There is a little tip to the success of every business that many people disregard: Customers are vital to the success of your business. Of course, you knew that already. But converting leads into sales is just one part in the grand puzzle of sustainability in your business.
Take a moment to think about your business and its clients, and ask yourself the following questions:
Who are your longest standing clients and why do they keep coming back?
What percentage of your clients are just once-off customers?
How many customers have expressed satisfaction with your service and/or products?
How many hours have passed since you last engaged with customers over social media?
How you answer these questions will depend heavily on how you are approaching your client relationships and developing a customer experience that goes beyond a mere product or service.
One of the most important aspects of running a successful business is in client retention. However, many business owners and management teams treat the client base as something fixed, when it is possibly the most dynamic element of the business structure. At the end of the day, it is not only clients’ experience of the products or services that you sell that makes them come back.
As technology and methods of communication are continuously developing, businesses can no longer rely on traditional means of communication and marketing. The digitalisation of the customer experience can be a curse or an opportunity, depending on how you approach it.
It is no secret that how you present yourself to your client base has an impact on whether they choose to make use of your products/service over those of a competitor, but it would be foolish to think that this presentation stops at the point of branding. Branding gives your product/service a face, but it’s in how you interact with your customers that those products/services gain character.
Often, the difficulty in assessing the customer experience comes as a result of a lack of feedback received. If you don’t get feedback, how would you know if people are satisfied with your business? The easy answer is that if you are not getting feedback, it should signal that there is room for improvement.
According to research by thinkJar, only one in every 26 unhappy customers will complain and 91% of these unhappy customers who don’t complain leave. Measuring your customer satisfaction in the absence of such interaction happing in the first place is a recipe for disaster. If customers are happy, they will find a way of letting you know (even if not overtly).
The customer-experience is developed through every interaction that the customer has with you, as it relates to sales, expectations, feedback, surveys, social media engagement, newsletters etc. The thing is that the basic desires of your customer are not found in your product/service, but rather in being heard, understood, and given an avenue to satisfy their needs and desires.
That might sound strange, but any business that focuses on the product or service before the customer is really going at it blindly. It is through engagement with your customer that you know what product or service to prioritise, and it is by meeting their needs and building a relationship that your customers are retained and keep coming back.
The traditional Customer Relations Manager (CRM) will usually fulfil the role described above, but they are generally positioned in such a way that the job description focuses on a reactive response to clients rather than a proactive approach. The scope of what the CRM does must broaden if the company they work for wishes to become customer experience leaders.
A few tips for a Better Customer Experience:
1. Have multiple avenues for customer engagement, but do not go beyond your capacity
Every avenue that you make available to your customers to interact with you should be something you need to monitor and respond to quickly. A business that runs a Facebook page, for instance, needs to be actively engaged with their online community. You need to have a dedicated person/team (depending on your business’s size) on the task. If you are not able to meet your clients in the spaces that you make available to them, you will lose their attention and loyalty very quickly. Unless you have a structure in place to add a platform of communication to your customer experience model, perhaps you need to reconsider your decision.
2. Don’t make every interaction transactional
Just as with your interactions with your friends and family, your customers do not want a relationship that relies on quid-pro-quo interactions. A good customer experience relies on your desire to connect with them even when you are not getting anything from the interaction. If you only make your customers feel like they are valuable when they can give you something, you will lose them quickly. Building a stream of continuous engagement is vital to making your client feel special.
3. Ask for more
In the same vein as the previous point, building a non-transactional relationship with your clients also means that there may be times when you ask for something even when the client may not get something tangible in return. If you want to know what your customer base wants, the solution is simple: ask them. For instance, once you have delivered a service or product, ask your customers to provide feedback on their experience. Asking for feedback indicates that you care about their experience enough to consider their opinion. Keep in mind that even if you receive negative feedback, it is better than not knowing at all. If you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you only have room for growth.
4. Add value
If your customers are going to keep choosing you above your competitors, you will have to provide them with something that the competitor does not. Quality services/products are the main way in which you add value to your business, but if your customer’s experience is only found in what you sell, there is no reason for them not to choose an alternative of similar quality. Adding value to your customer experience separates your business (not just your product/service) from the competitor. An engaged customer will be much more reluctant to trade a positive experience for an unknown one.
5. Keep track of events, trends, and current affairs
A business that lives in the same world as its customers/clients is a business that is best-equipped to improve their customer experience. Depending on your image and level of formality in your communication style, engaging with your customers through a trending meme (low formality) or apt article (higher formality) could increase their level of familiarity and loyalty to your business. It is, however, important to know and establish your communication protocols as inconsistency has the ability to confuse and divide your existing customer base and deter newer customers from conducting business with you.
Short-term action, long-term effects
How you develop your customer experience has a lot to do with your prompt and relevant engagement with your clients. Just as with any other relationship, building a relationship with your clients relies on consistency and takes time. However, once you have established a solid foundation and given your clients an experience they cannot find elsewhere, you could very likely have a client that stays for life.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)