Do world brands whose target groups recognize them universally and which enjoy overwhelmingly positive feedback have a secret? Was there an overlooked reason why other world renowned brands have folded? Perhaps there is a secret and a reason! Though often overlooked, excellent customer experience can, in the long term, give you world renown.
Something for nothing
Compared with the titanic effort and spend involved in building brand recognition and marketing, providing excellent customer experience can appear to be the proverbial “something for nothing.” Making customers happy is a matter of applying logic and commonsense, rather than of spending. Very often, however, logic and common sense can be elusive.
The main challenge in providing excellent customer service is that the word ‘customer’ does not denote a statistic or a member of a group. It does not denote a notional or average individual. What it does denote is ‘each individual who already is, or might one day become, your client.’ You must strive to provide him or her with experience which is as near as you can get to perfect. You must also strive to maintain and improve that experience with time.
Keeping most people happy most of the time
Many young brands attempt to obtain widespread visibility by canvassing very broad audiences. This makes it tempting to invoke a hypothetical scenario. Imagine that all individuals in these very broad audiences suddenly decided to respond to the brands’ marketing messages. How well, indifferently, or badly can we assume would each of these myriad individuals be served? Progressing from there, even if a massive emergency effort was mounted by the brand and all comers were indeed happy with their first experience, how many of them would be likely to be happy on future occasions? The related question then presents itself of whether these young brands would not have done better by setting out to appeal to fewer customers, serving each of them individually and congenially.
Biting off more than one can chew
Businesses can spend millions on brand recognition and still trail behind competitors because of the experience their customers receive. This might be because their target groups are too large. It is classical marketing logic that larger and less well defined target groups are more difficult to reach. But larger groups are also more difficult to service! Servicing them properly involves taking into account a huge number of very specific factors. Local cultures or group subcultures, customer habits, and the peculiar needs of particular customer subgroups can play surprisingly major roles.
From disrupters to sunsetters
Today’s markets move rapidly. Yesterday’s disrupters can easily become today’s sunsetters. New market players betting on improved customer experience, user friendliness, and a greater range of options appear all the time. Skype is an example of this in digital services. The temptation to invest into wide visibility and recognition is great. One way of curbing it is to keep recalling that developing excellent customer service is a sine qua non stepping stone to visibility and recognition.
The banking/cash transfer/payment industry is a great example of how customer experience has revolutionized a market. Banks spend vast sums on marketing and remain the most trusted conduit for payments. Yet, online payment services emerging over the past two decades have managed to compete with banks on equal terms within their niche. They offer easier online payment options and cut costs. They do not invest much into advertising. Instead, they invest into infrastructure that simplifies financial transactions.
A decade on, however, online payment providers face fierce competition from the emerging FinTech sector. Things there are yet simpler and customer experience is yet better. It stretches credulity to think that FinTech is disrupting a model which was itself disruptive only ten years ago! Online payment service providers have accumulated complex customer service systems and are finding it difficult to match FinTech because of this.
Banks will not disappear in the foreseeable future and not all trending online payment providers and FinTech startups will survive. Whoever survives or folds, the lesson from their example is that a startup can challenge brands that have been globally recognized for decades (even centuries!) through better customer experience. Yes, wealthy accelerators and private investors do indeed foot the public visibility bills of many promising FinTech startups. But what makes these startups an emerging force is not brand recognition; it is focus on customer experience.
The simplified experience these companies offer includes, among other features, convenient financial transactions that need a handful of mouse clicks, seamless worldwide presence, and 24/7 availability. Some of these services are customizable to an extent that allows users to switch currencies back and forth in minutes, to use cryptocurrencies, or to automatically direct funds from online purchases into savings accounts. Everything focuses on customer experience – especially at the critical post-launch stage where resources available for marketing are scarce.
Different strokes for different folks
It follows that to improve customer experience your need not only to provide an excellent product or service, but also to treat customers in an exemplary manner. Granted, if you are selling fast moving consumer durables, perhaps through retailers, you would rely heavily on massive advertising campaigns; your entire service would then be confined to shouting louder. But if you are not selling such a product, a one-size-fits-all approach would doubtless tend to bring customer disappointment and churn. Excellent customer experience or peer recommendation will always prevail over heavy advertising.
There is only a handful of technology startups in every market who realize that they should focus on a very targeted audience, and further, who service their customers brilliantly as a way of succeeding. This opens the way for most brands to grow through customizing and personalizing the customer experience they offer, and by adding ever more customer satisfaction as they develop.
Customizing customer experience is a continuous process that to a great extent determines how well clients perceive service. The same applies to customer support: it is the ‘ground floor’ upon which you can build customer experience – and hence brand recognition.
What does building customer experience mean in practice? Most field surveys show that a well designed FAQ page can greatly enhance customers’ experience with any online service. Products or services are supposed to satisfy a need. By analogy, the FAQ page (and other support sections) are supposed to satisfy the need for help if customers encounter problems. FAQs are the most practical and immediate means of preventing frustration and earning gratitude and recognition across a user base.
Delivering pleasant and efficient experience during browsing is not very difficult. It does, however, depend on the specifics of each brand and business. The indispensable first step is to put yourself in the position of the customer. If you offer an automated support option, customer experience and satisfaction will depend on whether all calls and queries are identified and routed correctly, answered promptly, and handled in a straightforward manner. They will not depend on your marketing spend.
“I’ll ask for your advice if I need it!”
You may go further by adding chat support, videos, and many other elements. But you have to be careful not to overdo the features. Some of them can spoil, rather than improve, customer experience. Thus, it is very easy to integrate popup chat support into any website. Customers can indeed minimize it. But what if they simply find the popup distracting or irritating (many do indeed claim it does)? What if it pops up ‘in their face’ just as they are making possibly sensitive purchasing decisions? Visitors and users are most of the time tech-savvy enough to seek, find, and activate the chat support icon if they need it.
Home page videos which start rolling automatically are another example of items which many potential buyers find unwelcome. They are easy and tempting to embed. Yet quite often, they can be counterproductive. The point here is that you must always evaluate your service in terms of experience.
“The devil is in the details”
Experts often expound the supposed benefits of videos in boosting site visits and conversions. But you may have to refract their advice through the prisms of your own customers. There is a reason for the start/pause/stop buttons on most videos. As any public speaker or train rider knows, a video might suddenly blare out in the most unfortunate of circumstances.
Details like this can ruin much of the marketing effort and advertising spend lavished on a brand. They are also the arena on which your service offering can distinguish itself from its competitors. Attention to details which others might have overlooked pays, alongside constant empathy with your customers; real life customers.
Customers: ready to pay for experience
Not getting feedback does not mean customers are happy. A survey by Thinkjar revealed in 2015 that only one in 26 unhappy customers bother to complain. The other 25 simply walk away, most of them (91 percent) to the competition. These statistics apply both to startups and to established international brands.
More than anything else, it is service that motivates these customers. Brand recognition has little to do with it. (Indeed, it is brand recognition that first led the would-be-dissatisfied customers to us!) Large multinationals pouring millions of dollars into marketing and advertising also experience customer churn.
The same report finds that over half of customers, 55 percent, are eager to pay more for guaranteed good experience. The word ‘guaranteed’ repays the closest of consideration. New customers do not rely on promises of good experience; they would like it to be guaranteed.
This means that you ought to reassess each of the many online customer experience indicators. Investing into brand recognition and marketing might attract customers in the short term. But to retain them in business need to pay heed to the experience they provide.
Over two thirds (67 percent) of consumers say bad experience is the main reason why they go to competitors. Businesses have to invest six or seven times more funds to attract new customers that to retain existing ones. Why would anyone wish to invest $6000 into brand recognition when one may invest $1000 into improving customer experience – and get better long term results?
By providing excellent customer experience you dramatically raise your chances of accumulating a loyal customer base. Some 86 percent of consumers are actually willing to pay more for better experience! Excellent experience will increase customer retention, boost upselling and cross-selling. It, especially when enhanced continuously, is the ‘secret ingredient’ which can help build remarkable brand recognition over time.