By Koketso Mamabolo
World Consumer Rights Day is this month and to honour this day we’ve asked experts questions to help the business community better serve their customers and give them an enjoyable experience. Lesley-Anne van der Nest, Deputy Managing Director at HelloFCB+ and Fuelcontent, was kind enough to share her insights on improving customer service, how to retain customers and why customer service and customer experience can’t be easily separated.
Is there a difference between customer service and customer experience?
By definition there is most definitely a difference however in the world we live in today, where our interaction points with products and services have become interchangeable, how customers use a product and service and how they interact with the people promoting or supporting the products and services, have become more blurred than ever.
Customers do not just buy products or services – customer purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea and an experience of the products and services they love. Customers buy into the entire organisation, the brand, the story and the bigger picture behind that product and service.
So even though there is a difference between customer service and customer experience, we have to focus on both holistically.
How can customer service be improved?
Customer expectations have shifted, not only as a result of COVID-19 and the physical constraints forcing customers to digital platforms, but also the continuous emergence and upliftment of the digital economy.
Convenience and time
Digital first service experiences have redefined how customers want to be serviced. Which means if you want to win at customer service, you need a seamless omni-channel approach, meeting your customer in the interaction point of their choice, whether that’s online or real-time, and the channels that would serve their purpose with ease, convenience and in the fastest time.
Get to know your customer
When customers buy into your brand, product and service, they expect that you connect with them, know them and understand what they want.
Customers want to feel that personal connection with a brand, which means one needs to ensure your organisation and team understand the needs, experiences and pain points of your customers.
Customers are expecting more from a brand and its products and services, brands need to use their data points to deliver hyper-personalised experiences. We all know how irritating it is to log the same issue several times before getting to a resolve when dealing with customer service.
Customers expect brands to have conversations with them that are based on the knowledge the brand has of them and their preferences.
Human interaction is key
With AI and digital led communication platforms like messenger platforms and chat bots, businesses have realised they can keep pace with customer demands when it comes to ease, convenience and time, however there is still room for empathy and human interaction.
The ability to put yourself in your customers shoes, to understand their pain points in order to find the best possible solutions by far outweighs automation.
That said, these components have to be used in collaboration in order to deliver an omni-channel approach when it comes to customer services.
How do you know your customers are having a good experience?
Simply put, we ask them. It’s important to get feedback from your customers both before and after they buy and use your products or services.
At HelloFCB+ we conduct various reviews and forums with our clients, ensuring an open dialogue for honest feedback. This is done in the form of surveys, one-on-one human interaction and consultant led relationship audits.
How do you retain customers?
Customer retention is really a by-product of customer service and experience. If you understand the needs, experiences and pain points of your customers and you can deliver on their purpose with ease, convenience, consistency and in the fastest time, you already have a good foundation at keeping your customers.
- Give great service.
- Keep in touch. Continuously connect and communicate with your customers. Allowing for open, honest dialogue and feedback.
- Take responsibility when your product, service or brand fails a customer. And be quick to resolve issues.
- Show value. Not all customers know what they want so when brands show them what they need to fulfil that purpose, you show that you understand their needs.
- Reward loyalty and thank your customers.
How can businesses encourage customers to consume sustainably?
Businesses are in a unique position to nudge costumers to make more sustainable choices however I do think you will only get this right if you have the right connection with your customers.
Demonstrate commitment first
One of the most powerful tools to encourage sustainable behaviour change is to have your own business commit to it first. Firstly your customers might not know you are committed to sustainability and this lack of information could stop customers from choosing you and secondly by showing your commitment your customers will have the opportunity to observe and buy into this sustainable effort.
Customers often don’t have enough information or reasons to believe in the adoption of a more sustainable lifestyle. A brand can help drive information and education as to the importance of sustainable consumerism as well as tangible ways to adopt it.
Does the customer always come first?
When you really understand your customer, who they are, their needs and why they want to purchase into your brand, your story, your product and service, ultimately what comes first is a true connection, a partnership between customer, brand, product and service.
This is also why it’s important to look at customer service and customer experience holistically.
What is your experience using a Single Customer View?
Having worked on enterprise scaled CRM products and platforms, where the main aim was to link all customer touchpoints in order to have a single view of a customer, being able to see how a customer interacts with your brand, through the entire decision, purchase and use-of-product or service journey is a powerful tool to understand where you can improve and optimise the experience customers have with your brand, product and service.
Having your data points mapped and being able to see these multiple interaction points allows you to further understand your customers, personalise their experiences with your brand, product and service, as well as optimise your offering by understanding how customers consume your product and service.
It’s not an easy task to connect all the dots into a single customer view. You need to adopt a digital maturity model that allows for various data points to be able to talk to one another. This in itself is a task as most organisations hold on to technology stacks that can’t always connect the data points.