Customer Service is not just a strategy or perspective anymore; it is a tangible reality. Creating a culture of customer satisfaction and experience has become the hallmark of every company’s business orientation that includes not just sales & marketing teams but everyone from the top management down to the last foot soldier.
Many organizations give out Best Brand Ambassador awards to employees based on customer feedback that provides valuable insight into customer satisfaction experiences and helps companies understand what customer service truly means. The staff of a company is its most valuable asset and having people upfront who have complete knowledge and understanding of the products and services that the company provides and are able to offer solutions and substitutions when needed, are the ones that promote customer loyalty and ensure customer retention. Being nice and helpful, having an honest and simple approach and the ability to listen are attributes welcomed by customers because these are what make them feel respected and treated well.
Businesses have realized that their own employees are their Brand Ambassadors because they are closest to the customers and tuned into the business needs as well as customer expectations. Instead of relying entirely on metrics and grand planning of strategies and methods, using information from these brand ambassadors can provide a ground-level view of customer wants like never before.
There are many thoughts on what the ‘secret ingredient’ is to excellent customer satisfaction rankings; considering that products and services cover a diverse range of industry sectors there are bound to be divergent views and perspectives.
Becoming more customer-centric
One of the questions frequently asked in marketing seminars is “how often does a CEO talk to business customers?” Earlier marketing gurus expected companies to provide detailed analyses of company culture and internal processes with complex algorithms and matrixes that did not really have a pulse on defining customer excellence. Today, in a highly competitive business environment, many marketing experts feel that the secret key to customer satisfaction lies in the answer to this question which acts as a barometer to assess the lifecycle management of any company that is striving towards customer service excellence.
Customer service is not a service strategy directed towards a customer alone; it is the ultimate harbinger of an organization’s success and culture of doing business that resonates from the CEO downward to the various hierarchies within the organization. While the people at the bottom are usually the ones with the most customer interaction as part of their professional roles, it is the responsibility of the middle and senior management levels to monitor and evaluate tasks and oversee customer experience as a sort of ‘cradle to grave’ model. Without constant reviews, training and feedback orientation, customer service excellence is not possible.
Long-term research on factors that are seen as drastically improving customer satisfaction has thrown a wake-up call to many businesses and corporations around the world. In a business, brand building is about visibility and performance and these are best established when the ‘man at the top’ is seen dealing, fostering and handling customer interaction on a regular basis. When people see the CEO of a company dealing with customers, it acts as a double-pronged measure for the other employees within to realize the importance of combined efforts from everyone in the organization, not just the frontline staff.
A path-breaking study by McKinsey & Company of over 25,000 American customers has found the ‘key’ to customer satisfaction – i.e. a consistent customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle not only increases customer satisfaction but boosts loyalty and builds up trust. The study proved that companies that are keen on producing high-quality customer experiences have to consistently perform a set of standard practices under six disciplines – customer understanding, culture, design, governance, measurement and strategy.
In order to ensure that companies deliver a consistent customer experience, the research found that three key areas needed focus.
Customer life-cycle consistency
Businesses need clear rules, policies and support mechanisms to offer customers consistent interaction at all levels – sales & delivery, customer support, account management, after-sales service etc. The team must be fully aware of the overall message that the company wants to deliver to the public and everyone has to be on board without exception.
Emotion quotient consistency
Trust and positive customer experiences are the biggest drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty. If a company has one or two members exceeding customer expectations and others just providing adequate service, the end feeling is dissatisfaction. Emotional consistency is a part of good customer experience strategy and must be uniform across all customer interaction points.
Being consistent in communication is a key factor towards achieving high customer satisfaction. For e.g. Southwest Airlines through its low-cost, no-frills booking strategy has built customer trust and loyalty by delivering a consistent brand message. Every company has to ensure that the messaging it delivers is consistent with its communication; promising the stars and ending up giving less ends up in misinterpretation and unsatisfactory customer experiences. All teams within a business must be consistently ‘on the same page’.
Reasons why companies should invest in ‘consistent customer experiences’
Increasing customer satisfaction is the objective of all companies and business operations to generate sales, increase profits and grow their rankings. While these are tangible results that can be gauged through metrics, the perceptions that consistent customer experiences create are far more in terms of sustainability, growth and expansion for a business. The prime reasons why companies should make consistent customer experiences a part of their strategy are:
- They build trust and loyalty and ensure customer retention,
- They tell customer that the company always meets their expectations, and
- They make customers feel ‘cared for’.
Consistency in customer satisfaction can be achieved only when a company believes truly that ‘customer is king’ and ensures that its policies and culture reflect that; in an age where technology has replaced many face-to-face interactions, it is not an easy task but it is the key to bridging ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ customer satisfaction.