Customers Are Not Consistent, But You Still Need to Be
The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, wisely said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation & 5 minutes to ruin it.”
In a recent article written by McKinsey, The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency, it becomes very apparent that the failure of many companies to keep their customers happy is not necessarily that they do not try hard enough, but more because of the extreme focus and holistic organizational effort it takes to build a world-class customer experience organization.
Building consistency (as Mckinsey suggests) across the customer journey experience, the emotional experience, and the communication experience typically requires an all-star, internal team of smooth talking magicians and six sigma scientists.
Today’s customer has countless channels where they interact with brands – email, website, social media, mobile app, and in-store. This omnichannel experience expectation on its own creates exponentially greater variation on how providers need to manage the total customer journey. Research is already proving that management of the connected journey is necessary: Accenture’s 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research reports that 65% of the people surveyed found that it was frustrating when they’re presented with inconsistent offers, experiences or treatment through different channels. It’s a number that I expect to grow as more and more consumers increase the number of devices they use on a daily basis.
Building Customer Experiences into a Company’s DNA
Having lived and worked inside a Fortune 100 company renown for superior customer service (American Express), I believe the foundation for truly memorable customer experiences starts with how brands service their customers. The bottom line is that without service as the DNA of a company, meaningful customer happiness KPI’s become a pipe dream. It’s not an easy journey – I can sympathize for both the Chief Customer Officers and the call center reps (domestic and even more so international) out there dreading that next irate rant from an emotional millennial – but the transformative journey a company must take to earn a lifetime customer requires a dedication to a consistent customer lifetime experience.
How does a brand build customer experience consistency when the customers themselves are becoming even more inconsistent and unpredictable in the channels they use to air service disruptions and announce other complaints at an even greater scale?
Today’s successful brands must predict what their customers want – way beyond just interpreting a drop down field or the outcome from pushing complicated phone menus. Companies need to have real-time insights into how each consumer is behaving online and offline with their brand. There needs to be an internal monitoring system and alerts for processes, people, or products that break down or get delayed; one that then smartly anticipates any customer that might be affected.
Once a company builds holistic systems that anticipate or predict this variation, the next step should marry that with the enhancements that can offer 1) opportunity and 2) resolution back to the customer. By what channel did they first come into the brand? What was the last purchase they made? What device do they use to interact with the brand? What offers did they respond to? What website pages did they spend the most time on? What were the comments they last left on a survey or form? Where are they from and where are they now? What did they post in Social Media about your brand? I like to think of it as Google’s Autofill for Customer Service departments. The immense value of this humanistic data can completely transform an unpredictable customer conversation into an opportunity for gaining a lifetime customer.
Yes, companies may not necessarily be able to reduce the diversity of customer inquiry variation, but what they can all work towards is reducing the large variation in customer happiness. By anticipating their needs and then giving each individual customer what they want in a smarter, more personal way, brands can take a modern approach toward the common expectation that, “the customer is always right.”
Ray Cheng is the Director of Strategic Marketing at Sailthru. Previously, he’s led global marketing and strategic partnership initiatives at American Express and Tefen Consulting.