Understand the customer experience and give your brand a boost

It is arguable that a great number of the existing detection mechanisms (customer surveys, feedback forms) completely fail to identify the problems and issues within a company until too late, and any sensors in place are now proving to be little or of no use (akin to expecting an ordinary camera to pick up infra-red).  Unfortunately most companies do not even have a base mechanism in place that really understands their market and customers, and those that do, appear not to understand how to develop or use them in the new environment.  A number of high-profile company MDs have begun to pronounce on their belief in the need to listen to the customer, though they have been guilty in the past of trying to tell the customer what they want, rather than asking what they need.  Inflexible attitudes result in an inability to provide solutions that will offer differentiation from competition, so the realisation of the need to listen to and action customer needs has to be accepted, before these companies can move forward successfully.  The sooner companies get their “Customer Radar” working the sooner they can begin to pick up speed and confidently move forward knowing they are taking and keeping their customers with them.

Good “Customer Radar” has a number of components, but the most fundamental aspect is the ability to act upon information quickly.  Too much emphasis can be placed upon dealing with symptoms, rather than tackling actual causes and so excellent interpretation and diagnosis is also an essential feature. Also gathering customer information doesn’t guarantee effective results, unless it is used correctly and the results are fully applied.  One of the biggest mistakes in the past, has been to assume a better knowledge of the needs of the customer than the actual customer, without verifying the facts.  Occasionally, suppliers will have additional insight, which is when innovation and anticipation of needs can be capitalised on, and the opportunity can be grasped to add significant value to the customer; failure at that point is often because we can’t connect the two (Customer’s needs and insight) as we do not fully understand the customer experience.

Companies must learn to speak to customers more honestly because customers will measure the actuality of the delivery and not the patter or the promise.  Reading between the lines of all these plans, unless their “Customer Radar” is fully tuned in to the customers, suppliers will not be able to act as quickly as their customers react.

The companies which choose to accept the reality of the marketplace will become highly tuned to their customers and most importantly make the most of the symbiotic relationship with the customers by utilising any available information as quickly as possible. It is really important for a supplier to understand the features of the relationship they have with their customer and maintain a balance between what the customer gives and receives. If the customer values a service they will pay, if the service has no value it simply becomes a cost for the supplier.

Innovation, awareness and anticipating needs will be the aspects to focus on, partly in response to the new generation of customers with significantly different requirements than in the past, and a new cohort of suppliers will have to step up to the plate in this very different environment from even 5 years ago.

There are some mechanisms that can help companies to develop and apply customer radars more effectively, including developing the customer interface team and growing their competencies.  Our brains are balanced between emotion and logic and the 4 keys areas that customer interface staff need to develop and strengthen are product, relationship, commercial and service value.  Some basics are critical, such as a strong awareness of the product and services provided, and the value of the combination; the impact of service on the customer, and the importance of efficient and effective delivery; ways of relating to customers to build and sustain a relationship; the need to be professional when delivering a role – and how key these skills are to success for all companies.

Once we understand the key elements in the customer experience we can identify which competencies, processes and IT are required to match customer expectations with the actual experience.  Determining the Customer Experience for a business requires that we know the observed brand values, so as to determine what the customer values.  This is achieved by understanding the elements in the Customer Experience that influence the customer’s brand perception.  These elements include such aspects as the competencies of the customer interface staff, as people and their quality are becoming major issues when we consider service.  When properly trained and motivated, staff will make a real difference to a business; however, putting cost before quality and skill of staff has led many a company into serious customer issues – demonstrated by reputations tarnished by poorly trained or poorly skilled call centre staff or field engineers.  Saving costs when in contact with customers, in today’s climate, can represent a reprehensible choice, and will not be labeled astute management.

The quality and capability of processes in place will have to be excellent, and represent reliable and flexible support for the personnel to perform to their top level.  In addition the processes must be designed to provide customers with a sense of care and attention from the company, as well as from the individual applying the process.

The IT systems and infrastructure will have to be powerful and robust as the quantities and types of information are overwhelming and in forms we are only beginning to grasp today.  Instant messaging, data and voice convergence, VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) are a few of the more common examples, whereby a solution can be identified in seconds and the customer’s issue resolved in minutes. IT systems will have to be closed-loop and real-time, providing information with rapid feedback to ensure quick and timely response.

Propositions will have to be clear and demonstrable and deliver what is required to achieve the desired customer perception.  It is important to communicate the brand values, as ultimately the proposition will be interpreted through the brand, which in turn must be used to engage customers, influence behaviour of customers positively and create brand allegiance for customers – critical to begin to build and determine the customer experience.

It still is incredible that businesses hold on to the belief that they offer good service, even when it is obvious their customers are not loyal.  An easy way to assess a service is by asking whether customers offer plaudits, and refer with glowing praise. “Brand” identification has always been a major customer issue, with most brands heavily influenced by the service associated with them.  If your brand is highly valued then your service has to match its excellence as well, or the brand will suffer.  The secret is to understand and know what your customer experiences. Doing that properly, consistently and regularly is the only way to ensure that the business can move forward quickly in the new environment.

Noventum can help you put theory into practice and open your company’s horizons to profitable growth. We help you assess how much value you are delivering to your clients and design a strategy to optimize that. To find out more about how Noventum can help you tune in to your Customer Radar and stand out from the competition on your way to profitable growth follow the link. Or just sign up today for our Service Design Course.

To discuss how your company can achieve profitable growth through a positive customer experience contact your nearest Noventum office.

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