Many companies talk about the importance of knowing their customer and the value of keeping customer experience top-of-mind these days. However, saying your company focuses on customer experience and actually consistently doing it are two different things. Companies that want to create a truly ‘customer-centric’ culture need to make sure the customer experience that their brand provides remains positive, consistent and is exciting at all stages, all the time.
Customer Experience as a Competitive Differentiator
Research shows that focusing on customer experience not only matters today, it will count for even more in future. A survey by Deloitte revealed that 82% of people view customer experience as a competitive differentiator, while a business-to-business study by Walker Research predicted that by 2020 customer experience would overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
When talking about customer experience and a ‘customer centric’ culture we’re not just talking about top-of-mind awareness with your customer, it’s more than that. Top-of-mind awareness refers to a brand or specific product being first in customers‘ minds when thinking of a particular industry or category. It is more often defined as the „most remembered“ or „most recalled“ brand names. A lot of companies wants to gain “top-of-mind awareness” with their customers, meaning they want to be the brand that is thought of when customers need something, but when we look at the predictions by Walker research, just being a top-of-mind brand will no longer be good enough in the future. An exciting experience is the way forward to create loyal customers, which is why customer experience should always be “top-of-mind” in running your business.
The fact that experience has already become leading is more and more apparent. According to a survey by American Express, 3 in 5 people are willing to try a new brand for a better experience. Providing a great experience is in that case rewarding, as you not only secure retention and create loyalty, but also have the possibility of drawing in those customers on the move between brands.
Consistency in Customer Experience
One of the main components of creating a great customer experience is by having it consistently carried out through every encounter with your customer, at every touch point. Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an interesting article about customer experience metrics and the overall satisfaction a customer felt toward a product or business. Many businesses tend to silo their operations and feedback. While each department may be doing a satisfactory job and creating a great experience, the overall customer satisfaction declines if the entire customer experience isn’t well coordinated across departments and different touch points. The authors did notice that when companies holistically managed the entire customer experience, the rewards included increased customer satisfaction, greater employee satisfaction, and increased revenue. Looking at your operations from the customer’s perspective and thinking about their entire journey will help you in creating a consistent experience from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, customer loyalty is not created after just one positive experience. Excellent customer care requires a consistent and relentless delivery. When we look at the findings in the article by Harvard Business Review we can conclude that when customers have an inconsistent experience between various touch points, they are less likely to favor your company. Before a customer feels loyalty to a company or brand a level of trust needs to develop. When personalized, customer service is consistently provided, the customer will internalize the positive interactions and over time feel loyal toward your brand.
However, consistency on its own is not enough. You can be consistent, but also be bland, unremarkable or even boring. Just consistency doesn’t create a desire for your customer to return. Delivering seamless unremarkable service isn’t enough in building lasting relationships with your customers. Yes, consistency matters, but you need to deliver consistently outstanding experiences, time and time again. What customers need at first is awareness, authenticity and excitement over the brand in order for a brand to gain top-of-mind. Only once customers are passionate about a brand, they need different things. They don’t need to be sold to, nor do they need to be reminded that they’re making the right choice every time they buy. They need to feel rewarded in order to make the decision to stay loyal to a brand. To establish brand loyalty you must live by your company’s core principles and go above and beyond customer expectations. Go the extra mile to set your brand apart from anyone else.
Brand loyalty is built on the foundation of every interaction, every touch point that your customer has with your service. Exceptional customer experiences require more than delivering the basics and getting them right. The key to brand loyalty is to not only meet, but to exceed your customers’ expectations with every encounter. There are numerous case studies showing that customers will become and remain loyal and will share their positive views with others when they feel personally connected with your brand or product. Once customers become loyal, they not only want to buy your product or service, they become emotionally attached to your brand. They purposely recommend your brand to their friends and family and act as a true ambassador for your brand, spreading the word for you. In their recommendations the emotional connection will shine that resonates well with others.
Reward & Recognize
Your reward for the loyalty of your customers is not only in being the top-of-mind brand, but also in the cost department. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs on average it is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. And Marketing Metrics reports that the probability of selling to a current customer is 60-70%, while selling to a new prospect is only 50-20%. So there is a high price on gaining new customers, while it is all the more rewarding to have loyal ones, making it very important to sustain the appeal for those who are already loyal to your brand.
Long-term customer relationships develop when they feel a personal and emotional connection. To help ensure your customers will remember your brand, here’s a number of factors you can use to build brand loyalty:
- Connect with your customers – Be present at every touch point and really connect and engage with your customers on a regular basis. Increase awareness amongst your customers. Provide your customers with value and motivation and create a community that builds buzz around your brand.
- Anticipate their needs – Don’t just start selling something to your customers, listen to their needs and focus on what your customers want to ensure the perfect fit.
- Deliver on what you promise – Make it a habit to deliver happiness at each and every step of the way. Show your customers that you truly care by exceeding their expectations. Offer something new or exciting and stay true to your brand mission and promise.
- Be consistent – Consistently delivering the same message and performance throughout every encounter with your customer is reassuring and helps keep your brand top-of-mind. Being consistent helps re-affirm your customers’ trust and credibility in your brand.
- Deliver personalized experiences – In order to make it personal, connect with customers in different, personalized ways to fit the individual customer. Still delivering a consistent experience, but one that excites so the customer feels valued and will become loyal.
So to sum up the importance of having a ‘customer centric’ culture and consistently providing a great and exiting customer experience is the way forward. Take away that consistency is important, but does not set you apart from your competitors. Excite your customers and make them your loyal fans. Keep your customer experience top-of-mind to stay sustainable and to have it as your key differentiator for the future!