…or how different tools and approaches play a different role in getting to know your customers and enhancing their experience
I was encouraged to write this piece by an article I recently received in my email. In the introduction, the author mentions the usefulness of other approaches in general, but in the course of the paper he completely reduces their role and emphasizes his approach exclusively as the only useful tool for developing a 'real' experience and finding a comparative advantage in the eyes of customers.
I am saddened by such attitudes and revived by the thought that it is a pity that different tool providers compete with each other in this way, instead of complementing each other by providing different pieces of information to help companies take big steps forward. All in all, we cannot ski in sneakers or run in ski boots, but both help us at different times to gain, maintain or improve our fitness.
Why do I see complementary approaches as a win-win combination? By educating businesses about the role of different tools and approaches, and the benefits of combining them. In the long run this would help them improve customer experience and satisfaction, and consolidate and strengthen their competitive advantage and position. Only through the compilation and integration of internal and external information can we get the whole picture within which we can develop our services, approaches and processes, find our unique position in the market and provide excellent experience, to satisfy and enthuse our target customer segments.
The education of clients would also present more opportunities for providers to complement each other and thus seek to increase the budgets for our services. This would be directly or through combining the budgets of different departments, who would each receive their customer information for their work through linking of information as they would not need to collect it separately.
How to best combine different tools
A truly comprehensive capture and integration of information within a company (regardless of the type of data or department in which it is collected) requires organizing it around key issues (in the form of a business information system). This topic goes beyond the purpose of this article, and henceforth we just want to illustrate the role of the selected tools and data in the process of delivering an overall excellent customer experience.
The starting point is knowing/getting to know the target customers, their expectations and mapping their experience. In order to do so, we can help with our customer data, industry and competitive analysis, as well as various (qualitative) ad hoc surveys that provide in-depth insights.
All the collected information should be used to map a customer's experience, which represents a view through their perspective, learned through customer journey research. On this basis, we then have to adjust or define internal processes and standards of service quality, familiarize the employees with them and train them accordingly. At the same time, a system for continuous monitoring of the implementation of service standards has to be set up. This is a task for mystery shopping that should provide us with objective information to close the gap between what kind of service we envisioned and what services our customers actually receive - what we instructed employees to do and how they actually behave. It is desirable that mystery shoppers, who must have the characteristics of our target group, also give us their subjective opinion. This should not be interpreted as customer satisfaction, but should be viewed as an additional input into getting to know customer expectations. With the help of mystery shopping, we can also check what, how, and under what conditions the competition offers our customers and adjust our processes as needed.
But the story does not end there. Customer satisfaction information is also important because their needs and expectations are constantly changing based on past experiences with each touchpoint, our brand and our competition experience. We have more options when measuring. They range from various 'feedback' systems (e.g. NPS), through which customers provide us with basic feedback on their satisfaction with the concrete experience, the feelings we have triggered and their unmet needs as soon as they have received the service. In doing so, they provide us with an inflow of ongoing information about 'critical events', on the basis of which we can take action early-on. In addition to monitoring satisfaction with a specific experience (so-called transactional satisfaction), monitoring cumulative satisfaction is also important, which refers to all experiences of obtaining a service over a given period and may be a better indicator of the past, present and future performance of the business. Cumulative satisfaction provides us with a deeper insight into the factors of (dis)satisfaction, even in comparison to competition, and the identification of additional opportunities for improvement.
It is also useful to continually update and upgrade the knowledge about their customer, obtained from the sources of information listed above, with other sources of information, such as:
- observing and listening to customers (at contact points or in their home environment)
- analysis of transaction data on customers' purchasing habits
- monitoring and getting to know new customers (why they replaced the previous provider and decided to come to us, where they got the information, etc.)
- cooperation with top buyers, that is, with the most intense and demanding customers
- monitoring (mega) trends, which helps us anticipate the future and prepare ourselves in advance for changing customer habits and needs.
The key is to use the right tools to monitor what is happening, analyze the data, get feedback and act accordingly, test, adapt, and build the foundation for a great customer experience and satisfied customers in the long run.
There are still many opportunities to improve the customer experience
There are still many opportunities to improve customer experience in Slovenia. This can be confirmed by everyday business practice as well as from our own experiences. Probably every one of us can recall a situation that evoked very negative emotions in us - anger, disappointment or even influenced us by never going there again. There are probably less experiences that are truly exceptional, but the ones we have, remain in our memory and ensure our affection and loyalty to the provider.
Our work with companies regularly identifies opportunities for improvement that can result from a variety of factors. The following should be noted:
- indefinableness of target groups of clients
- poor knowledge of their customer journey, expectations and needs
- poorly conceived processes for delivering expected services
- 'silo' mentality that does not work towards a uniformed experience
- absence of own standards of service quality and relying only on the general characteristics of the sales process
- poorly communicated standards and expected good practices
- insufficient or non-existing training of employees for delivering planned services
- maladaptation of processes and services to changing customer habits and expectations
- absence of familiarizing employees with changed customer habits and expectations.
Last but not least are the pilot projects that we have undertaken in the past months to promote service quality through articles in Marketing magazine, which also highlight opportunities. We have drawn some parallels between the results of process monitoring in different industries and we present the common ground below.
Although not all of the activities analyzed are directly comparable, the procedures appear to have been mostly correct, especially in the initial parts of the sales interactions and in the basic needs assessment and proposing the right product. In particular, there are many opportunities in leading a more active conversation, a deeper understanding of the real needs of customers, the provision of (alternative) products or solutions, and a genuine commitment to impress the customer with the solution so much that they make a purchase at the time of the visit. Or to motivate them to make a purchase at another unit or through an online store in the event that a suitable product is not available at the time of the visit. This also conceals the key lost business opportunities for companies.
Thus, there are still many opportunities for improvement, as well as tools and sources of information. They just need to be assembled into an optimal whole that will give us the most information for getting to know customers and improve their experience.
CEO of Temidia - a mystery shopping specialist
Co-founder of Arhea – market research consultancy specializing in understanding CX, market development and development of business models
MSPA Member since 2008