Business today is overrun by metrics. The numbers are talking, and in more than one tense. Trends analysis tells us what was, while predictive analysis will tell us what’s likely to be. This is not so much about magic, as it is about understanding people, the focal point of all business.
Business is hopeful that the ability to interpret data to predict customers’ needs and buying patterns is just around the corner. But the reality is, we’re still some distance away from predictive analysis. What we do have is a lot of data telling us that trends are changeable, and they offer no guarantees about if or when they’ll recur. In effect trends are merely data after the fact. This is a bit of a speed bump for those companies who set stock by the metrics. A waiting period, if you will, until predictive analytics presents viable pointers on how they can reach out to people and markets better. People-centric companies, on the other hand, have taken an inside track, keeping pace with change by including people in their brand stories.
Reports indicate, CX is emerging as a vital aspect of business, despitethe challenges posed by increasing customer expectations. Companies enthralled by the numbers are riveted by the data as it comes in, and they diligently track the trends. Yet they still can’t really use this data to design unique individualized experiences for people.
Over the last year alone there’s been a sizeable increase in investments made by companies to improve the customer experience, but it has yielded little in terms of reach or market share. Not surprising given the level of customer evolution we’ve seen.
Customers make strident demands for their needs
Upset customers don’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere.
Segmenting customers by age, gender, occupation,and location is no longer adequate.
All the while markets get more volatile, with liquid expectations caught in an upward spiral.
Focussing on the metrics alone can cause companies to get myopic about purchases, and see them as simple transactions. When in effect they are the last stop of a protracted buying journey. If you pay attention, every purchase tells a story, replete with details of people’s needs, expectations, and who or what influenced them to buy and why. Listen to understand people, so you grasp this narrative and learn from it. Include this narrative of the people to your brand story and let your customers’ voice extol the benefits of your brand. Their stories have a better reach than a standard marketing campaign because it’s easier to believe true stories told in the first person.
To know what people want you need to interact with them genuinely. Until you meet with people, listen to them and connect with their needs, you’re nowhere near knowing them, let alone what they want, immediately or in the future. To know how a business is doing doesn’t need as much interaction. A simple look at their sales numbers tells you how things are, while the quality of their customers’ experiences will tell you how things will be.
The best way to do this is to lead with your heart. Empathize with your employees, vendors,and customers as you design, plan,and implement your operations. It’s only when you understand what people and their communities need, expect, or aspire to that you can plan to fulfil them. No matter what your business deals with, there are some aspects of customer service that need the same approach and process because basic human nature dictates it. Here’s how common sense and basic courtesy at customer service can create better stories for people to tell.
Information central to customer service needs to be stored in the same place. Whether the customer is calling to place an order, complain about a product, or request assistance. Whether their first interaction on the subject is an email and subsequent exchanges are via phone or chat. The customer service executive in attendance needs to see the information from all these interactions in the same place. This empowers the executive on duty to give the customer a seamless experience without missing a beat.
Different strokes for different folks because people are not all the same. In fact, customers take pride in being unique, in being unlike any customer your business had, has, or might have. It’s no longer about fielding the same script to every customer or planning a process that’s strictured to deliver microscopically identical services to all. Though all your customers are treated in the same special way, it’d be counter-intuitive to assume that all customers are driven in the same way by the very same needs.
All the numbers in one place, in one master customer database, can form the bedrock of a customer-centric business. In any business customer information is collected, stored, and studied at multiple touch points across verticals, but often exclusively and in isolation. This makes it hard to identify the collective needs of individual customers. But harnessing all this data to create and maintain one master database with layers of information about your customers can help you tailor better customer experiences.
Brands make promises, but customers ratify the truth. A commitment is nothing without follow-through and sustainability, which is why the customer has the final say on how true your brand story really is. There’s a lot at stake when it comes to positive customer experiences. It goes beyond recruiting the right people or the training regimen you employ. Instead, it is the clarity and confidence you instil in your team that equips them to stay on point and make your customers’ day, everyday.
Be there or be square. That’s the first rule to follow when it comes to managing your customer relationships. If you want your company to feature in your customers’ list of preferred brands, then be there for them every time they reach out to you. Irrespective of what mode of communication they use to reach you, or which executive or department they reach; being available for your customers and aware of their particular needs is vital. When your entire team, top to bottom, adheres to this, you can achieve a level of consistency that makes for more satisfied customers.
There’s been a long and protracted customer service debate, on what is a better way to engage with people. The verdict is in and it’s all about heart. Whether it’s about brand objectives or product utility, if you want people to buy into your story and add their voice to it, your story must first grab them by the heart. It’s the only way people will be loyal to your brand and advocate it.