Who is your customer experience competition? Those of you only looking inside your own industry need to take a look around, as your competitors are not who you think they are – especially online. Organizations should be asking this question: Which companies have the best practices in customer focus across all industries?
I recently exchanged Facebook messages with Deb Robison, a smart marketing and social media gal. She wanted to share a customer service story with me and get my take on it. Here is her story:
I got a new computer recently and needed to order some accessories. Around this same time, I needed some shoes and books. I placed orders with Zappos, Amazon, Apple, and a designer’s shop, Jonathan Adler. Of course, the three big guys sent me order acknowledgment and tracking info all through the process. I got an order notification from (ordered a laptop sleeve) Jonathan Adler, then nothing, so a few days after I placed the order, I sent an email asking if my order had shipped. Later the next day I got an email from a customer service rep explaining that they did receive my order and that “my colleague is trying to find your bag at one of their stores.” Once it ships, I would get a shipping notification. That was two days ago. And, I noticed they have already charged my credit card.
So my question is this – are my customer service expectations skewed because I have dealt with some big companies that have solid customer service and shipping systems in place? (Note: Zappos had the best and most prompt services of the three big companies, of course.) Jonathan Adler is a smaller brand, but a high-end one and kind of trendy right now, so is it fair for me to set the same expectations on them?
My expectations have clearly been shaped by the immediacy which other retailers respond & deliver. Is that fair? As customers, we never had this kind of relationship before. We used to get out the catalog, fill out the form, put a check in the envelope and wait.
Yes, Deb, customer expectations are absolutely set based on our experiences with companies such as Zappos and Amazon. In fact, every interaction we have with a company sets our expectation for the next interaction, whether with that business or with another completely different organization. Additionally, the online experiences that customers have with companies, whether on the company website or via social media, are creating a higher degree of visibility. In social media, this becomes even more important as the social customer’s friends and followers are also watching, and sometimes sharing the experience with their network (unfortunately, this is more often the case when the experience has been poor).
Customer Expectations of Service
It is important to understand the needs of your customers, as well as their wants and desires. It is also critical to understand what they expect when they contact your company. Typically, customer expectations of service tend to fall into three areas:
- Customers want fast service: They want their problems solved or questions answered quickly. “Help me get back to what I need to do.”
- Customers want friendly service: They want to feel that the company appreciates their business. “Help me know that you care about me.”
- Customers want it to be easy: They want to be able to accomplish the task in the most efficient way possible. “Help make this simple for me.”
The three areas listed above may change in priority based on who your customer is, what kind of relationship they have had with your organization, and, as mentioned by Deb, what types of interactions they have had with your company and with others. Do you know what your customers want from you?
What can you do tomorrow to improve the experience your customers are having with your company?
1. Ask your customers. Really – go ask them! Find out what they expect from you, what you are doing well, and what you need to improve. Your customers will probably be happy to tell you, and they will also be glad you asked.
2. Look in the mirror. When is the last time you or someone from your organization called into your customer service line? Ordered something from your website? Tried to get help via your social media channels? Find out what it feels like to be your customer; I encourage you to look for both areas of improvement as well as your own best practices to share with your organization.
3. Look at the competition – from your customer’s perspective. Understand who is competing with you for the best customer experience, keeping in mind that it may not be anyone within your industry.
A world-class customer experience doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a plan that can be executed across all aspects of your organization. Your customer experience strategy should facilitate consistent treatment of customers, cultivate customer trust, and enable meaningful interactions at all points of customer contact. Most importantly, it should meet and exceed customer expectations. Now you have a customer experience that will ignite passion, inspire brand loyalty, and cement relationships.