By Koketso Mamabolo
We close off Consumer Rights Month with another expert on dealing with customers. Celeste Enoch, the customer relations manager at CHEP SA, joins a group of experts from different industries who answered questions about their field of work.
To quote the opening line of former American President John F. Kennedy’s address to Congress, which began the now global recognition of consumers: “Consumers, by definition, include us all.”
Is there a difference between customer service and customer experience?
Yes, absolutely. A simplified way to describe this would be to relate customer service to a “customer interaction” while customer experience is associated with a “customer journey”. Customer service is then an approach aimed at the support offered to our customers through the use of our products and services. The aim is increasing overall customer satisfaction.
Customer service forms an integral phase of the customer experience, which is really about understanding the various interconnected processes that combine to deliver an overall experience for a customer.
It’s about comprehensively understanding and anticipating your customer needs and actions, gathering better insights to gain a holistic understanding of the customer, in order to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships. It relates to the organisation being able to identify and acknowledge that the customer journey/experience is an ongoing process which requires a mindset change to execute successfully for shared benefit.
How can customer service be improved?
This is about acknowledging that the customer is at the centre of the organisation and forms an integral part of organisational success.
To improve customer service, we need to be able to cater to our customers’ needs including – but not limited to – demonstrating consistency in our interactions with customers and being empathetic toward their needs.
We need to exercise proactive customer service through facilitating an open line of communication to seek and promote feedback, to be available and engaging with our customers, which will help improve our service offering as well as give them the confidence to know that their responses are valued and being used to enhance their interactions with us.
Now, to achieve this, we need to strive to build teams that are customer-centric, maintaining a focused approach to service delivery, communications, and performance measurement.
How do you know your customers are having a good experience?
This entails an in-depth understanding of our customers’ experience throughout their journey within the organisation. It’s about strategically using customer feedback to make more informed decisions that are used to enhance the customers overall perception of, and engagements with our company.
Our customers’ experience is measured through the Net Promoter Score survey and customer analysis. We know our customers are having a good experience if they display partnering, collaborative behaviours, and are promoters of our business/service.
They are open to engagements, information sharing and display mutual respect of our internal teams and value offerings. This can be further broken down through their internal and subjective responses of the specific interaction received with our organisation. A positive customer experience is shaped by understanding our customers journey, building a joint vision, and deepening partnerships to deliver unrivalled mutual benefit.
How do you retain customers?
Customer retention is a fundamental function of our organisation and is a measure of how successful we are at satisfying our customers. An important part of this is being able to implement a feedback loop to understand our customers’ perspective in terms of maintaining processes that satisfy them and eliminating issues that cause dissatisfaction so we are best equipped to solve their immediate needs.
We need to be able to provide our customers with value that surpasses their needs, to instil customer confidence and create loyalty to help build their trust in us. We need to ensure that our customers know that we have their best interests at heart and constantly strive to deliver on our promise of quality and value.
We have established internal processes that focus on driving customer satisfaction through identifying the customer’s overall experience at every point of their engagement within our business and using this data to tailor strategies to either maintain or improve where needed.
We have to be agile to implement systems and processes that are flexible enough to accommodate and align to our customers’ changing needs. If we think about the current global pandemic, the world experienced a shock to the system, and it was something we initially did not know how to process or handle. During this time, it was imperative to cultivate a human connection and try to develop meaningful relationships with our customers to fortify the shared experience through empathy.
Why is it important to be a sustainable consumer?
As we move further into the future, considering the global community and that we live in a highly urbanised world, we are increasingly consuming larger amounts of a finite pool of natural resources. Encouraging sustainable consumption is just as important as limiting adverse environmental and social effects and providing markets for sustainable goods. We need to be mindful when making these decisions to ensure that our natural resources are utilised responsibly to futureproof for future generations.
How can businesses encourage customers to consume sustainably?
We can identify how to effectively engage with consumers to demonstrate our own commitment toward sustainability. We can prioritise awareness to our consumers in terms of educating and inspiring them to engage in their own sustainable behaviours. It’s important to remember that consumer power can influence change.
Through inherent business practices, organisations afford customers the ease of making sustainable choices to shape sustainable behaviour. As an example, CHEP’s customers are not the end consumer, but rather manufacturers, distributors and retailers that supply to the end consumer. For us to relay our sustainability benefits, we use a standardised science-based, life cycle analysis tool which aids in measuring the environmental footprint of our products’ life cycle.
Does the customer always come first?
Yes, absolutely. The customer always comes first, and this really relates to fostering a customer-centric organisational mindset, developing a two-way connection between the customer and business and personalising customer interactions to promote a positive customer experience at each stage of the customer journey.
This customer first approach speaks to a measure of our awareness of, and alignment to our customers’ needs and values. We cannot be customer-centric without cultivating customer intimacy. Hence, it is essential to pursue a shared understanding of our customer issues and needs, which must be encouraged across the organisation.