As a company, there is only so much we can do for our customers; we can get them from here to there, and no more, no matter what their expectations are.
To my mind, no, it is not true, because there is something we can do: master the customer experience.
Wikipedia describes the customer experience as “…the product of an interaction between an organization (sic) and a customer over the duration of their relationship.”
The online encyclopaedia goes on to say “This interaction is made up of three parts: the customer journey, the brand touchpoints the customer interacts with, and the environments the customer experiences (including digital environment) during their experience.”
And lastly, “A good customer experience means that the individual’s experience during all points of contact matches the individual’s expectations.”
To be clear, the customer experience must not be confused with customer service, because they are, in fact, two different things. Customer service is certainly a small part of Customer Experience, but it’s not exactly what I am talking about here.
Let me rather start by explaining what I mean by ‘mastering the customer experience’.
“Why should customers choose me?”
First, it’s imperative to understand that there are many other providers offering the same services you do, at the same – or sometimes even lower – prices, so the important question to ask yourself is ‘Why should customers choose me?’.
It’s possible your organisation has onboarded as many solutions/services offered as possible, at the lowest price possible, and added certain policies, be they customer-friendly return policies, 0-Month Guarantees, etc., all in the name of differentiation and customer service.
Notice that customer service is reactive, as all of these happen after the customer has made their decision and bought – or attempted to buy – your solution(s).
Before the sale
All of this is well and good, but it doesn’t answer the question of “What happens before the sale?”.
It’s all good and well when you’re doing what you are supposed to be doing, people notice but it’s nothing new, it’s normal. It’s Customer Service and customers are expecting it, yes it will keep them satisfied, which is good. But what would happen if you checked on your customers regularly, conducted surveys that would help design personalised solutions, presenting them with solutions they need before they even know they will need them?
Sales must service prospects and existing clients
Those two questions lead us to my second point: sales people need to spend more time with both prospects and existing clients. They must take time to identify each customer’s personality type, as that knowledge provides insight into how customers will behave and how to treat them, which in turn will save businesses from unnecessary headaches.
Knowing as much about them as they do – or preferably, even more – will keep you on the “same page” as the customer, if not a step ahead.
And that’s how you master the customer experience.
Be proactive, not reactive
Remember, many of today’s customers already know what they will be buying before they set foot in your shop or visit your online storefront, so all that is left for us as sales to do is to reach out and say “Hey, this is how what you want will work, this is how I think it’ll fit in with your business”, because we’ve done our homework and are a step ahead.
This is a far better alternative to what we did in the past, which was some variation of “Try this, see how it how it works and get back to me.”
Anticipate future needs
For existing customers, I think the trick is to anticipate their future needs; this can only be achieved by knowing your customer and their business and behaviour patterns inside and out, while also keeping market trends in mind. Combining these could help you serve a personalised, unique, and above all memorable customer experience, and that’s what you should be after.
Earlier, I said one of the parts of the customer experience is the “customer journey”, which is the complete sum of experiences that the customer has when interacting with your company; I do not see this ever being provided by artificial intelligence or robots.
The future may well prove me wrong, but as far as I can see this will always need a human touch. To my mind, robots just can’t establish trust like a real human can, and trust is an important part of this journey.
The Human Last-Mile
By all means use robots, automation, and artificial intelligence inside your business to improve your internal efficiencies and reveal new customer insights, but leave the last-mile communication between yourself and your customers to real people.
So really, all you need to do to improve the customer experience your organisation provides is to be more proactive in your approach: get to know your customers better, anticipate their needs, and meet them halfway.
That way, even as their expectations of you rise, you’ll always be ahead of the curve and delivering the kind of customer experience that’ll keep them coming back for more.
Xhanti Nomqolo is a Market Development Consultant at Tarsus On Demand.