fill up the shelves for our household items quickly enough; why were there so many complaints about items not found on shelves yesterday?” Well guys, let’s fix it; make sure it doesn’t happen again, keep the shelves filled at all times.
Today’s customers will develop loyalty for a company or brand they trust for its consistent delivery of promises, services or solutions. It is therefore essential to know what makes customers loyal if the value is to be realised. Businesses must therefore pay attention to customer-driven metrics. According to Hannah Foley, a Customer Experience Consultant, one of the key ways to stay abreast with your customers’ needs is to use review platforms (digitally) to engage with the customer more proactively, by using social media and your web presence to keep a constant conversation going.
Five benefits she identifies in using this approach are: First, consumers share their experiences openly and connect with the brand; this ultimately encourages advocacy which is the final (and important) phase of the customer journey. Second, these platforms help create a common rating language that is easy to understand – customer-driven metrics from which teams and leadership can be galvanised around. Third, employees can directly see the contribution they made to improve the rating, which is a great motivation for them! Fourth, the platform widgets (interfaces) make it easy to use the ratings for on-site promotions, contributing to an increase in conversions. Finally, the ratings can easily be attributed to revenue and profitability, and provide the anchor to secure Voice of the Customer (VOC) investment (voice of the customer is a term used to describe your customer’s feedback about their experiences with your products and services).
According to Hannah, whether you are a start-up or working with a more established company, bringing your teams together around a customer score is fundamental. The key is transparency, and the more you gear your efforts toward this the better able you are to step up your CX activities. She suggests four (4) pillars to adopt to achieve this goal: colleagues, brand, customer and leadership.
This presents a new pathway for team members to develop careers in the Customer Experience department. By encouraging people to own and manage the closing loop ensures that your business and customers have better outcomes. One way to do this is by linking customer reviews to employee performance when an employee receives an email and a new review is left. This approach does magic! I may have shared a personal experience earlier of how an employee whose laptop I had fixed sent a glowing tribute by email to my boss, who in turn forwarded it to me. Trust me, I felt very elated even though I knew that I was just doing my job. Imagine the buzz when your CEO walks by and gives you a high-five for the glowing review from a corporate client that mentioned how brilliant you are.
When these 5-star reviews emerge for your team members, perhaps it would be a great idea to enlist them as CX champions to enable them share their customer stories. The SAS airline agent who jumped on his bike and rode to a hotel to retrieve the passport of a customer who had mistakenly left it behind received a glowing tribute from the customer and earned his company brownie points is an example that can be shared and celebrated; and, clearly, this individual is a great candidate for a CX champion in his business. How often do you celebrate your team members who go out of their way to deliver a great customer experience?
The recommendation here is to start by testing a segment of your customers asking them to leave reviews. Next, build collaboration between your CX team, brand team and the customer service team to respond to the reviews, test the responses and learn from them. This way, you will find creative ways to communicate your brand voice and customer appreciation or empathy. Future customers will not just judge you on the reviews, they will judge you on how you respond to the reviews. If this method proves useful, imagine the impact when you scale it up.
The fact is you don’t need five-star ratings per se. Customers are equally suspicious when you present yourself as perfect. Do not fear bad reviews if customers can see that when things go wrong you are quick to address them; it is just as good as having a perfect score. We all know that we certainly are not perfect, and therefore being human by accepting your faults and working quickly to resolve them is the way to go.
Virgin Money – a UK-based financial services company – invests to ensure that they have a best-in-class approach to listening to feedback from customers to help them understand what they are getting right; and more importantly, where they can make improvements. Through an insight survey, they identified that not all customers were aware of the wide range of benefits from being a Virgin Money customer. They used findings from their VOC survey to improve visibility, harnessing all online, phone and face-to-face interactions. The result was that their employees got a better hang of how to effectively communicate their services to customers, and this improved visibility of their brand very significantly.
With a clear understanding of what makes a positive difference to your customers and what frustrates them, you present yourself a great opportunity to prioritise improvements and strive to find a method that enables your business to act promptly on feedback trends as and when they emerge. Examine the ratings and ask key questions such as “are there any noticeable trends in our 3-star ratings?” Find methods to fix them. The key here is to highlight to everyone that customer satisfaction matters, and that when something causes customers significant pain the response to this must be to prioritise its resolution. What some platforms do very well is analyse emerging themes using text and sentiment-analytic capabilities. The purpose here is to use those themes to build customer journey, product, service and proposition improvements, or even innovations.
If your customer takes time to leave reviews to help other future customers choose your business, you must design in your capabilities the mechanisms to thank them for their efforts. Loyal customers who actively endorse you are incredibly valuable and should be put on a ‘top customer pedestal’. Learn to live with the reality that consumers trust reviews more than they do your actual advertising.
Leadership must ensure that they are on the pulse of the business by having real-time access to customer feedback. They must endeavour to see the issues or brilliance as they happen; this way, they can get buy-in very quickly to make things better. The way forward here is to build a business case and identify the pilot of a similar case study that enables you to model and set expectations. Some may be short-term and not require twelve (12) months of historical data modelling, therefore you will be able to see an immediate impact.
With the right strategies on your website, you will identify bounce rates, social media click-throughs, customer acquisitions, satisfaction, and retention metrics easily. The truth is customers express themselves freely on social media and therefore you will be privy to their true sentiments at first-hand. Pardon me for focusing on technology so intensely, but do you catch my drift? Technology is the future what are we waiting for.
Let’s quickly get on the bandwagon; social media is awash with customer reviews and sentiments, both real and fake – however, judging the trends will help glean what is of value as we plan our response.
By being transparent and open with your customer feedback, you will build your business credibility immensely. If you are willing to go the long haul, you will eventually allow yourself to use tools such as search-engine optimisation to make your brand more digitally visible.
Finding yourself a customer metric that everyone can rally around is the way forward. The ratings are not built on the same basis, so it is crucial to assess which one works for you. By creating a user-friendly functional website and digital presence, you will present a platform for eliciting great, good, and ugly reviews of your customer experience succinctly, and deal with issues expeditiously. Ultimately, it will show how your CX impacts the bottom line. This way, you will quickly catch the attention of leadership.
The writer is a management consultant. He can be reached on 059 175 7205 and on Linkedin.