Guest author Doron Reuveni is CEO and co-founder of Applause, a software-testing company based in New England.
When the topic of customer service comes up, names like Amazon, Zappos and American Express often spring to mind. They should—these companies invest deeply in customer service, listening to their patrons, asking what makes them happy, and truly listening when to the answers. They treat their customers like gold, because they literally are. They’re the lifeblood of a company.
Relying solely on focus groups and user experience experts alone is old school and wholly insufficient. It’s too slow, too expensive, comes with too many biases. It starts with access to usage stats and user sentiment, letting users drive the bus to provide constructive feedback. That’s a challenge for companies that must be nimble in perfecting their customer journey.
Here are four steps for creating a smarter strategy that can help you boost your customer experience.
Getting And Using Feedback: The Key To Happy Customers
Successful customers experiences are never an accident. A unified and informed approach to consumer engagement is a necessity, especially when it comes to the omni-channel brand experience.
The distinction between online and offline has blurred. The border between web, mobile & wearables never (should have) existed. Consumers interact with companies on their own terms—on the couch, on the street, in the store, in the car—and on their own time, day or night.
The apps economy has increased the importance of protecting your brand, from the awareness stage to the research stage to the purchase decision and beyond. This is the cost of making customers your biggest fans.
Dominos, for example, is a company doing customer engagement right. The pizza company recently added a voice-over, order-ahead feature to their app, allowing customers to directly engage with the company. Customers can easily place orders on their mobile devices without having to stumble across tiny keyboards or thumb through contact lists for the number of their local Dominos location.
1. Be intentional and integrated in all aspects of the customer experience.
You need mechanisms in place for interacting with your digital properties, your physical properties, your products, and your employees.
There are many different solutions that can help. It’s incredibly important to have a solid CRM solution in place that integrates your various properties. ZenDesk helps businesses streamline their customer service requests, for instance.
2. Provide customers with a means for two-way communications with your company.
You’d be surprised how many businesses stop after the first step. It is critical to ask yourself questions about how you interact: Is your company really accessible? Do you go beyond reactive customer service and provide proactive support at every turn? Do customers feel like they are talking to an empty room or, worse, a machine?
Make sure there are numerous channels for them to provide feedback, and go beyond a customer service hotline, support email and web forms. Encourage feedback on social networks and review sites. Engage directly on a monthly basis with VIP customers to make sure they are happy and their voices are heard. If you bring them to the table, they will appreciate your product or services even more.
But, what is the point of having all these channels for feedback if you don’t even interact with—and learn from—them? This is a real opportunity to gain important insights and inform the lifecycle of your product or service.
There are services and tools to help you “listen”—they can collect the feedback, sort it, cull it, and synthesize it for you. These services can cull app store reviews, dive deep into social networks and provide sentiment analysis online. At the in-store or voice level, they can analyze your customer service requests and your staff’s feedback.
Lithium, Engagor and SocialBakers all provide tools to help you understand and act upon social media activity with customers. Offering a live chat option like LivePerson is another way to foster a good online experience with your prospects and clients. This is crucial in getting over the listening hump and getting you to step three.
Make sure all parts of your organization hear what is being said, and challenge your team to present and debate solutions. In other words, listen to the feedback and act on it.
3. Show you’re listening by acting on feedback.
It’s important to act upon the feedback you receive from your most important stakeholders—not let internal blame-shifting take hold. It may be tempting to tell customers they’re wrong or to work on merely changing their perception, but you need to resist. You want genuinely happy customers, and that’s no way to get them.
Take Taco Bell as an example. They heard the call from their customers to add an order-ahead feature to its mobile app. The result: A huge positive swing in consumer sentiment, as measured through app ratings and reviews.
The key takeaway: If users are continually commenting that your site is slow, or that your app crashes, or that your stores are poorly lit, it’s on you to fix the problem.
If the service provided by an employee is truly sub-par, you need to train and re-train those employees to deliver on your company’s promises. If your marketing content is annoying or inelegant, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Reply to the feedback and let them know how the problem is being solved. Then reach out again when the solution is in place, and invite further feedback.
4. Keep the feedback loop going, and find out how you are doing.
Customer satisfaction surveys can tell you if your revised approaches are working, and it shows your customers that, at various touch points—such as after a sale or after you resolve an issue—that you still care.
In the app community, users often see their voices are being heard when new updates include bug fixes they wanted. For other aspects of your business, and with apps as well, it’s also important to have a good marketing and PR program that communicates those changes and improvements, and thanks customers for the recommendations.
In other words, collect feedback, act on it, and then make sure to show how you’re acting on it. Incorporate these insights and data into your everyday operations. If you make changes that customers requested, show your commitment to always improving and continue to ask for input along the way. Use tools that help you go beyond just asking, tools that allow you to discover whether you’ve made a difference—usage analytics, sentiment analysis, surveys, heat mapping—and prove to your team that you’re paying more than just lip service. Show them that you won’t stop until you’re creating positive customer experiences.
With this wealth of knowledge, developers, designers, marketers, sales and support teams no longer have to be siloed and create disjointed, fragmented customer experiences. They can treat user feedback as an opportunity, rather than an annoyance.
Lead photo courtesy of Shutterstock