Customer experience is more than a warm and fuzzy feeling, it can bring significant benefits to your business in terms of innovation, efficiency and ultimately profits.
Prioritising customer experience means ensuring that their needs, desires, and expectations are met at every stage of the customer lifecycle, adding value at each point in a multitude of ways. In a recent study, Forbes found that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those who less it as less of a priority.
The goal is to build a community around your company that both works with you and on your behalf to bring in more satisfied customers. The rapid development of tech solutions makes this even more critical. Get it right, and you can build loyalty and trust that will see you through the most challenging of times. Get it wrong, and you could leave your customer base feeling isolated and adrift.
Building a customer community is about more than increasing sales, it can deliver benefits all corners of the business.
Active listening: Innovation and competition
Having an active dialogue with your customers gives you access to invaluable market intelligence and insight. Despite what you may like to admit, these are the people who know your product best. They know what’s good, what’s bad and what’s missing. Your developers know the product inside out, but they do not have the same perspective as an objective end user, and those users are worth listening to. They can also give you valuable insight into why people may find your competitors more attractive and provide ideas and inspiration for updates and new product development.
Keeping in regular touch with your customers gives them more opportunities or willingness for feedback. This doesn’t just include Google or Trustpilot reviews, or user surveys but also more personal, informal feedback that can initiate change.
Make it meaningful
Investing in customer experience is easier said than done, and it’s a harder job that it used to be. Recent research suggests that 65% of people have higher expectations for customer service than 3 to 5 years ago.
Strong customer service will give rise to a proactive and loyal community. However, those communities aren’t built overnight. It takes planning, determination and patience and a strong strategy is required to make sure you are getting maximum rewards for your investment in both technology and people. It’s a delicate but important balance to strike that requires firm foundations and commitment, not just pithy marketing statements.
The key is a multi-channel, multi-touchpoint strategy that will suit a wide variety of customer needs and preferences. These channels include customer service agents, chat bots, support forums and online FAQs. Some customers might want to get their query answered quickly online, without speaking to anyone, whereas others may prefer to talk a complex problem through on the phone. All have their place, and the ideal scenario will see them all overlapping and working seamlessly together.
Connect your customers
Social media allows you to reach large numbers of customers easily. This is not just useful for sales and marketing, but also a valuable touchpoint for customer service. Your activity online can work wonders on building trust and fostering a sense of belonging. You can clearly set out your ideology and purpose and make people whose share those values feel like “one of us”. On a practical level too, sharing how products work, solving problems that arise and adding greater value can do much to enhance the customer experience. It works both ways too, with active listening you can use your social channels to understand the subtle preferences of your customers and cultivate a relationship with them.
Social media and other online channels such as groups and forums, also allow customers to connect with each other and build a community independent from you. This may make some people in the company nervous, but it is to be welcomed and approached with confidence. Giving customers the freedom to discuss your product takes some of the pressure off your team, especially if peers are giving their own discovered solutions. It can also be a valuable way to understand the needs of your clients and provide inspiration for the future.
Use tech to support, not substitute
Rapid developments in AI, particularly generative AI, also provide businesses with tremendous scope for online assistance. AI allows us to create levels of interaction that are otherwise difficult to achieve without cost. The onboarding process can be simplified, and many of the headaches removed, with online training and assistance. Chatbots, voice assistants and self-service innovations have improved response times, solving simple problems quickly and effectively and therefore improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
However, there is not one size to fit all, and a clever tech solution cannot be the only solution. Customers are easily frustrated and lost by technology that doesn’t meet their needs.
For more complex needs, a truly meaningful customer relationship involves human interaction and the personal touch. This is especially the case since the pandemic, which saw many people isolated and craving interaction in any form. With the rise of hybrid and home working, it is possible to go for lengths of time without seeing or talking to anyone, which makes those person-to-person connections even more valuable.
Dealing with our customers directly, whether face to face or on the phone, allows us to engage on a personal level and build a stronger, more meaningful relationship. Particularly in a B2B environment, in the world of Zoom calls, a customer that you are willing to leave the house for can feel even more valued. Picking up on people’s body language and voice, and engaging with poise and empathy can be the simplest way to create a cheerleader for your brand. This remains how true relationships are built.
There is no shortcut to meaningful customer experience, but with the right combination of technology and people at every stage of the customer journey, it is possible to build a community of loyal advocates who will champion your business for years to come.