Just how important is achieving positive customer experience on today’s business landscape? Consider a report from Walker Information, which predicts that by the year 2020 customer experience will be the number one brand differentiator, surpassing traditional heavyweights product and price.
In other words: customers will willingly and happily pay more for less, provided that a business leans forward and demonstrates concern and care at every touch point. In fact, we don’t have to wait for 2020 to arrive. Many customers are demonstrating this way now, much to the delight of businesses that get customer support right — and much to the chagrin of businesses that get it wrong.
Obviously, consistently delivering positive customer experience isn’t a just-add-water or template-driven commitment. Whether the goal is to sell new cars or malware removal services, it takes a customized strategic plan. Yet with this being said, there are some basic — yet often overlooked — things that all businesses should be doing to foster and elevate customer experience. None of these require a PhD. in Customer Serviceology (with a specialization in advanced Customer Supportism). In fact, as far as customers are concerned, they belong firmly and permanently in the common sense bucket. These include:
Truth in Advertising
The best — as in the worst — way to lose customers is by over-promising and under-delivering. And yet this is the egregious sin that many businesses commit when they fail to disclose material truths about their products, services, policies, and so on. With apologies to Shakespeare: hell hath no fury like a customer scorned, and the fastest way to scorn an entire target audience is by mismanaging expectations, and having inconsistent policies and messaging across the ecosystem (i.e. the website says one thing, customer support says another, and so on).
Accurate and Timely Order Fulfillment
The world’s most successful car, home and other big ticket sales professionals know that the most important touch point on the buyer’s journey isn’t at the beginning: it’s at the end, when fulfillment happens and customers transition from shoppers to purchasers. However, businesses without suitable order fulfillment technology and processes invariably end up shipping the wrong things, at the wrong times, to the wrong customers (many of whom are going to be ex-customers). Or worse, they wait until checkout to let customers know that an item they want is out of stock.
Sufficient Self-Support Options
Last but certainly not least: a growing number of customers prefer — and in some cases, insist on — self-support options to learn how to use products, solve problems, manage integrations and add-ons, and so on. In fact, research by Zendesk [.PDF] found that 50 percent of customers think it’s important to solve product or service issues on their own. Of course, this doesn’t mean that businesses should shutter their call centers or support teams, since voice-to-voice (or keyboard-to-keyboard) interaction needs to be available. But all else being equal, businesses that tick the “great self-support” box will impress more customers, and outpace more competitors.
The Bottom Line
Customer experience is, in some respects, a moving target: because trends and technologies change. However, the core ability to make customers happy was, is and always will be rooted in leaning forward and closing the gap. Businesses put themselves in a much better position to win the customer experience sweepstakes by making sure that, regardless of what else they do, the above are in place and firing on all cylinders.