Encouraging dialogue with customers
The terms ‘customer service’ and ‘customer experience’ are bandied around widely these days. It goes without saying that a focus on these two areas is likely to have a positive effect on repeat business, assuming of course that the product/service delivers what it claims to do and meets, or exceeds, customers’ expectations. Happy customers usually return and also tell others about their experience, resulting in potential new customers. But what exactly determines what makes customers sufficiently happy to stay for the longer term? And how do you find that out?
The more obvious customer touchpoints are understandably the areas that companies tend to focus upon, often because these can usually be more readily measured. This includes, for example, rating overall product/service satisfaction, the likelihood to recommend the business, ease of making contact, handling queries, speed of response and fulfilment - whether online, by telephone, face to face etc. They can also be readily captured digitally.
These are certainly important areas that merit consideration and should be considered an integral part of any business process. They also help to ensure a focus on delivering customer solutions, as well as understanding how to make life easier for customers. But does it really help you understand how to drive loyalty? And does that even exist these days?
Building a longer term, more personalised relationship requires a deeper understanding of what really makes people tick, which cannot be measured by a simple rating score, or the odd written comment.
Why do customers act in a certain way? How do they really feel? What are the true emotional triggers that might cause them to leave and to stay? And how can positive ‘customer experience’ per se be harnessed to build a real, longer term brand relationship?
So whilst the customer journey can be measured quantitatively (and who wouldn’t want customers to be highly satisfied most of the time), it doesn’t guarantee that customers will be more engaged with the brand, nor that they will potentially stick with it. A deeper understanding of customer sentiments and the role the brand plays, their emotional journey, is therefore required, to understand how a more authentic and immersive customer experience can be delivered.
And that requires having 'conversations' with customers to capture their underlying motivations and to delve beyond the data. This includes a range of qualitative techniques, such as in-depth interviews, focus groups and even use of projective techniques and ethnographic studies, all of which can help you to really get to know your customer groups. Even a small sample base, typical of qualitative research, can provide incredible insights that can result in a light bulb moment.