My husband had a very interesting experience with a well-known hardware store brand today which prompted me to write this post. In a nutshell, a system error occurred when he placed an order online, requiring him to contact customer service. What followed were many conversations across many different channels where he needed to repeat what had happened, and then this morning he received a phone call from a new customer service representative offering assistance.
Now, the first impression you would get is that this well-known hardware store brand offers great customer service. After all, communication was flowing and representative after representative offered their assistance. However, throughout this entire process, this well-known hardware store brand failed to take into account one crucial element necessary for offering great customer service - putting the customer at the centre of the process.
Whether you are a national chain or a one-man start-up, your customer is your bread and butter. When your customer feels valued and cared for, they stay with you. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend the equivalent of your yearly turnover on special gifts, vouchers, and other swag. Simply putting the needs of your customer and the experience they have when interacting with your brand at the centre of what you do already goes a long way towards making them feel valued and cared for.
In this post, we look at what it means to put your customer at the centre of the customer experience and what you should consider when building your process. Let's begin!
What does it mean to put your customer at the centre of what you do?
I would like to take this moment to clarify one thing; putting your customer at the centre of what you do does not mean that you need to bend over backwards to make sure that your customer is happy. You will, at some point, come across a customer complaint or situation where the outcome will not make your customer happy. (Refund and exchange policies are usually the biggest culprits in these instances.) Regardless of their level of satisfaction with the outcome, how they were treated throughout the process is what should be the focus when it comes to putting your customer at the centre of what you do. This essentially means designing your customer engagement process around the level of effort required of your customer to make it through the process. The less effort, the better the process, the more satisfied the customer.
The Omni-channel Customer Experience.
When we talk about customer engagement we are essentially talking about every time your customer interacts with your brand. These are the touchpoints that your brand uses to speak to your customer. This can include your social media pages, the social media inboxes, emails, telephone conversations, form submissions on your website, chatbots, in-person conversations, etc. Each of these touchpoints is a channel in your customer experience process.
However, there is a big difference between omni-channel and multi-channel. You might have read through the list of customer touchpoints and thought "Hey! We make use of all of those channels. We must be making use of an omni-channel experience then!" The answer is, no. Simply making use of a variety of different channels through which customers can interact with you is called a multi-channel experience. An omni-channel experience is when all of those touchpoints not only speak to the customer but also speak to each other. If the well-known hardware store brand had been making use of an omni-channel customer experience process, my husband wouldn't have had to repeat his issue so many times to so many different customer service representatives.
Think of it as a Process and a System.
Now that we know what an omni-channel experience is, let's talk more about how to set one up. When you consider the fact that customer effort forms the basis of the experience, it becomes clear that information and communication should be the focus of the process that you are setting up - and for that, you will need a good system.
Let me break it down a bit more: your customer experience is a process that your customer goes through when they interact with your brand. The system that you use to manage these interactions is what will make the process work or not.
Here's an example. You advertise a special on your Facebook page where customers can sign up for your newsletter to get a 20% discount on their next purchase. In order for this to be successful, you will need to consider and set up the several different customer touchpoints (channels) that form part of the process. These include:
Which other channels are you going to use to advertise your special?
How do customers sign up for your newsletter? Is it directly on Facebook, a form hosted on your website, or do they send you their details in a direct message or email?
How are you sending them the discount voucher?
How do they redeem their voucher?
What happens if the voucher doesn't work?
Other than these customer touchpoints, you also need to consider what system you are using to track sign-ups, track voucher codes, and track and report queries.
Let's say I clicked on your advertisement on Facebook that took me to a sign-up page on your website. I entered my details and received my voucher via email. I went onto your website and added my item to my cart, I added my voucher code, but the voucher code didn't work. I then clicked on your chatbot on your site and told the bot what happened. I then received an email in my inbox from a customer service representative with an apology and a new voucher code. I enter the voucher code and completed my purchase.
Yes, it wasn't ideal that my voucher code didn't work the first time, but the overall experience was a breeze. From signing up for the voucher, to actually getting my discount. I could easily get in touch with you, I didn't have to verify my details, I didn't have to call anyone, I wasn't put on hold, or had to tell my story to several different representatives.
Implementing processes that place the customer at the centre of what you do means focussing on the level of effort that is required of your customer when they interact with your brand. The less effort, the better the process, the more satisfied the customer.
Making use of an omni-channel customer experience process is one of the first steps in making sure that your customer feels valued and cared for when they interact with your brand. But, what should you consider when setting up your omni-channel customer experience?
Map out the customer journey. You need to understand the entire process that your customer goes through, including the different touchpoints. You will only be able to get to grips with the kind of information that you need to store once you understand the journey that your customer will go through.
Create one source of truth. This can be a database system, emailing platform, project management software, or even just a spreadsheet that records and stores the necessary information about your customer. This source of truth needs to be consulted when dealing with the customer to ensure that your representative is up to date and informed.
Focus on using channels that can speak to each other. Making use of the built-in automation that so many of today's platforms have to offer will make record-keeping easier and reduce the risk of information being missed or communicated incorrectly. This is naturally easier for bigger businesses with more advance IT support, but even smaller companies can leverage the power of this kind of automation by being selective of the channels they choose as customer touchpoints.
An omni-channel customer experience brings that personal touch to the interaction that the customer has with your brand. It increases customer loyalty and even customer spending.
So, when working on your customer service, instead of just trying to keep your customer happy, rather focus on ways to save their time and energy.